How does one word become so dominant? How does it become the Swiss army knife of words, able to express many thoughts and moods. I looked it up in Funk and Wagnalls standard desk dictionary, and it only has two definitions. That may have been true in 1980, but today, really has become an all purpose word. It can call into question peoples words and life choices, yet provide the rebuttal to the attack. It can express disgust, sardonic amusement, sincerity and breathless amazement. Tie it with the other common slang term now, “How’s that working for you?” and you can totally dismiss another persons thoughts or actions. I’m not putting the terms down, let’s face, most of the time, they can be amusing or hilarious, it is a way of criticizing someone and taking the sting out of it.
I just don’t know how words grow to overtake their normal usage, then fade away. Does it fill some popular need? Does anyone reading this remember “you know?”-That goes back to the late 70’s. Drove my mother nuts. My brother and I could not spit out a sentence without it. “IF I know, why are you telling me!?” Or how about the 90’s “whatever”? Let’s go back to the 60’s, “that’s cool, be cool and cool it”. Now there was an overused word. Some how it ties in with the zeitgeist, that a word or phrase engages a majority of people simultaneously.
I would love to be the person to unleash the next overused word. Talk about personal satisfaction. No one would ever know who did it, yet inside you could smile every time someone used your word. Judging by “really”, you’d be smiling a lot.