Friday, February 28, 2014

The latest "Awesome" words

On a show called Culture Click that I accidentally caught one recent Saturday morning, a girl named Isabella said that “epic,” “beast,” and “legit” are popular words among today’s kids to designate something as “awesome,” which is an earlier and sadly indestructible exclamation to indicate that something or someone is great or “cool.”

I suppose these words, with the exception of “beast,” are preferable to “bitchen,” which was popular in 1966 when Richard Burton mentioned in his diaries that his stepson was saying it. Burton described it as “the new and horrible word for ‘up-to-date,’ ‘modern,’ ‘cool, ‘unsquare,’ ‘with it,’ etc.”

I think I used “cool,” “neat,” and maybe “in,” the last very briefly, when I was a kid, but I began to shun slang by the time I reached my teens, using it only facetiously to mock those whose speech is littered with such crap. Anyone who was truly “cool” or “hip” wouldn’t allow such words in his vocabulary.

Slang always sounds foolish in retrospect. A movie from the 1960s with characters who say “groovy,” or one from the 1950s that allowed the cast to say “Daddy-O,” always look like the works of old fogies desperately trying to appear young and contemporary. The same is true of books. Those that use the slang expressions in vogue at the time they are written are often unreadable, at least to me. Every book and movie reflects the time in which it was created, but only the worst make a conscious effort to be current and are usually laughable only a few years later.

I don’t think you’ll hear a word like “groovy” in any songs by the Beatles, Bob Dylan, or Rolling Stones, but it’s there in songs by lesser artists, most of whom never made it into the 1970s.

Art is timeless and transcends its era. The rest is artifice, not art, and artifice is not “cool,” it’s not “hip,” and it’s certainly not “beast.”

Brian W. Fairbanks