A Sabbatical For Words

I guess I will blame millennials for this, although Gen X and the Boomers have their own ridiculousnesses. But millennials, that generation which has grown up digitally, with all the rapidity (and often, inanity) of (extreme) short-form communication—texting, tweeting, Facebooking, Snapchatting, blah, blah, blah—seem, to my non-millennial eyes and ears and neurons, to be more synonym-challenged than the two previous “generations”. So, I propose that certain words and phrases take a sabbatical so that the full import of their meanings can, once again, be realized

Oh, there’s an entire crop of words and phrases out there, but I’m going to focus this rant on the two that annoy, irritate, bother me the most: “amazing”, and “passion” (as well as its adjectival form, “passionate”).


So, today, EVERYTHING is amazing. The onion rings at Café Woohoo are AMAZING! My sorority sister Muffin is AMAZING! Last night’s episode of America’s Next Top Voicing with the Stars was AMAZING!

Seriously, people, this constant use of “amazing” is lazy writing at best. The onion rings can be tasty, delicious, the best you’ve ever eaten. Dear Muffin may be sweet, motivated, energetic, delightful. America’s Next Top Voicing with the Stars? Perhaps that episode was stunning, inspiring, transformational. Amazing? Oh, shove a sock in the mouth that utters that descriptor.

Amazing used to mean, well, AMAZING. It was reserved for something truly awe-inspiring, something an order of magnitude larger or better or more vibrant than its runner-up. Amelia Earhart was amazing. A 17-year-old who makes her own vanilla extract is not; she may be resourceful, talented, curious. Maybe as she grows older and her accomplishments add up, maybe then she’ll be amazing, but she isn’t right now. A fully assembled homemade croquembouche, with duck egg créme pâtissière may be amazing. Your breaded pork tenderloin sandwich or your peanut butter cup brownies are not. Your sandwich may be mouthwatering, crispy, even swell. The brownies? They may be decadent, sinful, gooey. Let’s keep “amazing” out of our vocabularies for a year or two or seven. Remember, folks, when EVERYTHING is amazing, NOTHING is amazing.


Okay, is there any small company or startup that ISN’T passionate about whatever the hell it is they want to do? Is there any resume or CV that DOESN’T mention how passionate the writer is about the environment, teaching, communication, disruption, etc., etc., etc.? Seriously, have you ever read a company blurb stating “we are apathetic about our commitment”? Or a resume with the statement “I am indifferent to this industry”? Nope, didn’t think so.

Please, for the love of God, BUY A THESAURUS! Or at least use the one embedded in Word. You know, right-click, “Synonyms”, then “Thesaurus” (if you don’t like the initial offered suggestions). You are passionate? Then you might be ardent, animated, intense, consumed by. You have a passion for something? Perhaps you are fanatical or enthusiastic. But “passionate”? Talk about a word so overused that it no longer carries a tenth of the intensity of its true or original meaning.


We aren’t all Shakespeare here. Hell, even the Bard of Avon himself might not be Shakespeare (Christopher Marlow? Francis Bacon? Did others write some or all of the works attributed to him?) But surely we can find synonyms for some of the hackneyed, overused terms all too prevalent on the headlines of clickbait. So please, for the love of humanity, use your thesaurus in Word (or even better, one of those retro things called “books”, as in Roget’s Thesaurus). Thank you.

And please don’t start me on “veggies”.