What does it mean when language dies and meaningless babble takes the place of real communication? This is what is happening right now to all of us in our lives.
There are so many words in use today that delete meaning and cancel real connection between people, the question is, where do I start?
For our purposes here, let me zero in on what I believe to be the most virulent and sinister plug-in word that wipes out the brain’s ability to work: “awesome”.
The New Speak of today’s American language, had it been lightly sprinkled on occasion socially at a time when personal communication used to exist, would have been fun and funny, offering us all loads of internal comedy.
Something has radically changed or I have.
When it comes to the disappearance of vocabulary, I can’t help thinking that my sense of humor has been hijacked and held without ransom at a Justin Bieber concert.
Believe me, I search inside for a good-humored acceptance of what flies linguistically around me. No matter how hard I try, no can do, apparently.
I don’t just love words. I am obsessed by them.
In the 1988 British Collins Pocket Reference English Dictionary, the word “awesome” has a single definition: “dread mingled with reverence”. Today’s Wikipedia defines “awesome” as “1) causing awe or terror; 2) excellent, exciting, remarkable”.
The purist’s definition would be the Collins Dictionary, since that provides the forerunner of the word’s genesis.
I also think it nails the true unconscious communication of the word “awesome”: dread. After all, there is dread in these times, and we all ingest it.
Wikipedia includes, in definition #2, the current common usage: “excellent, exciting, remarkable”. Interesting spin of the original definition of “dread”, no?
Could it be that “awesome” is being robot repeated today in order to linguistically stamp out the horrific, exactly because there is an unconscious experience of “dread”?
Perhaps people emphatically insist on empty vernacular for comfort.
It’s not so exotic to imagine that language is used as a shield to vehemently deny and protect against the onslaught of unpleasant realities. (Examples fractionally include “no problem”, “no worries”, and “it’s all good”). The problem is that truth doesn’t disappear just because words do. Unhappily, wordlessness and the unconsciousness it breeds make us weak and stupid.
As a psychotherapist and compulsive communications analyst, words like “awesome” ring my alarm bells and grind me to a stop in an intellectual cul-de-sac. I must get to the bottom of this mindless chatter that is removing Americans from the use of their minds.
In these last 10 years, words have especially disappeared; vocabulary shredded, dumped, and flung into the big blue garbage can, recycled and replaced, in my mind, with stupidity.
If saying this tempts you to identify me as a cranky boomer who is sour on a changing society and its new vocabulary, bingo!
I believe that what’s at stake with the case of the missing words is nothing short of the end of using our minds. The end of the freedom that comes with thinking.
Gone along with taking personal responsibility, integrity and any personal commitment—even to words!
I invite you to listen. Really listen to strangers having public conversations on cell phones. Listen to the absence of meaningful words and honest opinion. I constantly wonder what this means.
It may be a contagious mimicry and case of mental laziness. It seems people have willingly given up communication and have fallen into the habit of using the same 5 or 6 words.
Maybe saying, “awesome”, is like spitting away bad news, debate, or any hint of disagreeableness. As in, “I’m going with awesome, no matter what’s happening in the world, and I’m staying there. End of discussion”.
Or maybe it’s a quick way of saying, “I’m a member of your club. Everything is awesome for me, too.”
According to personal usage, everything potentially inspires a response of “awesome!” From a restaurant server’s reaction to your personal menu choice to almost every television commercial or bubble-headed talk show conversation, everyone is enthusiastically blank with “awesome!”
Whereas for me, I don’t use the “a” word and if I were to, it would revolve around love or a fabulous trip to Paris.
Speaking of the word, “love”, if everything is so awesome, where is the love? As an expression of feeling, it is downright dissolved today with the popular “love ya” and “lovin’ it”.
Where, in all this awesomosity, is the love?
The word, “love”, was my generation’s version of “awesome”, in that everything was then about the word, “love”. The radio was a constant love machine, pouring out music that repeated and centered on the word, “love”.
I really think that “love” was a word that was not just imbedded in the social fabric of the 1960’s and 1970’s, but was also experienced and consciously considered. I’m not saying that everyone was running around with love, but the word was the slogan and the essence of a real time in American society when we were encouraged by the theme and desire to feel love and reach for it.
Love was the word, and the word was love.
Clearly, this is not a love time. Love is not thematic, even as songs of the sixties and The Beatles are played in the background of various car commercials.
“Awesome” is today’s word. So what does this mean?
I think it’s a hollow vocabulary, replacing real words that were meant to express what you wanted to say. “Awesome” may have begun as satire in the 1980’s with “Valley Girl” speak. Now everyone uses it for real. It was sharp for one short comedy riff; Whoopi Goldberg used it when it and she were funny.
Even the eyes of people can seem alarmingly emptied of that spark of brain connection that came with real speech. The sad truth of Americans is that they are thrilled to be off the true conversational hook. Witness the preferred email, for starters.
As long as people feel they belong to the popular nothingness, many are content and sleeping well at night (with prescription drugs) and content to stay mentally asleep during what used to be the brain’s primetime hours.
This off-the-hookness means that there are less responses to real life and no real awareness. In other words, people are being robbed of their lives!
Yes, I believe that being encouraged to use repetitive empty words and expressions is killing the brains and the spirit of the American people.
Although it must be said that Obama did not originate the end of authentic word use, he leads as a model for using “intelligent” empty words as window dressing with nothing behind the window. His love for sprinkling the air with “the American people” this and “the American people” that, is a layering of artificial parmesan onto genetically modified vegetables. No nutrients, no reality. Topping this off with the empty grin and voila! The 21st century T.V. dinner.
But I digress.
Non-Speak Examples: “It was like, awesome”.
or “Awesome. There you go”.
Does this mean anything?
Was it, or was it not, “awesome”, and if so, what is that? Or was it simply like “awesome”?
And where, exactly, am I “going”?
You get the idea.
And if everything, from big to miniscule, is awesome, surely it wipes out any experience of what is truly “excellent, exciting, or remarkable” that could be happening for you.
“Awesome” makes Wonder Bread meaningful.
Here’s the good news. It’s not too late to bring back true communication.
It’s not too late to insist on using real words and activating our brains every day.
While we are flooded with promotion to stay asleep and mimic empty sounds, we can wake up.
We can take our words and our lives back.
That’s all for now, and it’s not all good.