Tuesday, June 12, 2012


"It's pheNOMenal!" he often says, and somehow I have a hard time swallowing it. Anything can be a phenomenon. Actually, anything is.

The word just means an observable fact or event, right?

I don't voice my objections to the speaker because he is my friend (and my boss) and because nearly every synonym I can think of for "phenomenal," the way he is using it, has the same strange ambiguity. Even words like "great" may not mean very good, just very big. Or very very - what?

How many words do we use to describe something as good, powerful, or unique that - taken literally - mean nothing of the kind?

This comes in handy when navigating the channel between saying what you think and telling somebody what you think they'd like to hear. "The cake you made was amazing!" (amazingly good or amazingly bad?) "He's really a remarkable young man" (there are all kinds of remarks I might make about him.) And even "You look wonderful!" (and I wonder how you came up with that look?)

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