That’s incredible!

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.


Filed under All Things Wordish, Travel

4 responses to “That’s incredible!

  1. Sheree

    You have me rolling on the floor laughing. I think YOU are BRILLIANT! A dazzling star of humor, charm and personality wrapped in perfect grammar! I do love you!!

  2. Sheree

    And don’t you just love all my exclamation points?

  3. 1) Yes, Victor Borge is brilliant.
    2) Our friends from Australia think everything is brilliant.
    3) Breathtaking. Remember the Seinfeld episode where the doctor Elaine is smitten with calls her “breathtaking” and she’s delighted, till he uses the same word to describe their friend’s ugly baby?

  4. William Greene

    That’s an extremely illuminating and brightly shining dissertation on the overuse of the word.

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