Friday the 13th came with its proverbial dose of bad luck for Neil deGrasse Tyson. The usually well-liked astrophysicist and author, who also hosts the popular documentary series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, took to Twitter on Friday to express his discontent with the misuse of the word “awesome,” Tech Times reports.
While his 12.6 million Twitter followers typically receive Tyson’s social media posts like “the gospel of a scientific demigod,” as Thrillist notes, things didn’t go the same way on April 13.
Apart from taking a jab at the superstition that shrouds the fateful day of April the 13th by saying it “is no less rare on the calendar than Thursday the 12th” — in hindsight, he probably appreciated the irony of what happened next — Tyson also grumbled about what people nowadays consider to be “awesome.”
Tyson complained about the word “awesome” being used to describe things that don’t necessarily merit a superlative, particularly by the younger generations.
The astrophysicist bemoaned the fact that the superlative is now frequently attributed to “food or TV shows” instead of more worthy achievements, such as “curing Polio and walking on the Moon,” like it once did.
The gist of Tyson’s tweet is that, in his opinion, the overuse of the word “awesome” has diluted its meaning, as usually happens with the hyperbolic use of an adjective — a widespread thing in this day and age.
In my day, the word “Awesome" was reserved for things like curing Polio and walking on the Moon, not for food or TV shows.
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) April 13, 2018
As it turned out, Twitter did not take that lying down.
Although some people did, in fact, agree with Tyson’s point of view and denounced the misuse of the superlative in commonplace situations by giving examples of their own, such as the words “amazing” and “epic,” many tweets were less than flattering.
Tyson’s fans called him out on his attitude, which they perceived as being pompous, and blistered the usually adored astrophysicist for being a “nerd” and “a chronic mansplainer.”
In my day, the word "Awesome" meant "profoundly reverential" because I am five centuries old and incredibly tiresome
— a p good boy (@boneheifer) April 13, 2018
His remark incurred not only dozens of sarcastic replies from his Twitter followers, who criticized Tyson for sounding too pretentious, but also the “wrath” of the Merriam-Webster dictionary, which responded with a classic burn in its signature style, Mashable reports.
" #Twitter didn't think his take was so "awesome"." No, Neil, you're great, but awesome is a popular expression. The expression you are thinking of is "awe-inspiring". The moon landing
& cure for polio were awe-inspiring, not awesome. Just saying. https://t.co/lE3BAzAdVg
— J. Dalton Jennings (@JayJennings57) April 15, 2018
The Twitter account commented on Tyson’s post with a single word, “Neil” (followed by a period, to convey the message of “please stop”), essentially telling him to lighten up.
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) April 13, 2018
Naturally, Twitter responded with amused reactions to Merriam-Webster’s post. Fans replied with hilarious GIFs and comments such as “Oh snap!” or “Owned by a dictionary!”
Moreover, people rebutted the astrophysicist by tweeting back some of his old posts, in which he himself uses the word “awesome” in similar contexts to the ones he now frowns upon.
— Shaun (@shaun_jen) April 13, 2018
As if Twitter wasn’t already having a field day with Tyson, the Netflix U.S. account also bashed the astrophysicist on the same day.
The Twitter account dug up an old tweet from 2013, in which he was complaining about the 1998 movie Armageddon — “in which the laws of physics are optional,” according to Tyson — as well as about not being able to find it on Netflix or iTunes.
Netflix U.S. told Tyson the movie is now available on their platform in case he still wishes to watch it and “ruin it for everyone.”
In response, Tyson laughed at Netflix’s attempt to ridicule him. The astrophysicist said he would watch the movie again and promised “not to disappoint” neither his critics nor his fans with a comeback.
Wow. You dug that one up from five years ago (posted February 17, 2013). I'll watch Armageddon again and try not to disappoint those who are angered (as well as those who are enlightened) by my comments.
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) April 14, 2018