Least favorite words

by Terry Plotkin

I am in a coffee shop in Glen Springs, Colorado. I buy a drink and a pastry. The price is $6:07. I hand the barista the exact change.  She exclaims enthusiastically, “That is Awesome.”

I put my head on my arms that are resting on the counter, sigh, and say, “No its not.”

 

Alas, the word awesome has been ruined. It is now used so often its meaning is something akin to okay or mediocre. Too bad, it was, in its day, a good word to describe things like a spectacular sunset, a vision from the “Other Side”, or the arrival of a newborn. Oh well, I’ll have to come up with a new word for that which inspires true awe. Forget about Amazing though, that overused word has been ruined as well. I have seen the most simplest of accomplishments be described with that word. When most everything and most everybody becomes Amazing nothing is.

 

Then there is the last A word that has lost all sense of proportion: Absolutely! This is what was said to me, for instance, by a waitress when I asked her for ketchup. A simple Yes would be sufficient and appropriate. Save absolutely for more intense situations; say when you are positive of what you saw when others doubt you.

 

I know people are trained to speak this way by their corporate employers so that they sound enthusiastic about a task that quite likely robs them of their sacred spirit thus making them into neurotic liars. I feel sorry for them and sometimes when on the phone I encourage them to quit their jobs when they are forced to go off on some sales pitch they have been trained to give to sell me something I don’t want and neither of us cares about.  It makes the interaction so phony I cannot connect with the person who is hiding behind those words so instead of enjoying the interaction I am left annoyed or, worse still, depressed.

 

After I bought my coffee and danish in Colorado the waitress was asked by the next customer in line, How she was doing? She replied, “Fantastic!!!” This comment was made at 8:30 on a Sunday morning by someone making close to minimum wage in a dead end job. Fantastic? Really? No way to know.

 

2 Responses to “Least favorite words”

  1. Terry,

    In general, I share your opinion about meaningless expletives. A few comments:

    I agree with the waitress when she judged your giving exact change as “awesome”. She may have just appreciated your effort to make her life easier, but she may also have tapped into the extraordinary waste represented in loose change – over $10 billion in homes. This is money taken out of the economy – reducing consumer spending (that means fewer jobs) and charitable giving. I am among the many who collect change – my last trip to the bank’s coin machine yielded over $300! Most people use the coinstar machines and pay 8% to cash in their coins

    Regarding corporate use of expletives, as a person who designs ads, writes articles, case studies, and press releases, I can say that professional corporate communicators avoid expletives as they would the plague. It’s only very low-end retailers, telemarketers, and a few wayward marketing pros who use these meaningless words. Yes, I agree, they would do better with new jobs (if they can find them).

    As a final comment, I would say that words are important, but not as important as the human heart. I know you have a good heart (even a great one) and that you would never criticize a person for well-meaning (even though meaningless) words. How would you feel if the waitress read your reaction to her words? Sorry if that sounds harsh – here I am criticizing your words.

    I think part of freeing the human is going beyond our limited language and listening to the silent language of the heart.

  2. As always, you think things through carefully and offer good insight. That is awesome.

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