Do our words still mean the same or is it just overuse?

The other day, a coworker was describing something to me.  It’s not important what it was; suffice to say that it was something seen or done and not very extraordinary on its surface.  What was odd though was her use and pronunciation of the word, amazing.

It’s a peculiarity about the pronunciation that I’d noticed before; a trend if you will as everyone seems to be doing it.  To get the gist of what I’m talking about, think Buddhist chant, aka “Ohmmm” and you’ll get the idea.  Another thing, think infomercial (where I first noticed the tendency) and you’ll be right in the ball park.

More than a few every day people these days seem to pronounce the word amazing with heavy emphasis on the first two letters, a and m.  So instead of hearing the quick pronunciation, “a-mazing”, we get a longer drawn out example filled with tonal nuances that comes out sounding like “Aaaahmmmmazing”.

The pronunciation is often accompanied with an assertive nod of the head and batting of the eyes, timed to the intonation with the speaker’s head going back on the first syllable, Ahh, and coming forward just as they begin to make the “m” sound.  The result is a unique display of affirmation concerning the incredible description of whatever it is they’re talking about

Whether we’re talking about shoes or diets, electrolysis devices or a car’s gas mileage, these days many things are characterized as Aaaahmmmmazing when they aren’t really that remarkable at all.

While I can see and understand the word’s and it intonation’s use in the world of infomercials, I wonder how we got to the point where we, as ordinary citizens, feel it necessary to describe simply, ordinary events or objects in our daily lives as such.

Whatever happened to the adjectives, good or even great?  I know often times we may want to jump directly to that superlative but is Aaaahmmmmazing the only word out there in our vast language repertoire that describes something we consider above and beyond?

And what happens when a word becomes overused to the point where it stops meaning what it originally did?

“You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Inigo Montoya

We used to be citizens who were masters of the understatement.  We never got overly excited about stuff.  Now, it seems like we relish our excursions into hyperbole.  In the marketing world of advertisement, exaggeration is to be expected unfortunately.  But, it seems now the same embellishment is taken for granted in our usual speech.  We welcome it; we accept and use it readily on a daily basis.

I’m expecting that pretty soon the word amazing won’t mean the same anymore.  Instead of thinking it’s used to depict something exceptional or unmatched, we’ll come to associate it with the mundane and commonplace.

Nothing will be taken at face value once that happens as everything will require a huge grain of salt in order to aid the digestion.  And instead of choosing our words, not only carefully but also, sparingly, we’ll be a people more than happy to overstate and exaggerate.

Sound familiar?


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