According to the dictionary awesome means ‘inspiring awe’ and awe, of course, has according to the dictionary again that element of ‘reverential fear or wonder.’ But that’s not the way I hear it used today. It seems to have passed into our common language and is used a lot, but not exclusively, by young people, These days anything which is great or interesting is declared 'awesome.' The result is people end up describing anything from a pizza, a night out, a song, an artist, or a footballer as awesome. Every time I hear it I feel like cringing.
In Taking a Chance a novel by Deborah Burrows, I am reading at present, one of characters says, ‘It’s words that can save the world Nellie, words that can make a real difference.’ I agree. But today is seems too often like words have lost that power and been devalued. Actually there seems to have been a lot of discussion lately in various places about the way words are being used.
I also started a book by an author I usually like, general fiction. The woman in the story asked what anniversary they were celebrating and the man replied. Not with, 'the first time we made love,' which would have sounded romantic and sensual. He could even have said the first time they had sex but the author put the other crude f word in the character’s mouth. I sounded crass and entirely unnecessary. It stopped me in my tracks. I eventually persisted for while longer but ended up not reading the book , not only for that reason but because it felt confused and I felt like I was wading my way through thick sludge.
Some words like that dreaded f word seem to be used these days prolifically. The words of Cole Porter’s song Anything Goes written well before I was born, around 1934 were prophetic saying,' ‘Authors that once knew better words now only use four letter words writing prose. Anything Goes.’ We are certainly seeing that these days.
On the other hand, I am currently reading a book God’s Panoply by Anne Hamilton and it deals a lot with words, not just English words but Hebrew and Greek words among others. I'm learning a lot. At times it even sends me looking up English words and one my dictionary didn’t even bother to include. I’d heard of subliminal but not liminal. Hands up any who can tell me the meaning of the word liminal? Sad when the dictionary didn’t have it, though trusty Google came to the rescue and enlightened me.
It’s not always a bad thing to encounter unfamiliar words while reading. I would rather that than words which get used incorrectly are overused or that have lost their meaning.
As Christian writers, it is important that we think seriously about the words we use and how we use them. They have the power to change the world. Or they can just blend in so that we appear no different to the non Christian. It was something our guest speaker challenged us about at church this Sunday. Do our words reveal as us as children of the King? Are our words salt and light in a conversation? I might add, or on the page? Or do we just blend in with the world around us? It’s something for each of us to consider and with God’s help work through.
Dale writes fiction and poetry. Her latest novel Streets on a Map is currently available as an E book. She has also written children’s books, bible studies, Sunday school material, devotionals, and articles about marriage, home and Christian living. She is currently at work on a new novel, tentatively titled Sandstone Madonna.