New Year’s resolutions have never been my thing.* But this year I’m going to make an exception because I have a few bad vocab habits I’m hoping to break. Here they are:
1. Save the (word) awesome
Dictionary.com defines awe as, “An overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, etc. produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful or the like.”
In recent years, though, we have completely diluted its meaning by using awesome as an adjective to describe anything that we kinda, sorta like. In 2017 alone I have given the awesome seal of approval to all manner of pretty-good-but-hardly-awe-inspiring things — a certain pinot noir, traceless hair ties and my yoga mat, to name a few.
I can tell you from experience that a very good glass of red on the very worst of days has never come close to evoking in me the profoundly spiritual, all-over tingly feeling I get when I am backcountry skiing in the mountains of B.C., or when I’ve been graced by a surprise visit from a pod of orcas swimming by the cottage.
Therefore, to preserve the power of awesome for truly sublime experiences, I pledge to refrain from using the word for 12 months.
2. Stop should-ing all over myself — and all over you too!
I am starting to think that “should” is the most destructive word in the English language. The list of shoulds in my head is a mile long, not to mention contradictory. According to the overactive should sweatshop running through my consciousness, at any one moment I should be: working harder, reading more, worrying less, getting more organized, making more effort to see my friends, taking more time for self-care, worrying more about my kids, living in the moment, and doing my taxes. You get the picture — I can’t win the should game.
Neither can my family and friends. Despite my genuine intent to help, I’ve been should-ing all over people I care about. Rather than listening and empathizing, I’ve been trying to solve their problems with unwanted advice directives that often begin with, “You should…”
Lately, I’ve been trying to soften my approach by asking more questions and turning my impulse to “should” into something like, “Have you ever considered trying X?”
Earlier this year I heard Academy-Award winning actress Ellen Burstyn extol the wondrous benefits of “should-less days” on the podcast Death, Sex and Money. What a liberating idea. I going to try it for a year.
3. Ten percent less
When did “100 percent” stop being the answer to what you (wishful thinking) scored on your algebra exam and start meaning “I completely agree”?
I was finally winning the battle of nudging “literally” out of my vocabulary when “100 percent” crept its way in.
Well, I’m pushing back. No more “100 percent” for me. My yoga instructor keeps insinuating that I might want to consider joining the “10 percent less club” (my penchant to go overboard in all things physical is not doing my shoulders much good), so from now on I’m going to “90 percent” agree, max.
My resolutions won’t make me fitter, thinner or wealthier, but they will help me be a better communicator. For a word freak like me, there’s not much more I can hope for!
* Well, there was that one time – New Year’s Eve 1995 – when having spent the better part of the previous 14 months on the couch trying to nurse an extremely fussy first baby and soothing myself with mind-numbing daytime TV, I became hooked on the glamorous lives of Jack, Ashley, Victor and the rest of The Young and the Restless cast. The good news? When I finally came out of the baby fog that new year’s eve and resolved to quit daytime TV for good, I never went back, not even for Oprah.