Thanks, Awesome Technology, For Killing Our Awesome Slang
After a very brief period in which I was instructed by BuzzFeed to learn why “Vintage Beer Commercials are Awesome,” by Hooters to “#StepIntoAwesome,” by Heavy.com to check out “10 Awesome UFC Fight Photos,” and by Carl’s Jr.’s Facebook page to check out how their “’Deals of Awesome’ will help you get an awesome deal on an awesome meal,” it occurred to me that I needed to take an awesome shower.
Have we marketers really gotten this lazy? Have we given up trying to invent clever and animated ways to express strong emotional content?
Part of me thinks this is a male problem. The word “awesome” has become a catch-all for virtually any emotion that’s meant to connect dudes (particularly young ones) to a sense that something is fantastic. It’s a word that’s been argot since it was published in 1980’s The Official Preppy Handbook, and it’s now mainstream to the core, an integral part of most 3 year old boys’ (and their fathers’) vocabulary.
Why has awesome stuck around so long? And why do we still insist on using it?
I’d guess that part of it has to do with a disruption of the natural process for manufacturing slang. And maybe that disruption is coming from technology, and the fact that we speak face to face less. Slang has become as splintered as the internet. A perusal of Urban Dictionary reveals a bunch of inside jokes about sex. It’s not exactly the lingo of Cab Calloway or Frank Sinatra.
Slang serves multiple purposes. It invents words and terms for things that mainstream society doesn’t have words for. It allows subcultures and tribes a certain linguistic encryption to stand apart from other groups. It conveys youth culture. And it helps members of tribes or subcultures identify each other.
I realize that I probably sound like a grandpa when I bemoan the lack of expressive new slang and the rehashing of old stuff, and maybe I am just out of the loop. It does, however, seem like we’re in an era where a lot of our “slang” comes from abbreviation, with technology driving things along. Short-form words like ridic and gorge and cray and vom have certainly entered the lexicon, along with acronyms like YOLO and FOMO and BYOD. It does seem like we’re in a down market for vibrant patois that has the eccentricity and idiomatic flourish of years past.
I’ll sound really old now when quoting Walt Whitman’s description of how slang breathes life into everyday speak as “the start of fancy, imagination, and humor.” I don’t get any of that when I’m invited to #StepIntoAwesome, even if the ladies are half-naked. And that’s not very awesome.