The Awesome Awesomeness of Awesoming our Language


This may be the only New Year’s resolution you need to make, if you really want to save civilization:

Resolved: Instead of using the word ‘awesome,’ or its various forms including ‘awesomeness’ or any other villain, I’ll implement these synonyms:


amazing, astonishing, astounding, marvelous, awful, eye-opening, fabulous, miraculous, portentous, prodigious, staggering, stunning, stupendous, sublime, surprising, wonderful, wondrous.

Or, instead of “awesome” you can even try these related words:

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incomprehensible, inconceivable, incredible, unbelievable, unimaginable, unthinkable; extraordinary, phenomenal, rare, sensational, spectacular; singular, uncommon, unique, unusual, unwonted; conspicuous, notable, noticeable, outstanding, remarkable; impressive, smashing, striking; mind-bending, mind-blowing, mind-boggling; animating, energizing, enlightening, enlivening, exciting, galvanizing, invigorating, stimulating; alluring, attracting, attractive, beguiling, bewitching, captivating, charming, enchanting, entertaining, enthralling, fascinating.

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The dictionary also suggested the related word “interesting.” Don’t mix with “interesting.” It lives in the verbal slums next door to “awesome.” “Interesting” is a word that only honors the universe when uttered by Dr. Spock.

If you even question why I make this resolution suggestion, then you are obviously not an American. You’re a foreigner who’s blessed with speaking another language. If you are, and someone starts to teach you alleged English, show them this column.

Edvard Munch’s classic The Scream

Wait! If you don’t speak English, you won’t be reading this. So if you’re reading this, and know someone who’s trying to learn English, translate this article for your friend. Or tell your friend’s teacher that, if he or she even utters the word “awesome,” you and all English-language students will file a class-action lawsuit. Or contact the White House and cite the National Defense Authorization Act’s (NDAA) clause that allows the president to order the military arrest of anyone in the world suspected of terrorism and jail the person in a secret dungeon. Tell the prez you’ve proof of vocabulary terrorism which is destroying society. And make it “very clear” to him.

A Clear and Present Dangler

Which leads us to the president’s own pummeled word: “clear.” It’s stayed engrained in the pores of his language like an abscessed cyst.

Look as far back as August 2009, when Politico reporter Andie Collier analyzed President Obama relishing his favorite phrase:

‘Let me be clear.’


In the first six months of Obama’s presidency, this simple sentence has gone from political pet phrase to full-on rhetorical signature, appearing (along with its variants “let’s be clear” and “I want to be clear”) scores of times in the commander in chief’s pre-written and extemporaneous remarks – sometimes more than once in a given speech.

President Obama in press conference.

By December 2013, not much had changed. In a December 20 afternoon press conference in the James F. Brady Press Briefing Room, Obama used his pet monosyllable 10 times. This included: “It clears the path for businesses and for investments…” “What is absolutely clear to me is that…” “…it is clear that whatever benefits the configuration…” “…what they were very clear about is…” “…but my intentions have been clear throughout…” “Now, I’ve been very clear from the start…”

The president obviously wants us to feel he’s being transparent, or, at least, leaving no doubt in what he tells us. And for anyone who still believes him, he probably does present statements we can understand. But, whether he tells us the truth or not, his speechwriter and Thesaurus coach might offer him some suggestions to salve his audience with variety. So, Mr. President, here are some offerings for you and your speech team, i.e. synonyms for “clear”:

crystal, crystal clear, crystalline, limpid, liquid, lucent, pellucid, see-through, bright, luminous, cloudless, transparent, clean, pure, plain, unmistakable, keen, sure, innocent, unqualified, absolute, bare, denuded.

Admit it: Wouldn’t the president catch and hold your attention if he said, “Let me be innocent about these CIA drone strikes that kill Middle East villagers…” or “Let me be denuded about whistleblowers…”

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And, yes, for the president, too, we can offer related words which might come in handy:

colorless, uncolored, diaphanous, lucid, semitranslucent, semitransparent, sheer, translucent, transparentized, glassy, vitreous.

Okay, I know we could question whether our language’s polluted infusion of nervous fillers deserve synonyms: Those fillers such as “like” and “you know” (I kind of…like…love you. I kind of…you know…wish I could…you know…spend my life…like…with…you know…you.) But why don’t we just consider eliminating those squeamish interruptions entirely. You know?

Understanding Great

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Meanwhile, two last suggestions, both for sports broadcasters.

First, you abuse our intelligence with your common analysis that begins with “Most people don’t understand that…”

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Urinal_mouthIn the United States of America-where citizens can tell you the starting line-up of their favorite college football team’s backfield but not their U.S. Supreme Court-there is very little we don’t understand about the sport you’re analyzing. Particularly if it is the billion-dollar sport of college football, or most any other athletic endeavor. We do understand how one suffers being an unheralded lineman. We do understand the difference between practice speed and game speed. We do understand what it feels like to win and lose. We’ve been daily fed the intricacies of sports since before we popped out of the womb and, when in this world, had sports driven into us, ranging from peewee leagues to the NFL and NBA and PGA.

So, please, from now on recognize that we understand, and don’t talk down to us.

Second, and last, not everything that happens on a football field, basketball court, golf course or ping-pong table is “great.” Very, very few actions in an athletic endeavor are great, as in eminent or distinguished. However, if you, in your analysis and limited scope, feel every action is great, then please grant us some aural relief by employing a variety of synonyms:

accomplished, ace, adept, complete, consummate, crack, crackerjack, educated, experienced, expert, good, proficient, master, masterful, masterly, practiced (also practised), professed, skilled, skillful, versed, veteran, virtuoso.

And, yes, also consider a barrage of related words, with which we end our plea:

adroit, clever, deft, dexterous (also dextrous), handy, slick, sure-handed; gifted, talented; polished, refined; effective, effectual, efficient, workmanlike; able, capable, competent, employable, fit, fitted, habile, qualified; educated, knowledgeable, schooled, taught, trained, tutored; all-around (also all-round), well-rounded; long-term, old; multiskilled, multitalented.

Thanks to Merriam-Webster for guidance in expanding our vocabulary.

Happy New Year.

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