“When my students use the word ‘awesome,’ I make them justify it or do ten pushups.” Brad Overnell-Carter (@braddo on Twitter) said this to me about five minutes after we met. I think he was joking. It was an awesome conversation (haha) discussing the ridiculous overuse of some words that lead to some truly great words being completely ignored.
Of course I use the “a-word” myself. It is so easy to just grab for the first adjective that pops into my head, even if I sound like a goofy character in a television sitcom. After all, if I am just chatting informally in the hallway outside my office, my choice of adjectives doesn’t really matter. So what if the ice cream I had yesterday didn’t really inspire awe? It was very good. I’ll just substitute “awesome” because “good” doesn’t quite capture my appreciation for the ice cream. And fun people all over the internet use “awesome.”
When students are writing, everything changes. How long have “word graveyards”and “dead word walls” been around? We often ask students to stay away from words rendered meaningless by overuse, but beyond pointing them to a Thesaurus, we rarely provide fun alternatives.
When I can’t think of a good word to use, I visit the Lexipedia, a pretty cool service that would take very long to explain. So just click on the link.
Why do I like Lexipedia? I like the spatial arrangement of words and what it says about their meanings and connotations. I can mouse over any word to see its definition. I can click on any word and go deeper into my search for the perfect term. I like that the site gives me antonyms, synonyms, and “fuzzynyms,” or words that are related but are neither antonyms nor synonyms. I absolutely love that Lexipedia is now available in Spanish, French, German, Dutch, and Italian, too.
Lexipeida is not new, but it is free and awesome.