Sunday, May 29, 2011


I realize I’m a hateful, cantankerous, grumpy old troll of a man, and therefore I have started and abandoned this blog post several times over the last several days. I thought I’d spare you the crankiness. (Actually, I also thought I’d spare myself the “Oh, don’t be so grumpy, Mr. Raincloud” comments, too).

But last night was the final straw. I was at the wedding of a family member and as we were milling about in the church foyer after the ceremony, one of the bridesmaids walked by. Her boyfriend smiled and said, “You did an AMAZING job!!!” (He put big emphasis on AMAZING).

Really? She did? She looked pretty. She did everything she was supposed to. And I fully acknowledge that being a bridesmaid is a very important position on a very important day for someone who’s very important to you. But, amazing? What was amazing?

Few things get under my skin these days as much as the ubiquitous overuse of the word AMAZING.

With young people, everything is “amazing” these days.

In just the last few minutes I’ve had two Facebook friends use the term. One in describing her husband, the other in describing her entire group of friends.

I realize this isn’t anything different than generations of youth using the word “cool”. Or “keen”. Or “hip”. Or “epic”. Those don’t bother me, mostly because their actual definition isn’t too far removed from their use in this setting.

Epic means huge and kids use it to describe something that’s a big deal to them.

In the fifties, when kids said “keen”, they were describing something that was sharp and right on the money – which is what the word means.

Hip? Well, outside of the anatomical use of the word, it means “cool”.

And cool…this one may be a stretch, since when we use it in this context; we don’t actually mean that something has a low temperature. But “cool” is established enough that I think it has a double meaning.

But, “amazing”?

The definition of “amazing” is: “Causing great surprise or sudden wonder. “ and “Astonishing, awe-inspiring, awesome, awful, awing.”

And how is this used? In the last couple of days, I’ve heard several young women describe their husbands as “amazing”. A handful have called their mothers “amazing”. We have the “amazing friends” reference. I regularly hear my college-aged friends describing their favorite new songs as “amazing”.

The girl who used to host a radio show immediately before mine once gave my show a plug as I was setting up the studio to take over. We’d known each other exactly 37 seconds and she introduced me as, “an amazing guy”. I mean…obviously she’s exactly right…but even given my AMAZING awesomeness…I’m not sure 37 seconds was enough time to actually ascertain that. Talk about overselling that one…

Is your mom truly amazing? Is she astonishing, awe-inspiring, etc.? Well…actually…OK…I’ll give you that one. Most moms ARE astonishing and awe-inspiring in what they sacrifice for their kids and how much they get done in an impressive multi-tasking fashion. So, there’s your caveat: Moms ARE amazing. (My daughter is currently sick and I was thinking of when I was a sick kid, my mom could set her internal clock to wake up at any time she needed to in order to give me my medicine on schedule. She never set the actual alarm clock, so she didn’t wake everyone else up. And she did actually sleep. But she decided that she needed to wake up at 2:45 a.m. to give me my medicine and she just did. Moms. Amazing.)

Your friends? Are they amazing? Or are they fun to hang out with? Do they make you feel good? Make you happy? Sure they do. That’s why they’re your friends, yo.

Is your husband really amazing? Does he actually cause great surprise or sudden wonder?

Don’t get me wrong…I’m sure your husband is a really great guy. I’ll bet he loves you so much and makes you feel so special. He’s your husband – he’s supposed to do that. That’s why you married him out of every other man on the entire planet.

It’s like what Chris Rock once said, when he referenced how it’s a common thing these days for young men to exclaim, “Well, I ain’t never been to jail….WATCHOO WANT, A COOKIE???? YOU AIN’T SUPPOSED TO GO TO JAIL!!!!!” Or when unmarried fathers say, “Well, I take care of my kid……..WHATCHOO WANT, A COOKIE??? YOU SUPPOSED TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR KID!!!!”

Not every song is amazing. Not every person you know is amazing. Not every book or movie is amazing.

Yes, they may mean a lot to YOU. And that’s important. That’s one of the best parts of life; surrounding yourself with the people and things that make you feel good and make you enjoy life. Those people/things ARE exceptional to you.

But amazing? When you hear that “amazing song” do you truly stand in front of the radio with your jaw hanging open, completely staggered at the amazing power of the tune you’re hearing? You might once in a GREAT while…but do you really do that with every song you call “amazing”?

That’s what you do when you see the Grand Canyon, right? Stand there, wide-eyed and slack-jawed, and marvel at how huge and awesome and incredible it is? That’s because the Grand Canyon IS AMAZING.

Your favorite song isn’t. It’s just really, really good.

Words have actual meanings. And when we throw them around all willy-nilly it cheapens them.

When you use the same word to describe your favorite book that you use to describe Niagra Falls, it takes something away from Niagra Falls.

I don’t want to take anything away from your friends…but when you use the exact same term to describe them that you use when you see a satellite picture of the cosmos…it does take something away from the cosmos.

And…I’m just now realizing…it also takes something away from your friends.

Your friends…your spouse…the people you love. They are special. They’re important. They’re wonderful. They mean everything to you. And THAT IS awesome.

In fact…it’s bigger and better than “amazing”. Don’t cheapen those relationships, those people, those special things that make you who you are, with a word better suited at describing a rock formation like the Grand Canyon.

Use the right words. Call your husband/wife “loving”, “beautiful”, “wonderful”, “funny”, “inspiring”. Whatever fits. Be specific. “Amazing” is generic.

They’re MORE than amazing. They’re important. The Grand Canyon isn’t important. It’s amazing, sure…but your life wouldn’t be too affected one way or another if it weren’t there, would it? Would your life be radically different if outer space was organized and colored in an entirely different way that was completely unpleasing to the eye? Probably not.

But, if you didn’t have those friends…Or if you hadn’t met your spouse…or if you didn’t have the music/books/movies that you enjoy regularly…your life would be impacted. It wouldn’t be the same. It wouldn’t be as enjoyable.

The Grand Canyon is amazing.

Your husband/wife/friend/favorite song/etc. is not.

To borrow a line from Sir Paul, maybe you’re amazed at the way they love you. Or maybe your amazed at the love you have for them.

But they themselves are more than amazing.

They’re important.

Let ‘em know.


  1. When I was a kid, my dad had a similar revelation about the word "awesome." He and I decided to only use to to describe God and His works, because, as Dad said, only God is truly awesome. While I can't say that I use that word exclusively to describe the Lord to this day, I definitely think more carefully about what nouns I ascribe this adjective to :)

    And that's my story!

  2. I had a friend's mom give us a big speech about the VERY same thing when I was a kid. It stuck with me. I agree. I do use "awesome" sometimes, but like you said, I definitely think about it more before using it.