It’s a struggle. Thinking. Talking. Writing. Everything has been thought and said and written before.
Or so it seems.
English may have more words than any other language; still, it can be so limiting. This is especially the case when we’re trying to describe the ‘best’—as in, the best of anything or anyone.
At one time, this wasn’t so much of a problem, since Americans were revered for being stoically strong. Modest. Self-effacing. Could you carry a big stick? Sure. Just be quiet about it.
Then along came Muhammad Ali, and when he said, “I am the greatest”—well, the race was on. The language churned through ‘fantastic’ and ‘supreme’ and ‘ultimate’ and ‘ideal’ and ‘super’ (still a hit in Japan) and ‘perfect’ (as impossible as that might be). Consultants appropriated ‘optimal’. The Brits like ‘brilliant’. And if ‘amazing’ is ever spoken again, humanity’s collective head might explode.
Researchers have long asked boys and girls what they want to be when they grow up. For decades, the top choices for the girls included ‘nurse’ and ‘teacher’. Then—without warning—the top answer became, ‘famous’. Just like that. Certainly, social media didn’t help things. We are all Kardashians now.
Obviously, famous people deserve remarkable descriptions. Ali’s ‘great’ has been displaced by ‘GOAT’—greatest of all time. Saying something’s the best “I’ve ever seen” loses its impact when it’s uttered by an 11-year-old. The tired, numbing “in the world” gave way to the neo-numbing “on the planet.” Yuck.
So, friends, I ask you to join with me on a crusade for a new superlative. We need a new word. Something that no one’s using now.
Let’s create a meme!
Here’s what I’m proposing. From now on, when you’re tempted in conversation to describe something as ‘great’ or ‘the best on the planet’, stop for a minute and finish the thought with the word ‘extant’.
Yep, ‘extant’. Means the same thing as ‘in existence’. Sounds a wee bit weird, doesn’t it? Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Well—that’s the point!
A memorable new word arrives like a belch in church. Some will turn around to show that they noticed. Most will ignore it and move on—but they won’t forget.
And that’s how our piece of fame can start. Someday we will overhear "extant" and say, “yeah, I invented that.” We all want to be remembered for something.
So, slip it into conversation. Just once or twice. See what happens. Notice the surprised looks.
And then, when it’s become common, you will rest assured that not only have you achieved a sliver of fame…but that you are, without doubt, one of the coolest people extant.