I don't always like what's happening to our language. (It's, like, totally bad?) Some change in our language is to be expected, as with any living language. But much of the change in the English language has taken place either by A) default, as in sinking to the level of the least educated folks among us, which are becoming a majority; or B) language inflation, as in the overuse, and thus devaluation, of words like "awesome."
My special pet peeve: "Amazing." My daughter is amazing. You're doing an amazing job on that picture. Did you see that amazing sunset?
Whatever happened to, "My daughter has a pretty impressive vocabulary." "I love the way you're using colors in that picture!" "That was a particularly beautiful sunset tonight." ???
I love sunsets. But they happen Every.Single.Day. Some are very beautiful, depending on how the clouds are arranged that evening. But I haven't seen too many that truly astonish me. If every sunset is amazing, then you aren't seeing one very often. The fact that they're a daily occurrence everywhere in the world sort of takes them out of the realm of amazing, even when they're spectacularly beautiful. I don't want to lose my capacity to be amazed by God's creation, but neither do I want to lose what it means to once in a while be genuinely amazed at something out of the ordinary. [Caution, Anne, that sentence contained a split infinitive.] Losing sight of a word's definition and overusing it robs us of its richness:
a*maze', verb 1. to overwhelm with surprise or sudden wonder; astonish greatly. 2. Obsolete. to bewilder, perplex
Try this experiment: for one day, take note of all the times you hear someone use the word "amazing." Then each time, stop and think, "Is that person really astonished, or overwhelmed with sudden wonder?"
There are times when I think the word "amazing" would be warranted in my speech or writing, but I check myself and try to find another way to say it so as not to add to the language inflation, wherein "amazing" now means pretty much nothing. If I use the word, no one's actually going to think I'm astonished or overwhelmed with wonder, even if I am...so I try to find something that really conveys the exceptional nature of what I've witnessed or what I'm describing. It's my silent protest at the trashing of perfectly lovely words.
Don't get me wrong...you can express yourself with whatever word you choose. But be assured that if you say you're "amazed" at that "awesome" chocolate milkshake, you will be adding your assent to language inflation. And you'll leave yourself fewer ways to express yourself when God hands you something that is actually astounding...
Labels: Fun, Language