I promised an epic rant, and here it is, fellow Word Nerds. I was on Facebook yesterday for just a few minutes, and not once, not twice, but THREE times did a post refer to its topic as “epic.”
I don’t even remember what they were specifically. (You’d think I’d remember, if truly they were epic, wouldn’t you?) But I’ve recently seen epic dance moves, epic failures, epic pranks, epic comebacks, epic this, epic that.
Apparently we have an epic amount of epic things happening in this epic period of our epic history.
It’s all about social media. (Social media is so easy to blame, yes? So easy to forget that if the enemy is social media, the enemy is…us!)
Remember when everything was “cool?” (Back before everything was “hot.”) Our clothes were cool. Our music was cool. Our friends were cool. Even our schools were cool, right? Meanwhile, our parents rolled their eyes and wondered if we’d lost our vocabulary.
Think about it. Everything on social media is cool, or the poster wouldn’t bother to post it. So how do you set your cool post apart from the others?
You need something bigger than cool. Bigger than hot.
You need epic.
Here’s the problem: Does anyone even know what epic means? Epic comes from the Greek, epikos/epos meaning “word, story, poem.” Yep. Like the Odyssey, or Beowulf. The Online Etymology Dictionary adds: “Extended sense of ‘grand, heroic’ first recorded in English 1731.”
Is a dance move, or a prank really grand or heroic? Adventurous on the scale of Odysseus or Frodo Baggins or, even the Revolutionary War?
There’s the crux of my rant.
If everything is labeled epic, where do we go from here? What’s bigger than “epic?”
If we overuse a word, doesn’t it lose its meaning?
Oh, let’s use epic, but let’s use it for epic things!
Here’s the definition from Daniel Webster’s 1828 Dictionary:
EP’IC, a. [L. epicus; Gr. a song, or to speak.] Narrative; containing narration; rehearsing. An epic poem, otherwise called heroic, is a poem which narrates a story, real or fictitious or both, representing, in an elevated style, some signal action or series of actions and events, usually the achievements of some distinguished hero, and intended to form the morals and affect the mind with the love of virtue. The matter of the poem includes the action of the fable, the incidents, episodes, characters, morals and machinery. The form includes the manner of narration, the discourses introduced, descriptions, sentiments, style, versification, figures and other ornaments. The end is to improve the morals, and inspire a love of virtue, bravery and illustrious actions.
[epic. 2014. In Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language. Retrieved April 2, 2014, from http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/word/epic%5D
Let’s keep epic epic!
Fight on, fellow Word Nerds, fight on!
And, please share in the comments words that you see overused.
(N.B.: I followed through with the epikos spelling of the Greek root word, simply because the Greek language does not have a letter c. Webster used an Americanized version. Also, though Webster does not list the use of epic as an adjective, it is listed as such in my Webster’s New World College Dictionary: “having the nature of an epic poem…heroic; grand; majestic; imposing”)