This week, there’ll be much to amaze. Come Thursday, there’ll be a lot of “amazing” turkeys — with “amazing” stuffing — “amazing” yams — “amazing” green bean casserole — and of course, “amazing” pumpkin pie. There’ll doubtless be an “amazing” ham or two.And thanks to a rare fusion of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, there’s zero-risk predicting there’ll even be “amazing” latkes and matzo balls to go with that Thanksgivukkah turkey.
I know all this because just the other night at a Mexican restaurant, someone twice-proclaimed the chile relleno – “amazing!” So it’s axiomatic that if a strip-mall chile relleno can be amazing then by all that’s magniloquent so will Thanksgiving Dinner.
Almost 1600 calendar days since I last complained about the wrong-headed overuse of that damn word, “amazing,” its pandemic misuse continues. I am agog and aghast. It’s more pronounced than ever.
‘Out, damned word!’
But “should overused words be banished?“ Obviously not.
But not for lack of trying. Last year, Lake Superior University announced that the hackneyed ‘amazing’ had topped the annual vote for words that should be banned.
And futilely, legions of cultural pundits and no-longer ‘amazed’ religious types and Op-ed writers and educators have continued decrying its overuse. There’s even an anti-Amazing group on Facebook, “AMAZING: The Most Overused Word in the English.”
Belatedly, I now realize how wrong I was when I previously blamed “airhead teenage girls” for this absurd cultural commonality. No, the fault lines are everywhere.
Even airhead 50 and 60-year olds are misusing and overusing the meaningless adjective. Foolishly I’d thought that unlike Generations X, Y, and Z — at least Baby Boomers knew how to use a dictionary AND a thesaurus!
And then there’s the theory I didn’t think of until this morning — after first reading Frank Bruni’s piece “Are Kids Too Coddled?” Bruni writes about tougher educational standards, bruised egos and over-coddled school kids.
Maybe ‘amazing’s overuse is simply symptomatic of our run-amok “bubble-wrapped” culture of inflated self-esteem? “Students,” as one expert explains, “don’t expect to spend much time studying, but they confidently expect good grades and marketable degrees.”
So paraphrasing Dash in The Incredibles — calling everything ‘amazing’ is just another way of saying nothing is.
The death of synonyms.
So play the dirge song for “marvelous” and “astonishing.” And why not for “stunning” and “surprising” and “unbelievable”? And throw in “fascinating,” too. And what about “wonderful” and “incredible”? [I beg you please, however, forget "awesome." That word is roadkill].
Who needs synonyms when there’s the catch-all “amazing”? Forget the word’s etymology.
But the thing is, once a word’s frequent misuse has obliterated its meaning, it becomes pointless and unimportant.
“As humans, we waste the shit out of our words.” says comedian Louis CK. “It’s sad. We use words like “awesome” and “wonderful” like they’re candy. It was awesome?
“Really? It inspired awe? It was wonderful? Are you serious? It was full of wonder?
“You use the word “amazing” to describe a goddamn sandwich at Wendy’s. What’s going to happen on your wedding day, or when your first child is born? How will you describe it? You already wasted “amazing” on a fucking sandwich.”
Photo Credits: “Happy Thanksgiving,” by Serge Melki at Flickr via Creative Commons-license requiring attribution;”Thanksgiving Dinner,: by terren in Virginia at Flickr via Creative Commons-license requiring attribution;”ssoosay and Jason could Murder a Cup of Tea,” by Surian Soosay at Flickr via Creative Commons-license requiring attribution;
Amazing via Pinterest; “grasping,” by . . . some guy at Flickr via Creative Commons-license requiring attribution.