I ventured out today to buy milk. Entered a local convenience store where, upon paying for my gallon and presenting exact change, the teenage salesgirl chirped “Awesome!”
Lord give me strength.
According to the dictionary, awesome is defined as: “inspiring awe; an awesome sight.” Its root word, “awe,” is defined: “An overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, or fear produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful.”
Let’s clarify: the Eiffel Tower is awesome. The Pacific Ocean is awesome. Niagara Falls is awesome. Exact change is…not.
Through sheer will, I managed to resist saying, "Sweetheart, are you experiencing an overwhelming feeling of reverence that I've produced exact change for my milk? Or is it a sense of the grand, the sublime? Are you in fact in awe of me that I should be able to pull a few dollar-bills and some coins out of my pocket? Or is it fear, which indicates at the very least that you have one drop of good sense?"
Many years ago, when “duh” was popular, I was on a long car trip with my two young nephews. Duh was their favorite word. They said it about everything.
"Make sure you put your seatbelt on.”
“Would you like the window down?”
Being in the car with them under normal circumstances was trying. In their duh phase, on a long trip, their company was intolerable. So I started the deprogramming program. For five hours, every time they spoke, I shouted “DUH!” Five hours of nothing but duh. I thought their eyes would pop out, and I never heard them utter duh again.
Sadly, I can’t do that to the teenager in the convenience store. Nor can I deprogram the Elaine Benes groupies who exclaim “Shut up!” whenever I say something surprising. “Sweet” is another one. Sugar is sweet. Honey is sweet. Getting a pair of socks at Christmas is not sweet. Then there’s “amazing.” Everything in the new millennium is amazing. The baby is amazing, the Empire State Building is amazing, the song on the radio is amazing, the squashed spider in the bathtub is amazing. I can’t even, like, begin to discuss “like” and the way and frequency that poor word is now butchered in teenybopper vernacular.
I suppose my age is showing, and yes, we had expressions too: cool, neat, groovy (the latter of which was ridiculous, thankfully short-lived, and one I myself never used). I get it, that all generations have words that identify them as part of the youth culture. I was once part of the youth culture. But I’m quite sure that my memory is accurate when I say I did not use cool as the adjective for every single burp and gurgle in my life.
I will, inevitably, return to the convenience store as there are only two in my town, and I will, inevitably, be waited on by the insipid teenager. My inclination will be to tell her the store is awesome, and, like, the milk is awesome, and the cash register is awesome, and her hair is awesome, and you know, like, ask about her awesome hairdresser. I imagine, though, that in the spirit of getting along, I’ll just keep my mouth shut and hope she says thank you when the exact change hits the counter.
If I were a teacher, I’d end up in jail. It would be an injustice, however, since I’m not, like, the one murdering the English language.