Friday, July 1, 2011

an appeal to speakers of English

As practitioners of the English language can we lay off the word "epic" for a while? Unless we are careful, epic will soon suffer the same fate as the the ubiquitous and trite "random" and "awkward", two words whose true meanings have been obscured by overuse.

In an effort to preserve the word's meaning, let's re-familiarize ourselves with epic's definition. As a noun, an epic is:

1 : a long narrative poem in elevated style recounting the deeds of a legendary or historical hero

2 : a work of art (as a novel or drama) that resembles or suggests an epic

3 : a series of events or body of legend or tradition thought to form the proper subject of an epic

By that definition, one would be remiss to refer to the Twilight Saga as an epic (and it may not fit the definition of a real saga either but we'll tackle that another day).

As an adjective, what does epic mean?

1 : of, relating to, or having the characteristics of an epic

2 : extending beyond the usual or ordinary especially in size or scope

Thanks, Merriam-Webster.

Now, here are some helpful examples of when to use the word epic and when to refrain:

Your most recent bike ride: Not Epic (unless you just won the Tour de France or that bike ride took place in the Rocky Mountains, particularly the Canadian Rockies)

Sigur Rós: Actually Epic

A book found in the "Teen Paranormal Romance" section at Barnes and Noble: Definitely Not Epic (see the note on Twilight above)

Launching a robot to the edges of the atmosphere using a weather balloon: Yep, Epic

Anything involving outer space or the Grand Canyon: Most Likely Epic

Sporting Events: Possibly Epic, depending on the game and only for those involved in the athletic struggle (i.e., the actual players); while spectating is enjoyable, there is nothing epic about it

Let's all use a healthy dose of skepticism when employing the word epic. If there is some debate to whether or not it is epic, it's safe to say that it's not. If it's truly epic, you'll know.

Post Script: I fully realize the contradiction of my having used that word at least 19 times in this post. I promise you won't be hearing that word from me for quite some time, unless I'm using it as part of a proper noun. For example, the new thrift store that just opened up down the street from my place, Epic Stores (that is exactly the overuse I am trying to combat). OK, now I've used it at least 20 times. I'm done.


  1. This blog post was epic. haha. I laughed a lot while I read this.

  2. Myke, so funny. Seriously. How do we find you a famous corner of the blogosphere?
    And when are you getting that masters in English, so you can spread the wisdom and humor? (and that little (possibly epic) adventure to France?
    Poorly used or correctly used?

  3. Your post reminded me of this article (or, more precisely, diatribe):

  4. Zach -- Thanks, and thanks for commenting and sharing that word verification.

    Jenny -- Hopefully correctly used! Thank you for your encouragement!

    Jeremy -- "Hot Topic is where good ideas go to die."