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I hope your New Year is NOT awesome!

That's not strictly true. Perhaps however, it's just the choice of the adjective ... I'm not the only one:

The word Awe-Struck is definitely one of Milton's, second only to Shakespeare in his love of inventing words. If you have described someone as being terrific or unprincipled or self-delusional then, were it not for John Milton, you may struggle.

Equally, since I at times recognise myself as being somewhat didactic. I too recognise his contribution to the English vocabulary.

Now, I am not sure if awesome can be included in his lexicon. Probably not since it's first recorded use was in the late 1500's mixing awe with some and by the mid-1600's meaning inspiring awe or dread. 

I am sure you can picture things that are awesome - the northern lights, the invention of the wheel or photos from the Hubble telescope. 

Basically, it stayed that way for 4 centuries. 
  • Awesome
The word naughty... Little boys and girls are naughty, little Johnny aged 5 is described as being naughty when he pulls Emily's pigtails. However, an article in the Daily Mail - thanks to Milton, we can describe this paper as being unprincipled, self-delusion, dismissive, gloom embellishing, literalism, took issue with this. It quoted some experts that such a label "damaged a child's self-confidence". 

As an aside, when I see the word expert I recall the words of an ex-colleague of mine who defined an expert as being made up of two syllables. Ex, being a has been and 'spurt' being a drip under pressure - QED when it comes to the Daily Mail. 

 However, in Shakespeare's time, those same experts could have a point because in that era naughty actually meant wicked, evil or vile. There is no understatement in Act III of King Lear, when The Duke of Gloucester, in the midst of having his eyes gouged out by Reagan calls her a naughty lady.
  • King Lear
So what happened? When did naughty make a transition from wicked evil and vile to badly behaved or, at worst, mildly rude? The answer is that it didn't happen overnight it just became stale and tired and lost its power.
 
On the 16th December 2017, the Daily Mail carried a headline: "Surf's up! Stunning images show the awesome beauty and intense power of waves as they batter the shore." 

Ten out of ten for correct usage. 

However, that same paper, 3 months earlier,  described a video of a man catching a golf ball in his mouth as also being Awesome. 

So ten out of ten for inconsistency too.

How long before AWESOME gets overused, stale and tired and ends up, like naughty, in the lexical cemetery. Or are we already too late. I know that language evolves but this is a word that should do exactly as it says on the tin... inspire awe and then some.

Just in case the do exactly as it says on the tin message is lost on some of you. I suggest you look at the video below.
Synonyms of awesome include:

Breathtaking, amazing, stunning, astounding, astonishing, awe-inspiring, stupendous, staggering, extraordinary, incredible, unbelievable, magnificent, wonderful, spectacular, remarkable, phenomenal, prodigious, miraculous, sublime, formidable, imposing, impressive; mind-boggling, mind-blowing and out of this world.

Not one of these words is an appropriate description of a Starbucks coffee.

Neither are they an appropriate response to the question, "Can I have a cheese sandwich, please? "

Videos of cats on the internet are funny and amusing. Synonyms of funny and amusing contain none of the above words.

So if during 2018, you intend climbing Mount Everest, travelling to the hanging gardens of Babylon, swimming with sharks, donating all your money to the homeless, finding a cure for cancer or making interstellar transport a reality for all, then you truly are awesome.

For the rest of you...

I wish you a happy, peaceful New Year with much happiness and opportunities to touch the lives of others in a truly positive way. In other words, be awesome... in the true sense of the word.

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Martin Baker

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