As a writer and a lover of words, I am a purist about my vocabulary and a bit hyper-vigilant about my word choices and the word choices of my children and grandchildren and even innocent bystanders I pass on the street, or hear on their cell phones in Walgreens. This universal phenomenon deserves an entire post of its own, by the way. Not my snooping on others’ conversations but the fact that they think I want to hear their cell phone chatter.  I was beside a woman in my local grocery store recently who was talking to a friend (I hope) about the results of her pap smear.  Really??! I bee lined from spices to dairy before I could hear the sordid details of her latest STD or her sex life. Neither, or the thought of someone else’s cooter, was anything I have interest in while picking up ingredients for chicken artichoke.

But on to my self-perceived impeccable vocabulary.  It has developed a tragic flaw, and ugly fracture in its well protected veneer.

I have begun to say “awesome” at everything.  I mean everything.  A worse case than the middle school kids I hear waiting at the bus stop. Not eavesdropping.  They all yell.

If my daughter says her baby learned to ride a scooter, I’m all “awesome.”

If the wireless phone bill  is under a hundred dollars, it’s “awesome.”

If my car is fixed and still under warranty, it’s “totally awesome.”

New shoes, new dress, fresh peaches, light turns green, no rain in the forecast–it’s all suddenly, amazingly “awesome” to me.

It took me a bit for this to sink in, this ridiculous overuse of a word so cliche in our society, I might as well be saying “whatever” (which my eldest might argue also needs some work) or “literally.” Gone is the true meaning of this word that implies reverence or admiration or majesty and in has crept this teeny bopper, Justin Beiber of a word that pops up at least once a conversation in my daily speech.

When I realized this I was horrified.  I think it happened one evening when my husband chuckled back to me (and he is not much of a chuckler or a responder at all past 7:00 PM) with something like, “Was it awesome or totally awesome?” Man, he might as well have told me I had ended a sentence in a preposition or said, my all time bugaboo in American speech, “with Jane and I.” One of Bryant Gumbel’s favorite ways to sign off before a commercial on the old Today Show.  It’s “me,” Bryant, “me.” For me, to me , at me, after me, with me.  It was enough to make me flip the station to CBS.

So husband’s point made, verbal gaff noticed, I have spent the last week trying to irradicate “awesome” from my vocabulary, and truth be told, I cannot tell you how painful it has been.  And alarming.

First of all, so many of the replacement words have been equally overused to near extinction of meaning.

“Excellent” started in Wayne and Garth’s basement on SNL and went on to permeate conversation as the pat response for anything from “dinner’s ready” to “the sky is clearing.”

“Nice” has taken on a whole new meaning of superiority in all things hip and cool and must be said in a long slow breath of appreciation rather than casually quipped as in, “N-i-c-e.”

“Great” has been a bit tarnished by taking on it’s opposite meaning as in, “The movie is sold out.”  “Great.”

So for now I am going with “wonderful” and “lovely.” Haven’t noticed them being bastardized by rapper’s jargon or adorable Jimmy Fallon’s opening monologue.

But, give ’em time.  Until then, I am going to enjoy the rest of this lovely day and tell my son I hope his trip to Mexico is wonderful.

And save awesome for when I finally see Mount Rushmore.