Skip to content

The Descent of Awe

May 31, 2010

For far too long, far too many things have been “awesome.” Waiters have been declaring their garlic-stuffed tomatoes awesome, and I honestly have to wonder how a stuffed tomato can be so terrifying. I sign my name on a credit card receipt; the clerk comments that my signature is awesome, and I wonder what impels him to revere it.

Logocide is a combustible subject with me. I am simply not ready to step into the generation of the descent of awe.

Awe has always meant, and still does mean, 1. “a mixed feeling of reverence, fear, and wonder, caused by something majestic, sublime, sacred, etc.” 2. the power of inspiring intense fear or fearful reverence” 3. terror; dread (Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition). Awesome means “inspiring awe” (ibid.). Awe is very likely more appropriate to God and some magnificent elements of his works of creation, than to a stuffed tomato, or even to my inimitable signature.

On mere but extensive subjective evidence, I would have to nominate the word awesome the most frequently overused word and the most frequently misused word in our abused language. And I have a few ideas as to why this is the case.

If everything is awesome, nothing is awesome; nothing can be awesome because awesome means nothing if it means everything. So in effect, nothing is awesome, and the meaning of awe is removed. Nothing is left that is worthy of our awe in the true sense. We have gone from perpetually awesome to aweless.

Awelessness leads to lawlessness. Antinomians campaign to undermine the law by undermining, among other things, language. And of course if they are hostile to law, they are hostile to God. Anyone with a sense of reverence for a stuffed tomato or a signature that looks as if the signer sneezed while attempting to write an Arabic character while blindfolded, has, at best, a misplaced sense of reverence.

In deconstructing language, we deconstruct meaning and structure; and meaning and structure are legacies of the Giver of meaning and structure, because without meaning and structure, there can be no law; nor can there be law without meaning and structure. So a denial that language follows rules and propounds standard meanings, ultimately has a nexus with the denial of God himself.

As for Christians who say, “We serve an awesome God,” I want to say, “No you don’t; not unless you don’t also use the modifier “awesome” with 15 of every 17 things you identify. You are violating the third commandment if you make no distinction between the things of God that deserve reverence, and vain things that do not.

Note: I will not post any comments saying this is an awesome post.

  1. May 31, 2010 5:11 pm

    I was going to say this post was awe–um, (awful?–no; awed?–no sounds too much like “odd”; awe shucks?–no wait, that’s a minced oath. . . .)

    I like the post very much.

  2. May 31, 2010 11:04 pm

    I like this post a lot too, Lauren. While English is an evolving language, as you say, to use this majestic word so loosely is devolution. I TRY to discourage my kids from using it other than to speak of God, works of creation etc but sadly, they have been influenced by it’s frequent use all around us.
    What ever happened to the waiter saying “Have a nice day”?

  3. June 1, 2010 8:45 am

    Post-modern speakers of English, especially amerikans, are murdering the language in a whole a variety of ways, including, as you point out, the word awesome. I murder the word “american” myself, but deliberately and for very specific personal reasons. And these post-modern speakers are also murdering eloquence, and articulate use of language. You yourself write very well, and are very articulate and precise in your use of language, which is a very gratifying thing to see.

Comments are closed.