Thursday, April 16, 2009

Swell update

As you may recall from an earlier post, I have decided to help bring the word "swell" back into regular use. Naturally I cannot do it alone, and I have no illusions of being all that influential, but it's worth a try nonetheless.

Swell deserves a comeback. I think it presents such a nicer perspective on life than the ubiquitous "cool." Moreover, I believe that swell - with its nearly glandular exuberance - offers an appropriate counterbalance to the stresses of lean economic times. Just how bad can life be when you're "swell"?

So how goes my swell-advocacy? Slowly.

Of course, I had to be the first convert. It's one thing to say the word and then explain why I'm using such an out-of-date reference. It's another to weave it into regular conversation without apparent pretense. It's still another to say "swell" without thinking about the choice. I've reached that third level of swelldom.

The problem is that I have to be conscious of the word's impact. To most other folks, "swell," when used at all, tends to be offered sarcastically. "That jerk stole my parking space? That's just swell." Therefore, to avoid, confusion, I tend to stop myself from uttering the word if I'm conducting a formal conversation lacking in the context of friendship. All the more, I usually strip "swell" from my emails, which lack even nonverbal cues to affirm my good intentions.

On the other hand, I'm delighted that "swell" has joined our repertoire of inside-lines among the Peer Mentors with whom I work. The word's renewed utility came in an odd way. With this crew, "hella" is the word de jour. You know, "that's hella cool!" I'm told it's a NorCal thing, but I'm not sure. Anyway, it merely took the connection of "hella" to my own addition to our discursive universe to win some converts - at least humorously.

That's right: "hella swell."

No one, at least not to my knowledge, uses the phrase without a knowing smile. But I see "hella swell" as a gateway to the normalization of my new favorite word. That truly would be swell.

1 comment:

Jon said...

I think what you are doing is swell.