Well, my friend Jonathan has declared the word ‘cool’ unutterable, and at this point it’s only for children under 10 years old – or should I say seven… kids are so grown up these days. Born out of the sixties and reborn in the nineties, cool has done double-time, unlike its siblings copacetic and groovy that never made it past 1975. At a slightly higher degree of enthusiasm, awesome seems exclusively reserved for kids under 15 – who else? Do students still say awesome post-1998? Beautiful seems old-fashioned. Gorgeous, fabulous, sound too much like fashion talk. Fantastic and terrific seem off the mark… a bit over-enthusiastic perhaps? What’s left? Nice, great, are wonderfully neutral but so hackneyed they lack any kind of flavor. But again, lack of flavor gets people places, like donning a corporate uniform.

My artist friend Arleen Schloss has found a new way around this curious language problem. She makes up short versions of these same adjectives and uses those instead, and says, “that’s gorg’… that’s groov’…”, which ends up sounding a little more sophisticated than the fully uttered version, but a bit odd as well.

I am at a loss for superlatives… but on the other hand, certain nouns have found a new fountain of youth in media language. You may have read my earlier July article about the ‘revenge of the nerds’, holders of the prized knowledge of the web… A recent issue of Time Out devoted its cover story to what they are touting as the new leading edge of culture, Nerds, Dorks and Geeks, with venues like weird spelling bees, dork dj collectives, trivia quizzes, campy cabaret, video game parties, Star-Trek characters impersonators, etc. Nerds, originally referring to shy, socially misfit individuals given to wearing white socks with black shoes (a transgression generally unforgiven in American dress code) and eyeglasses, have evolved from negative to positive over the last 30 years. Although a few rednecks may still refer to geeks negatively, a positive association occurs when the geek or nerd fixes your computer, gets you exposure on the net and becomes the new century hero. Maybe the new superlatives should be dorky, nerdy and geeky… What do you think? Do you have any suggestions?

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