Awesome words

First of all, I need to talk about “awesome.”

It’s a lofty word, brought low. Awe describes an overwhelming sense of wonder, mixed with dread and fear. It’s a word more suited to describing enchantment or mystical, non-ordinary states of consciousness, not graphic t-shirts.

Eddie Izzard first brought this issue to my attention. Before you read on, take a moment to view his truly brilliant and hilarious argument for the restoration of the word.

So in my search for a good title for an ephemeral blog post, I suppose I am debasing the coinage of awe myself. It’s my own fault I’m now relegated to compromises like awestruck or awe-inspiring in order to capture the overwhelming feelings I’m trying to convey.

When I write about science, I’m looking for perfectly suited words that strike my readers with vivid imagery, evoking dynamic actions and universal experiences, and in the best word choices, conveying a portion of the true awe I often feel upon the contemplation of nature.

These ideally suited words serve a double duty, communicating concepts and processes in a universally understandable manner, but also evoking the sense of wonder I hope to share with my audience. Inevitably, the best choices will be single words, drawn from the ancient core of the English language: a perfectly apt noun or a dynamic and vivid verb, not idiomatic phrases or other culture-bound references.

Awesome words should evoke a perfect metaphor for illuminating a natural process around which a concise, clear, and appropriately enchanting description can be crafted. Such is my ideal, to cultivate the abilities to draw awesome words down from the unconscious like a lightning rod in my communicating 1) science’s evolving models of the natural world, 2) the trusted processes for establishing valid understandings of nature, and 3) the inevitable excitement and captivation of science’s women and men who are lucky enough to get a glimpse of the truly awesome in the work they are called to.

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