I am going to share a pet peeve of mine that, I believe, is reasonable. Most pet peeves are nothing more than petty annoyances, but this peeve ranks beyond a mere annoyance and is heading in the direction of problem. I might even say, “serious” problem. My pet peeve is this: the misuse of the word epic.
Epic used to mean something. It had a great, objective meaning that it carried with it. When used rightly, it came with sweeping power, capturing the idea of a story far bigger than ourselves. It was a great word– a word that was once rarely used, and rightly so, because not very many things in life are truly epic.
Milton’s Paradise Lost, which poetically recounts the devastating fall of man and the subsequent removal from Eden is epic. Lord of the Rings might be considered an epic. God’s plan of redemption through Jesus Christ is the most epic story of all. The word described a vast and glorious concept of an all-encompassing story. It was a transcendent word. It was bigger than us.
But in the last three years the word has been destroyed. Epic has fallen from its heights and has been dragged through the mud. The word has lost all dignity, and recently, all meaning. The death of a word is a sad thing, and, as I mentioned earlier, a serious thing.
Words are the powerful vessels of truth. Truth is given and received in words– written or spoken. Ideas, concepts, principles– these are all communicated in words. God’s first relation to humanity was in the spoken word; and he continues to speak today by his written word. God intended the words he spoke to have clear and objective meaning; they were the means of communicating ideas and concepts. Man was created to receive and interpret the words of God. From the beginning of Scripture God has woven words into the fabric of human existence. We need words to survive, relate, and develop. God himself even said “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). These truth-vessels must be protected and maintained. When a word dies, in essence, some truth dies with it.
Let’s take the word epic, for instance. The objective meaning it once held is gone. These days, the word is used to describe anything one subjectively enjoys. A nice song is epic. Your car is epic. Queen Latifah is epic. Now, a perfectly useful word that could have been used to describe things that were truly epic is unusable. The word is dead. It cannot be used with precision anymore– it doesn’t mean anything. When I call something epic, instead of describing something of its characteristics, I am describing how I feel about it.
Language is as useful as it is precise. As words lose precision, language loses power. If no one can agree on the definition of a word, no one can say anything. The less potent our language is, the more impotent our culture will be. Satan wins a battle every time a word dies. By chipping away at our language, he cripples our ability to communicate truth, for truth must, by necessity, be communicated in words.