Do stay for tea and coffee: ‘If a nice sandwich or a hairstyle are “amazing”, where do we go for what’s truly amazing?’
Chatting with my mum recently, it turns out she’s got an amazing bugbear: the word ‘amazing’. It’s overused, she said. Everywhere on television, radio and in magazines nowadays, we’re all finding everything ‘amazing’.
Soon after, a friend said he turns off the TV whenever someone says ‘100%’. ‘I’m with you 100%,’ a reality star might say, before backstabbing them. Sometimes it goes even beyond that: a talent show judge backs a performer ‘150%’, or a pal is ‘1,000% my bestie’. I agree with him, a million percent. Amazing thought.
Superlatives are everywhere. Already in three paragraphs, I’ve used the word ‘everything’ once and ‘everywhere’ twice. It’s all rather definitive, extreme and perhaps a little fake. Is that contestant on The Traitors or Love Island really behind someone ‘1,000%’? Ten times as much as is humanly possible? It seems mathematically unlikely.
It’s not like the old days, when we were all rather measured. Fifty years ago, we had The Good Life; now we’re ‘living our best lives’. A hundred years ago, Agatha Christie or Virginia Woolf characters might have become ‘a little emotional’ after a ‘good day out’. Now they’re ‘totes emosh’ after a ‘best day evs’.
Go back 2,000 years, and the Bible, too, knew when to keep its language measured. The ‘Good’ Samaritan was just that: good, not ‘amazing’ or ‘oh my days, 100% best Samaritan’.
Even God’s first week had him look upon creation and see that it was ‘good’ – or at the end of the week, ‘very good’. It wasn’t called the ‘Greatest Of All Time’ (or GOAT, so the modern acronym goes – when God created a goat, it was a sheep-meets-antelope type of thing). Even the Gospel is known as the ‘Good’ News.
Yet it’s also known as the ‘Greatest Story Ever Told’ – because there is a time and a place for expressing extremes. A story of supreme love and sacrifice, of God come to earth to die for our sins… That’s amazing.
My mum’s complaint about too many ‘amazing’ things may have a point. If day-to-day things are ‘amazing’ – from a nice sandwich to a hairstyle on daytime TV – where does that leave us to go for what’s truly amazing?
The song ‘Amazing Grace’ describes something truly amazing: grace that saves a wretch like me, that finds us when we’re lost, that relieves us of our fears. It’s amazing that we can be here 10,000 years, and still have no fewer days to sing God’s praise than when we first began. (And yes, I corrected that ‘less days’ to ‘fewer days’ – I am 100% pedantic. Amazing, I know.)
One of Frank Sinatra’s song titles was etched onto his tombstone. No, not ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ or ‘That’s Life’, though either could have worked. It’s ‘The Best is Yet to Come’ – and maybe he’s right.
It all may sound semantic. Does it matter what language we use? Maybe it doesn’t. But I’ve heard people who describe things in such extremes be negative in the extreme too. ‘Worst day ever.’ ‘You’re the lowest of the low.’ ‘I’m the worst.’ No you’re not. We’re all good and bad and muddling around in that bit in the middle. That’s life, as Sinatra sang.
I try and live a good life, with good friends on good days. Now and then I might have the best time with my 1,000% BFFs on our best day evs – because sometimes I just have to say things that embarrass my children.
Perhaps I’m not living my best life then. I’m living my second best life – to give myself somewhere to go.
Paul Kerensa is a comedian, writer and broadcaster. Paulkerensa.com
This article was published in the May 2023 edition of Reform