As I blogged earlier this year, Northern Michigan’s Lake Superior State University suggests that the following be put on the annual List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse, and General Uselessness. The words are “Let me ask you this”, impactful, ton, nothingburger, dish, drill down, pre-owned, onboarding/offboarding, gig economy, “let that sink in”, hot water heater, and covfefe.
One they missed is “awesome”. Or maybe they included it in a prior year’s list. If so, the banishment didn’t work. I hear it more and more each passing year. And very few people I know, certainly those who are on medicare, like its being used time after time after time.
Last week I phoned my doctor’s office, or one of my doctors. When I was growing up our family had only one. He wasn’t difficult to keep track of. Nowadays, I have a family practice doctor who listens to my complaint and then refers me to one of a jillion doctors in his network, each of whom specializes in a body part. There are lots of body parts. Plus, these doctors seem to move on every year or two. It’s rarely the same specialist, not even the same family practitioner. I have doctors I don’t even know, and what’s worse, don’t know anything about me other than I flunked my most recent blood test.
I don’t remember which body part the above doctor dealt with, but the person answering the phone asked me for my birthdate. I told her and – I’m not making this up – she says, “Awesome.”
It’s awesome that I know my birthdate? I wonder what she’d say if I told her that I could boil water. Or that I live in the same city she does. Or that I have a dog. That a person thinks that knowing my own birthday is awesome implies to me is that there are brain dead people out there calling this doctor for a second opinion. So many, in fact, that this doctor has to employ a receptionist.
And then a waiter in a fairly nice restaurant asked me what I wanted to eat. “I’ll have the hamburger.” He said, “Awesome.” Maybe if I had said fajitas, he’d have declared me customer of the month. Again, that a person thinks my ordering a hamburger is awesome says to me that he’s accustomed to serving customers who order worms with a side order of dirt.
Another word, actually a short sentence, that should have been banished is “No problem.” The doctor above recently changed the location of his office. And so I asked the receptionist, the one who is awed that I know my birthdate, where the new office is located. “No problem,” she says. And then she tells me.
But what kind of employee is this, really? “No problem” says to me that she would have been fine with my driving around town looking for the new office so long as I found it by the time of my appointment. Evidently there are patients on the road right now, patients who didn’t ask for directions, looking for a medical Eureka moment. “Aha, there’s a sign with a knee on it ahead! And if it’s a knee-on-sign, it must be my knee doctor!”
I also asked the waiter above for some catsup for my hamburger. “No problem,” he said. Later I asked him for some more water. “No problem.” Finally I asked for the check. “No problem.”
Here’s what I think about “No problem.” You’re right, it is no problem. IT’S YOUR JOB DESCRIPTION! How about saying instead, “My pleasure,” or “Coming right up”? Or when someone says “Thank you,” rather than replying, “No problem,” how about, “You’re welcome.” These are short sentences approved by your elders and might just increase your tip.
Rather than banish the word “awesome”, maybe we simply ought to retire it for awhile. It’s a good word. Presently, it is simply overused and misused. But if this misuse continues, I can picture a NASA mission one of these years that goes like this.
Mission Control says, “Commander, can you tell me what you see?”… “No problem. We seem to have discovered a new planet.”… “A new planet!” says Mission Control, “What’s it like?”… “It’s awesome!”…Mission Control says, “More awesome than knowing my birthdate? Or more awesome than ordering a hamburger?”… “Gee,” says the Commander, “that’s a hard question. I’d have a problem answering that one.”