I was just typing an e-mail to my sister, and I paused as I typed the word "awesome," contemplating the meaning of this word that is used so frequently in everyday slang. I am not a fan of slang, although I do use it jokingly on occasion.
Have you ever pondered the derivation of the word "awesome." Some-Awe. Most people in today's culture really mean "awe-full" or rather "awful" when they say awesome. If one speaks of something as being awesome, rarely do I think they are referring to being in a state of pseudo-aweness; rather they are indicating that they are full of awe.
As a Christian, I say God is awesome, but God inspires more than just pseudo-awe in me. More correctly, I am full of awe when I ponder Him. Perhaps the words of the praise chorus "Our God is an Awesome God" should be changed to "Our God is an Awful God." I do not mean that in an irreverent sense; our culture has narrowed the definition of awful just as it has the definition of awesome, so it seems irreverent or negative to describe anyone with the adjective "awful."
Dictionary.com lists these three definitions among its entries for the word "awful":
Commanding awe: “this sea, whose gently awful stirrings seem to speak of some hidden soul beneath” (Herman Melville).
Filled with awe, especially filled with or displaying great reverence.
Formidable in nature or extent: an awful burden; an awful risk.
I wonder how many other English words have hidden meanings that have long been forgotten or changed.