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A Considerable Town

Campaign to Ban the Word 'Awesome' Launched by L.A. Poet, Echo Park Bookstore

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Fri, Jan 6, 2012 at 11:00 AM

click to enlarge Stories bookstore in Echo Park is home of the anti-awesome campaign. - THEWRITINGNUT.COM
  • thewritingnut.com
  • Stories bookstore in Echo Park is home of the anti-awesome campaign.
Local poet John Tottenham hates the word "awesome."

Not in that passive, party-annoyed sense where he's like, please stop being so dull, you overstoked American, or there's a small possibility I'll float away and start talking to somebody else, soonish. Nope. Tottenham, who's an L.A. transplant from England, hates the word "awesome" with the vengeance of a thousand word snobs.

"It's a matter of semantic satiation," he tells the Los Angeles Times today. He also says that to utter the A-word in his presence is like "waving a crucifix in a vampire's face."

For his "Campaign to Stamp Out Awesome," he's created a line of bumper stickers on which the word is diagonally nixed by a red line, "no smoking"-style. And a lady employee at Stories, the Echo Park bookstore where Tottenham works, says, "I think he intends to make T-shirts at some point."

His phobia comes as no surprise. If "awesome" is typical surf-bro, hating "awesome" is typical Euro.

(Disclaimer: Possible grudge here. A German travelmate once told this news blogger, much to her horror, that the only things she ever said were soulless affirmations like, "Sweet!" "Perfect!" "Great!" "Wonderful!" and, of course, "Awesome!" Shucks. Call it a backfiery obsession with filling awkward silences/wanting super bad for everyone to have a good time.)

The Times tries its best to make a case for the word's elegant simplicity -- going so far as to quote George Orwell's "1984" -- but Tottenham won't back down.

"The bogus sense of positivity has a demoralizing effect," he tells the paper. "People resent it if you don't say you're doing great."

The Standard Culture blog describes his campaign as such:

"A movement aimed towards expunging this nauseatingly ubiquitous (and by now completely meaningless) superlative from the adult vernacular."

click to enlarge "John Tottenham holds an anti-awesome bumper sticker at Stories bookstore in Echo Park." - CHRISTINA HOUSE/TIMES
  • Christina House/Times
  • "John Tottenham holds an anti-awesome bumper sticker at Stories bookstore in Echo Park."
Whatever. A Brit cannot help hating "awesome" as much as a Southern Californian cannot help saying it. So, while we're tempted to start a "Campaign Against Spittled British Verbosity," we'll be the bigger person and forgive you, Tottenham, for not getting down with our go-to expression of love.

(And we can relate, a little: We may have temporarily banned it from our own vocabulary after witnessing its umpteenth role as the punchline in a lazy Gawker headline.)

However, loyal Angelenos may want to think twice before jumping on this bandwagon. "We're fine with it," the Stories bookstore employee told us (though somewhat apathetically). And local businesses have reportedly been posting the bumper sticker in their windows.

Where's your sense of heritage, L.A.? As one UC Santa Barbara linguist notes to the Times, "awesome" has deep roots in 1970s surfer culture. And hell, if we're going to ban a "nauseatingly ubiquitous" word here, can we at least go with "epic"? Or "ridiculous"? Or fucking "fail"?

[@simone_electra / swilson@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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