When I was a kid, "awesome" was the word we all used to describe things we liked. Walkman II, Raiders of the Lost Ark, jam boxes and Prince—the word for all of these was "awesome."
In that case, the only victim was the word itself, which lost its power. (What's left to say when you stand at the rim of the Grand Canyon?)
These days we have "amazing."
Originally abused by children and winners of Academy Awards, "amazing" has since become the favorite foster child of insipid waterheads everywhere.
You can't scroll through one Facebook screen without reading about amazing husbands, amazing friends and amazing colleagues (at amazing companies).
Dear amazing ladies and amazing gentelmen: Amazement is a product of confusion. Amazement happens when you had not the faintest idea! How is it that Americans are so constantly gobsmacked by the people they work with, eat with, sleep with every day? Do these people have multiple personality disorder or something? Or are we just perpetually "amazed" that we have any friends at all? You would have to worry about a population like that.
Luckily, the truth is that we're not really as endlessly astounded as we say we are. No, constantly telling everybody in your life how "amazing" everybody else in your life is, is nothing more than a rather obvious form of conceit. I'm surrounded by so many amazing people. I must be amazing, too. (The same trick is pulled by people who are always telling you how "brilliant" are the people they work with. Really? You work with Beethoven, Einstein and Shakespeare? Wow, you must be smart too!)
We all have our conceits. But this one is also condescending. I don't want to hear one friend tell her Facebook friends about how "amazing" I am, any more than I want to be told by a 23-year-old colleague that I "rock."
The truth is—and this isn't just my truth, but yours too—is that no one but me knows how amazing I am, and am not. And what's really amazing, my amazing friends, is that I haven't throttled you yet.
Look, if you want to tell everybody you're proud to be my friend, tell them that. And I'll probably return the favor. That's a good feeling to have, and I have it pretty often.
But don't inform the world that, despite the fact that you've known me for 25 years, you still find me "amazing."
They won't believe you, and I won't either.