A-Z of Canada: A is for Awesome

A is for Awesome

Once used to describe the feeling of awe created by, for example, Man walking on the Moon – now the word AWESOME just means Cool…

If you want to bond with Canadians in any situation, this is the word you need in your vocabulary!

A is for AwesomeYou’ll have to bear in mind things have changed a bit. Originally used in late 16th century English to convey the ability to inspire fear or awe, numerous examples of it could be found in the Bible, describing the “mighty and awesome” power of God. (Although not as numerous as the number of times it might be found in a 5-minute audio-sample recorded in an American school canteen).

These days it’s used by teens to describe anything from pizza to a well executed 360 degree Pop Shuv It – that, for those of you wondering if I forgot to proof-read, is a skateboarding term.

It can be, and is, liberally applied, by people of all ages here in Canada, to whatever might benefit from its emphatic validation, and it has gradually crept into my children’s lexicon. Its over-application has led to a sharp increase in its Irritability Quotient coupled with a dive in the legitimacy of its meaning. Now people who use “awesome” can be viewed as “lame” (that’s pathetic, not hobbling, just to be clear) by those who have moved with the vocabularic times and embraced “phat”, “sick” and “illin'”!

Where do you fall in the Generation Gap Guide To Expressions of Greatness?

  • 1920’s – the cat’s meow, the cat’s pyjamas, top-drawer
  • 1930’s – tops
  • 1940’s – swell
  • 1950’s – cool, hip
  • 1960’s – groovy (baby!)
  • 1970’s – far out
  • 1980’s – ace
  • 1990’s – awesome
  • present day – phat, sick
If you’d like more help with Canadian verbiage, have a look at the English/Canuck Dictionary


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Whitby Shores, Whitby, Ontario

By Aisha Ashraf

An autistic Irish immigrant in a cross-cultural marriage, Aisha Ashraf is the archetypal outlander, writing to root herself through place and perspective. Published in The Rumpus, The Maine Review, River Teeth, HuffPost and elsewhere, her work explores the legacy of trauma, the nature of being an outsider and the narrow confines of belonging. She currently lives in Canada.


  1. Hi Aisha,

    Great to see you have joined the Country A-Z challenge. “Awesome”
    The first time I heard this word was when we were on an American cruise liner in Alaska.
    Everything and anything was “Awsome”
    I remeber the “ace” word, but we also had another one in the 90’s which was “mega” Do you remember “mega”?
    I have added you to my Global A-Z blog which I’ve been busy creating over the weekend to list and promote all my blogging buddies and their friends 🙂


    1. Hey Carole, hope you’re havin’ an aaaaahhhhhhhsome day! I remember “Mega” LOL! What about “Excellent”, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure an’ all that! Thanks for adding me to the ever-growing list!

    1. Hahaha! You are due for an upgrade then, repeat slowly after me…” That blog post I just read was phat!” You’re not as bad as me. I said something was “the cats pyjamas” the other day. That means I’m stuck in the twenties – and I wasn’t even born until the seventies!

    1. It’s not for me to surmise where the British are stuck, although others might have some choice epithets! I think you tend to stick with what you used in your adolescent years – all that repetition somehow imprints it indelibly on your brain 🙂 Hope you enjoyed your sojourn in Toronto. Are you back in Blighty now?

  2. Hello – now I am in BIG trouble aren’t I … as I recently set up a blog award called the Awesome Blog Content (ABC) award – oh well! I like being ‘un’ fashionable…
    I remember ‘excellent’ really well – used it all the time – often more than once in the same sentence!
    I do use ‘sick’ too – so I’m not that old?!! 😉
    welcome to the ‘Personal A ~ Z’ series – it is really growing and very exciting!
    looking forward to seeing what you choose for B is for….

    1. Hi Alyson, thanks for the comment. Seeing as you’ve used the dreaded “Awesome” for altruistic ends I suppose I can let you off the hook!
      My Mum used to take the mickey out of my (over)use of the word “Excellent”, but “sick” – that’s one I can never bring myself to say – to me that will always mean “vomit”, something I don’t like to dwell on ever since one of my children threw up on the living room rug; despite rigorous cleaning, the smell hung around for days…
      Now, you don’t need me to tell you that if you subscribe you won’t have to worry about missing “B is for..” 😉

  3. That’s the beauty of slang: you often tend to use what your peer group uses and don’t ‘roll with the times’ and update your vocabulary. (Although if I started using ‘sick’ and ‘illin” my children would disown me.) I can honestly say that I’ve felt comfortable using the word ‘awesome’ a few times in my life: encountering mountains and their vistas, and the Grand Canyon spring to mind. But even then it sounded trite so I used ‘awe-inspiring’ instead.

    1. Yes, I agree, we get stuck in a kind of time warp, a similar thing happens with your CD collection. I refuse to buy CD’s anymore but haven’t yet made the leap to having all my music on the computer, therefore, my music collection has reached an impasse, and I end up sticking on the stuff was listening to “way back when” every time a convivial occasion arises… I’m pretty sure those choons aren’t phat anymore!

  4. what an awesome post, LOL 🙂
    although a Canuck myself, i don’t use it too often, at least i don’t think so.
    one term from the 90’s that i remember hearing/using a lot was ‘neat’, which of course had nothing to do with tidiness. did you ever run across that one?
    anyhow, thanks for sharing! happy blogging 🙂

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