The day after this new website went live my amiga Sas wrote ‘Our dear friend has launched his website putting what he does into words for us and it's pretty awesome!’
Before I went to Burning Man and became part of a community of people I admire enormously, thanks to Sas, I would have winced at that ‘awesome’.
Steal this idea
A California friend and I once came up with an idea for an app that knew when you said ‘awesome’ and sent a few cents from your bank account into a hi-tech swearbox. Money from your compulsive awesoming would be donated to the charidee of your choice.
I wonder if someone will read this and make the app. I always believed that the electric toothbrush was accidentally invented by an American journalist writing in the 1950s, when there was a craze for electrification. ‘What will they invent next,’ he said, ‘an electric toothbrush?’.
It’s a story I’ve told for years but it would appear it’s not true. The first electric toothbrush was the brainchild of Dr Philippe-G Woog and its creation in 1954 had nothing to do with a magazine article.
But if you ever see the AweBox on i-whatever or Gurgleplay, you heard about it first here.
But back to awesome
Although I scrupulously make sure I never use the word myself, I’ve stopped wanting to strangle my California friends when they lower their voices a few octaves and murmur ‘awesome’. I’ve come to love their endless optimism, even in the face of dust-out desert storms.
I’d take Cali upbeat over jaundiced cynicism any time. But it does always pay to be deeply wary about the way words are being used.
Reach out and share
If, like me, your work takes you into the corporate world, you’ll have encountered dead-eyed shiny shark types who ‘reach out and share’. They’re usually reaching out to take something from you and share it with themselves.
As a freelance writer, I’m occasionally tempted to use current feel-good words like these and show how oh-so hip and contemporary I am but I don’t. As much as possible, the words I use correspond to a truth.
A wire obstacle
The vicious barbed wire fence between Hungary and Serbia, supposedly designed to keep out the refugees/immigrants is described by the Hungarian government as a ‘wire obstacle’. This makes it sound kind of fun, something children play on.
Last week I was at a conference in Stockholm on digital health, a subject I blog about. A Finnish guy talked about what his organisation was doing to, ahem, revolutionise healthcare.
‘We don’t use the word “patient” any more,' he said. 'We use “customer”. Patient suggests that the person going to the hospital is sick.'
I thought people only went to hospitals because they were sick. A trip to oncology is hardly a day at the beach is it?
Sorry to get all Orwell on you but the misuse of words, whether deliberately or because you’ve caught a word virus, is dangerous. Which is not at all awesome.
Reclaiming the awesome
Zen master Ch’uan Teng Lu said:
Before I had studied Zen for thirty years, I saw mountains as mountains, and waters as waters. When I arrived at a more intimate knowledge, I came to the point where I saw that mountains are not mountains, and waters are not waters. But now that I have got its very substance I am at rest. For it’s just that I see mountains once again as mountains, and waters once again as waters.
That’s how I feel now about the awesome. I’ll never be able to say the word with conviction but, if you truly know its power, I’ll respect your right to use it.