I knew what I was doing. I even paused, but I did it anyway. I used the word “brilliant.” Again.
Yesterday I applied it to Victor Borge, who undoubtedly deserves it. But I plead guilty of overusing “brilliant,” or using it to overstate when I don’t intend to overstate.
I admit, I am easily impressed, so I find a lot of people and ideas brilliant. However, if I keep flinging “brilliant” around, its significance will become diluted.
I think I picked up this habit when I was working internationally. The international crowd flings it around loosely.
I say, “How about we meet in the lobby at seven-thirty?”
“Brilliant!” a chum responds.
“Then maybe we can get a coffee?” (Here we say “some” coffee; in Europe, it’s “a” coffee. When in Rome…)
Is it really brilliant to get coffee at 7:30 in the morning? Is there a Nobel Prize for such a breakthrough idea?
This makes me wonder what other adjectives overstate in everyday language.
I’ve heard such statements as “I went to the park today” answered with “That’s awesome!”
How about this one? “That bagel was amazing!” I’ve eaten thousands of bagels in my lifetime, most were tasty, many were delicious, but I can’t recall any as having been amazing, in the literal sense. What could a bagel do to amaze me? Spin around on its own? Stand on end while a caper is shot through its middle from across the deli?
I feel the same way about “incredible,” “countless,” maybe even “absolutely,” though I know that’s an adverb.
I’m as guilty as anyone of overusing all of these adjectives, but I will try to use them a little more selectively in the future. Maybe you know of a few more and would like to join me in pulling back a bit.
But you have to admit, Victor Borge really is brilliant.