How often have you heard the word “amazing” recently? Many of us are, apparently, in a near permanent state of amazement. As one hack journalist after another pushes a microphone at the latest newsworthy target and asks “How does it feel?” it’s now odds-on they will get the reply “Amazing”. And, yes, the British Council is part of the problem. Go to the Education UK web site, for example, and the word will be found amongst the clunky and patronising language on the home page, as in “Innovative, original and with an amazing history, the UK's courses and qualifications are as varied as its landscape”. Elsewhere, with rather less variety than the UK’s landscape, the British Council refers to amazing colours, amazing facts about the human body, amazing success stories, amazing learning experience, amazing local news stories, an amazing year, and so on. And what adjective did Mr Blair use to describe the work of the British Council? Yes, Mr Blair, whose "initiative" is vested in the British Council, thinks it is amazing. Not the word that we would have chosen, but – provided it is loosely interpreted and encompasses the concept of outrageous - we can live with it.
Queen Victoria was once famously “not amused”, and may well not have been too frequently amazed either, but one wonders what she would have made of her great, great, great, great granddaughter Zara Phillips’ acceptance speech as BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Zara is 11th in line to the throne, and so it’s unlikely that she will be called upon to, say, open Parliament. Here is a transcript the main body of her acceptance speech:
It's amazing and thank you to all of us as um and it's just amazing to be here um with all these amazing sports people um all just fantastic and I'm sat there in awe of everyone um but to win this is is absolutely amazing and ... thank you so much
She was, genuinely, “overwhelmed with surprise”, so despite the somewhat intense use of “amazing” we should not be hard on her, and let us remember that this talented descendant of many kings and queens who have played their part in the “amazing history” of this “innovative and original” country is a true world champion. Me? I’m like - wow.