The Ethics of Awesomeness

Sunday, August 29, 2021

What Is It

The word “awesome” once meant inspiring extreme fear or dread. Nowadays it’s mostly used as a general purpose exclamation of approval. So when we describe a person as awesome, are we saying that they exemplify some general form of excellence? Or are awesome people those who break specific social norms to generate moments of creative expression and social connection? Would the world be a better place if we all aimed to be more awesome and less sucky? Josh and Ray stand in awe of Nick Riggle from the University of San Diego, author of On Being Awesome: A Unified Theory of How Not to Suck.

Comments (6)


Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Wednesday, July 21, 2021 -- 3:31 PM

No. This is stupid. Anyone

No. This is stupid. Anyone knowing awesome from mediocre gets this.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Sunday, July 25, 2021 -- 4:47 PM

Everytime someone tells me

Everytime someone tells me something is awesome, when it is little better than usual, reasonable
and customary, I think about exaggeration for effect. I want to grab these people by the throat and demand to know what their notion of awesome is. For example, a comfortable and successful bowel movement is not awesome. The Grand Canyon might be. Or, the borealus. When we place an order for food at a favored restaurant, that is not awesome. If the service and food is exceptional, we may reexamine our assessment. Awesome is a worn out algorithm, leaving us with the sense of nothingness. It is a further useless application of political correctness. If I sneeze, will you declare:, awesome? I truly hope not.

Tim Smith's picture

Tim Smith

Sunday, July 25, 2021 -- 11:24 PM

Riggle discusses this and

Riggle discusses this and more. You have more in common with his thesis than you think.

Riggle is not stupid. He pokes fun at his own arguments, but there is something new in the terms he is discussing, something most all Americans agree upon. Social openings are rare. Let's not waste them with wack. Fear is no longer the core awesome. Wonder extends to community where, lately, it's been tough to find.

Awesome Prius
-Nobody

The same goes for bowel movements.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Monday, July 26, 2021 -- 3:15 PM

Well. You may have this any

Well. You may have this any way you wish, Tim. Awesome is over-used. In 1986, i had a brief relationship with someone.. She was a mid-level administrative professional, paid in the 65 to 70 thousand dollar range. Her boom crutch was UM. She could not prepare well enough to avoid this piece of presentational sleight-of-vocalization. Anyone in the business of presentations understands that a pause is better than an um. Awesome is similar. Seems to me. Same with if you thank someone for something and they reply: no problem. If there were a problem; could be one, you have no business in any kind of. person-to-person public contact. You are welcome is respectful and involves only one more word. .I do not care for new-speak. This has nothing to do with constructive change. It is about respect, understanding and uncommon sense. Common sense is no longer an option, it seems.

Tim Smith's picture

Tim Smith

Monday, July 26, 2021 -- 11:40 PM

Well indeed. I detect a chill

Well indeed. I detect a chill.

My way and wishes aren't half as interesting as yours and Riggle's. If I understand you, the issue is semantic bleaching (SB) and a halcyon good old day that has lost all sense of awe. If I understand Riggle, there is a new term in town called awesome who celebrates humanity at every opportunity.

Bleaching is a technical term that I honestly don't understand too well but can be measured using n-grams. The transition that you are talking about is SB. Awfully bad becomes awfully nice over time, changing from modifier to an intensifier. I don't want to get too deep into it but to say that this is real and measurable with natural language modeling and linear algebra.

If I were to do this analysis, I agree that awesome has transitioned from modifying the Grand Canyon to intensifying the taste of candy. I haven't done that analysis and don't have the talent. I have looked at the n-gram for 'awesome,' however, and its usage has considerably increased in the last two decades, tagging closely with the term' sucks.' Using Google's n-gram viewer or Microsofts, the word 'excellent' has a more gradual slope and is perhaps intensifying.

Nick Riggle, who is a better thinker than I am, without doubt, isn't using vector space to make his case, and neither are you. Instead, he appeals to our common sense and uses anecdotes, not unlike yours of the mid-level boom crutching 'um' user. Riggle and your friend's usage are not intensifying but somewhat different ideas altogether. 'No worries' or 'no problem' and 'um,' for that matter, are particles of pause for social politeness.

Riggle is defining a whole new significance to awesome and suckiness. Again, I'm just taking this in myself, but when I look to the n-gram viewer for these terms… there does seem to be something to it—namely social openings between groups of Americans who generally don't treat each other all too well.

This social engagement is awesome, and not my way but Riggle's. I prefer wack with my coffee, mescaline, or drug of choice. Regardless of how good the old days were for me, the new day is different and ever-changing. I want to enjoy that drink with some reflection but not too much reverence for lost meaning. There isn't any.