Blogs are like Tequila. They should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Monday, July 29, 2013


I've been reading up on a fairly intellectual topic today (just while I wait for Kung Fu Panda 2 to download) called 'semantic change', which is the process of words changing definition over time. 'Semantic change’ in itself is such an awesomely dramatic term that it makes me think of the Grand Canyon forming (seismic change?) or glaciers moving (Atlantic change?) or Jewish money (Semitic change? JOKING, geddit?). Semantic change is when a word's meaning develops over time into something completely different from the original meaning, which I think is incredibly cool. One that I've been told many times is that  ‘cute’ was originally defined as ‘ugly but interesting’ (there's actually no evidence from my lethargic Google search of that one being true, but who cares? It’s funny...). Some of the original definitions are really surprising:

Awful – Inspiring wonder, full of awe... awe-full.
Nice – Silly or foolish.
Gay – Pre-1960's, it meant happy or bright and showy. Post-1960's, it means homosexual. Basically the same, but more sequins (thanks to my friend Pip for that brilliant explanation!).
Bully – An affectionate term, like ‘darling’. I imagine this one changed in the same way us Aussies are slowly interchanging the use of the word ‘mate’ – “Look, back off, MATE” – with the c-bomb – “Good to see you, c**t!”.

And so on. There are heaps of them. And now that I think about it, I can actually see semantic shifts during my existence. I got called 'wicked’ by Nan when I was five and sneakily cut my fringe with her scissors, and yet 5 minutes ago I just sent a text that said “Wicked!!! Awesome!! I’ll meet you there at 7!” (probably an overenthusiastic text on my behalf, but it is in reference to meeting a friend later for a parmy. I love parmies.) I remember absolutely pissing myself laughing when Mum once told me that when she was a schoolgirl, they used to use the word ‘bad’ in the same way we use the word ‘wicked’. As in, “Oooh, look at that skirt! That’s baaaad.”. For some reason, I find that totally hilarious. But then there are some words that I used in my school years that I am already finding equally as hilarious – i.e. “off-tap”, “the bomb” “phat” and so on. (I don’t think I ever realistically pulled off a single use of these bad-ass words, but that never stopped me.)

Words evolve for many reasons. One of the main reasons is that people are simply mistaken on how the word should be used. I am not some kind of language Nazi (though I am a spelling Nazi - there is no fucking ‘a’ in definitely, alright??) who corrects everyone's grammar during conversation. If a word is being regularly misused, then it is heading for seismic change, and like I said, I think it is incredibly cool (cool! Seismic change example! Ta-da!) that words evolve over time. But – and finally, here is my point - there is one word that I am watching evolve, and it’s kind of starting to annoy me.


I don’t know how it started, but the use of the term ‘awkward’ became very popular. I use it quite often. Because it is the only word that perfectly describes a moment that is uncomfortably... awkward. No other word does it better. But I’ve noticed among the young generation (and unlike some older generations who love to blame the next one for all the world's problems, I don’t have any problem with Gen Z – they were born surfing the net and holding smartphones, and probably know a shit tonne more about politics than I do) there is an epidemic of ‘awkward’ being misused. “That awkward moment when you realise you missed your alarm”. That’s not awkward. That sucks, and you’re gonna be late, and maybe you need to get a louder alarm tone to avoid this mess again... but it’s not awkward. “That awkward moment when the Doctor tells you you've got the 'flu”. That’s not awkward. It would be awkward if you had just told the doctor you got it from making out with your sibling. But the mere fact that you have it is not awkward.

The 'inconceivable' Inigo Montoya sorting shit out.

So, kids, let’s sort this one out. This is the plainest meaning. Awkward is when a moment is so extremely uncomfortable, you feel kind of sick. Well, at least I do. No one can really tell when I'm feeling awkward, because I will just talk and talk and compensate with extra giggles until the moment has passed. But on the inside, I am feeling sick from awkwardness. And it doesn’t have to be some big dramatic bombshell moment either (such as telling a doctor you’ve made out with your sibling*). An awkward moment is more likely to occur in an average conversation that has momentarily stalled. The most awkward moment I have ever witnessed happened earlier this year, and I wish that all of Gen Z was there so they could understand the true meaning of the word 'awkward'.

I was working at a cafĂ© - living the dream, clearly - and it was very empty. One woman sat at a table waiting for her friend, and once she arrived, they made the usual fuss that us awesome lady types do when we haven’t seen a friend in a long while. They sat down, swapped a few super smiley “What have you been up to?”’s and “How is work?”’s and they caught up on each others lives for three minutes and then.... nothing. Long silence. One of them said, “ We have so much to catch up on!” and the other said “I know..... soooo much to catch up on”. And then... still nothing. Longer silence. First lady repeated “sooo much....... to catch up on............”. Silence. “Yep.... soooooo much...................”. And then they gave up and stared out the window.


It was also unhelpful that I got the awkward-sickness giggles and kept covering it with loud coughs...

So although Gen Z say lots of funny intelligent things on Facebook and are actually a bunch of little smarties (who I’m sucking up to now because they will be successfully running the world from their smartphones reallllly soon), they're getting this one wrong**. And despite the fact that semantic change is cool, let’s all work together to try and preserve the real meaning of the excellent word ‘awkward’ and what it is really referring to – two women sitting in a cafe, with abso-bloody-lutely NOTHING to talk about.

*Despite the fact that I mentioned making out with a sibling twice, I swear it’s never happened. To me, at least. And if it has happened to you... awkward.

**They also randomly get the use of that random word 'random' wrong too. Which is totally so random.

By Lucy Gransbury. Follow her on Twitter @LucyGransbury. Or follow her in real life. She's probably watching Kung Fu Panda 2.


  1. Man, I hate how everything is so crazy these days. "We went out last night and it was totally crazy" - No it was just an entertaining and eventful night. Unless you ended up in Switzerland, after leaving Adelaide after an hour. "I walked in the room and guess what? I saw the guy from that tv show that someone used to watch!!!!" - No it's just a slightly boring coincidence. How about "Dude I woke up and bit my arm off before running around chasing a small car driven by a bear in a top hat". That's crazy. And slightly amusing. And totally Awkward Bi-Polar disorder, that's a type of crazy, despite not being pc. Good blog though - I'm going keep reading!