This post was written by my mom, Vicky, enjoy!
Don’t kids amaze you with the things they say? During one of their Florida visits with us, my daughter Jaime’s family and I were making plans for the day. James, then almost five, chimed-in with a new vocabulary word: “perhaps”. We adults were tickled. Without having defined it, James had used “perhaps” correctly, much to our delight. Little ones constantly pick up words and their meanings from context without their parents even realizing it. We soon learn that we need to be careful about what we say.
At the end of each year, the American Dialectic Society and dictionary publishers take surveys on the “word of the year” (WOTY) including the most overused words or wrongly used words. It is fun to hear their lists, but I keep my own. At the top of my list for the most misused word is: “awesome”. Pay attention for a couple of days—and, keep paper and pencil handy. You will need it to keep score. I am certain you will hear awesome applied to everything from a child’s drawing to interior decorating to sports achievements to lunch.
Does anybody know what awesome really means? Thankfully, Merriam-Webster does:
1 : an emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime 2 a : dread, terror b : the power to inspire dread
Are you surprised? If awesome is part of your daily vocabulary, do you use it correctly? Or maybe you wonder does it matter? I say “yes”--because the little ones are listening.
Before it became the most overused compliment of American English, this word was chiefly found in the Bible where awesome appears 34 times and awe appears 16 times. A few passages help us with context:
Do not be terrified by them, for the LORD your God,
who is among you, is a great and awesome God.
The LORD your God will drive out those nations before you…
throwing them into great confusion until they are destroyed. Deu 7:21-23
For the LORD your God is God of gods and
Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome,
who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes….
He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you
those great and awesome wonders you saw
with your own eyes. Deu 10:17
If you do not carefully follow all the words of this law,
which are written in this book, and do not revere this glorious
and awesome name--the LORD your God--the LORD
will send fearful plagues on you and your descendants,
harsh and prolonged disasters, and severe and
lingering illnesses. Deu 28:58-59
You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness,
O God our Savior ... those living far away fear
your wonders. Psa 65:5-8
Then Samuel called upon the LORD,
and that same day the LORD sent thunder and rain.
So all the people stood in awe of the LORD and of Samuel.
I Sam 12:18
My flesh trembles in fear of you; I stand in awe of your laws.
Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you.
Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it
is for you when you forsake the LORD your
God and have no awe of me," declares the Lord,
the LORD Almighty. Jer. 2:19
Before using the word “awesome” again, I challenge you to read the remaining verses containing “awesome” or “awe” using an online resource such as http://www.biblegateway.com/. When you do, the context will convince you that this word can never apply to anything inanimate nor anything you or your preschooler can achieve. Awesomeness is an attribute of God and the word itself is one of the few adjectives that captures both the fear and power of the Almighty.
My prayer is that after reading these verses you will be inspired to a renewed reverence of God; one that will cause you to reserve this praise to God alone, seizing the many opportunities to carefully instruct and correct your child as to its proper meaning. Otherwise, if we continue to casually exclaim “awesome” when we really mean “cool”, “nice”, “way-to- go”, or “not bad”, how will our children understand that the AWESOME God is smarter than a five year old?