Today’s guest blog comes from Arthur Plotnik, author of Better Than Great. Better Than Great is a unique thesaurus of praise and acclaim, containing humankind’s largest gathering of fresh, potent and larky superlatives for anyone struggling to describe extraordinary things or experiences in ways that will do them justice. The English language has thousands of words to praise but ‘cool’, ‘good’ and ‘great’ have become our default choices. In Better Than Great Arthur Plotkin adds fresh and engaging new words to our vocabulary of praise, sorted into appropriate categories for easy use.
As an antidote to dull and, ultimately, devaluing language, Better Than Great restores distinction, persuasiveness and delight to our praise. The book is an entertainment in itself, drawing on all levels of expression and offering bonus lists, quotes, sidebar features and the author’s spirited advice and observations on each type of acclaim.
Below, Arthur speaks about the writing of the book and one particular orange-faced blond-coiffed person we all love to hate.
Since the publication of BETTER THAN GREAT, thousands of readers have cavorted in its entertaining bounty of alternatives to “great,” “awesome,” “unbelievable,” “amazing,” and other terms of praise gone dull and bloodless from overuse.
Absent from those amused and empowered readers is a man who most needs a freshened stock of superlatives, a man seemingly limited to “great,” “very great,” and “very, very great.” Some time back, he was among the many public figures whose feeble vocabulary helped inspire my book, and now, as President of the United States and a compulsive Tweeter, he threatens to lower the bar of expressiveness by example, even we yearn to celebrate, with fresh and heart-juddering praise, those things we value most.
“Fight back!” I say. “Refuse to dishonor what we love and cherish with terms more suited to an “amazing” pizza or “brilliant” pair of shoes. Be exalting, resplendent, coruscating, mind-marmalizing, and magisterial in your praise, drawing from the more than 5,500 terms in the juggernaut for expressive justice that is: BETTER THAN GREAT.
And here’s Arthur’s thoughts on the word ‘great’ from Better Than Great:
Toward the end of the 20th century, the venerable word great reigned as the default term for describing specialty. Used at all levels of speech, the term never seemed to exhaust itself, even within a sentence. Major events called for pile-ups, something like, “This great float honors one of the great gentlemen of the great State of California, and tomorrow two great teams will play what’s expected to be a great game before the greatest fans in this great nation.”
Today, if the word doesn’t quite put listeners to sleep, neither does it wake them to the wonders of anything. Approaching some two billion appearances in a Web search, it certainly has lost whatever specialty it had. If two billion things are special, what’s left to be ordinary? In conventional uses, great generates about one nanowatt of energy. Lately the word amazing has become slightly more energetic than great, but it, too, is accumulating usage numbers that suggest serious loss of clout.
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