My current opinion about the usage of 'awesome' as a slang meaning 'great' or 'wonderful' is summarized by:
1) Such usage is relatively new, maybe it has begun in the 90's.
2) The expression 'awesome' with that meaning is mostly used in the AmE, rather than in BrE.
For instance, some months ago I read in a web site:
'Every generation has its slang expression for "great, fine," indeed, "great" is one of them. Originally meaning "large," today it is used most widely to mean "very good." "She is tops," was the expression in the 30s, following "the cat's meow," "the cat's pajamas," and "top drawer" in the 20s. "Swell" replaced "tops" in the 40s and "cool" and "hip" took their turns in the 50s. "Groovy" was the word in the hippy 60s, followed by "far out," in the 70s, "awesome
" in the 90s
and, now, "phat." Saying that something is "very good" seems not to appeal to anyone under 30.'
(from Superman Homepage - Other Miscellaneous Superman Stuff
This weekend I have just read the following passage from a British
book written in 1974
"As they steeled themselves for the awesome
sight of some of the highest mountains in the world, the steward, Ramírez, suddenly came out of the pilot's cabin and announced over a loudspeaker that weather conditions made it impossible to cross the cordillera." (Alive, by P. P. Read)
So I guess that in the passage above 'awesome
' has its original meaning, rather than the slang idea of 'wonderful
' or 'great'
. I only think this way because the author is an Englishman and the book was written in the 70's, otherwise I would interpret 'awesome'
as something great, marvelous or "cool".
To conclude, I ask:
- Is my current opinion about the word 'awesome' usage correct?
- Is my interpretation of the meaning of 'awesome' in the book passage above correct?