That something is the word "awesome."
I just used it three times in one email. I hear it constantly, more than when I was a kid and had a hot pink bathing-suit that said AWESOME across my non-existent boobs. Such and such is made of awesome. So and so is full of awesome. It is my goal to become more awesome. Awesome, awesome, awesome.
At first I was irritated--can I not branch out in my adjective-use? Why am I doing this? What the freaking hell?
But the other night while justbeast and I were brushing our teeth and getting ready for bed, which has become a nice little moment of quiet conversation as we switch off sink use, I started babbling about how ubiquitous awesome has become.
And I realized that when I say ubiquitous I mean ubiquitous among the online community, my friends, my colleagues--who are all geeks of one stripe or another. There was a point in my life when I was the nerd among mainstream people, and that time is no more.
And we, geeks and nerds and bloggers, are using it to mean something different than just a synonym for "great." We're using it to mean arete.
Yes! The classicist strikes again! But...we are. More awesome. Full of awesome. Made of awesome. We're using it as a noun, as a word for excellence, for personal excellence exercised in daily life, whatever is our own awesomeness, our own skills, our own passions, even if they are small, housecleaning or debugging or patching jeans. We did it with awesome, and were awesome because of it. We are using the word that means the greatest thing Achilles can achieve for himself for the greatest things we can achieve. And when someone at a con says that she is questing to become more awesome, that's what she means: more perfectly herself, more precisely and intensely involved in everything she does, doing what she does in the best and most fabulous way it can be done, more hardcore, more awesome. We are awesome, you are awesome, they are awesome.
We are using a new word to mean a very old, very beautiful thing, and we use it over and over because it resonates, not that word necessarily, but that meaning. That need to be perfectly oneself. Arete. Aresteia. We are telling each other how to do it, when we've managed it, how we hope to reach it in days and years to come. We are pointing to things great and small and saying something a Greek thing with an English word, and it has become meaningful, it has become part of the vocabulary of the virtual world.
And that...is awesome.