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We All Need, Ah, Some Awesome Relief
by Andy Cowan
TheSyndicatedNews columnist

Andy Cowan, an award-winning writer, whose credits include Cheers and Seinfeld, regularly contributes humor pieces to the Los Angeles Times and the CBS Jack FM Radio Network.

AFTER centuries of technological marvels that would make any cynic's eyes pop out, you'd think most of us would be blasé by now. Over one out of five Americans alive today has never known a world without a Rubik's Cube. No wonder it's cool to look "cool," as in detached and not easily impressed. We've seen it all. We've done it all.

So why - long after the discoveries of gravity, and electricity, and Chia Pets - are we constantly decreeing that everything, yes everything, is "awesome"?

I must be missing something. It's as if the rest of the world is watching the big picture in high-def, while I continue to squint at my tiny analog.

Which is why I find it ... well, you know what the word is ... that so few of you seem to notice this ... again, you know what the word is ... elephant in the room.

When something is truly awesome, "awesome" just won't cut it anymore. What about "splendiferous?" I can only deduce that the first one to utter "awesome" obviously struck a chord with the rest of us. The fire was indeed ... awesome!

So perfect a description was "awesome" in this case that, like the fire, it couldn't help but spread. A sign it went too far: When someone noted that "awesome" was "awesome."

Shouldn't language elucidate? Isn't it about clarity and specificity? What pertinent data am I to glean after you inform me that both your cereal, and my new girlfriend, are "awesome?" They're both flaky? Wait ... The weather is "awesome" too? The cereal's cold, the girlfriend's hot, the weather's mild. I'm clearer now.

Not that we'd want to go back to the turn of two centuries ago, when overly elucidating one's thoughts bordered on the pedantic. But we're all the way back to the caveman days now. Food meant grunt. Sex meant grunt. Today they mean awesome.

Let's at least assign levels of awesomeness:

Salmon jerky - kinda awesome.

Turkey jerky - sorta kinda awesome.

Maybe we should take a tip from the British, and call everything "brilliant" - however awesome such an undertaking would be in an era when most of us know more about Britney than Brits.

During the '30s and '40s, nearly everything was "swell." But swell was often a personal assessment of another individual's character. And it didn't quite render your less-than-swell assessment moot with the same force "awesome" does today.

Things weren't exactly " groovy" in the '60s. But "groovy" didn't begin to permeate everyday language the way "awesome" has. In treacherous times, maybe we subconsciously try to convince ourselves all is swell or groovy or awesome, when it's anything but swell or groovy or awesome.

There could be an up side to all of this: When Armageddon finally arrives, everything will be "peachy keen." That's more than sorta kinda awesome.

ANDY COWAN can be reached at

Published: Jul 11,2008 16:36
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