Awe vs Aww: In Awe of the Confusion Over These Two?


This week’s grammar post tackles awe vs aww. One is a legitimate word while the other is somewhat questionable. But they aren’t interchangeable!

One of the things Facebook does exceedingly well is to allow us to express life’s disappointments to a captive (and mostly sympathetic) audience.

There’s not a day that goes by on Facebook on which someone doesn’t express some sort of bad news. Often, when I see such an example, somewhere in the comments, I’ll see something along the lines of this:

Awe, so sorry to hear.

That message will typically be followed by at least one emoticon like a frowny-face. It’s entirely possible that the emoticon is frowning because of the incorrect use of awe in that sentence.

A comment like that certainly wouldn’t console me, either.

Awe refers to a sense of wonder or amazement or a sense of being mesmerized or fascinated by something. One is typically said to be in awe of something so impressive:

Nan stood in awe of the roar of Niagra Falls.

Aww (and other similar spellings like awww, awwww, etc.) are examples of Onomatopoeia, a word designed to emulate the sound it describes. Other examples include words like pop or bang.

Aww is the sound we make when we express sympathy or experience a heartwarming moment.

Aww, thank you so much for your kind gift.

When one is attempting to be thankful but modest, he may employ the phrase, “Aww, shucks.”

And it turns out that in internet chatroom speak, AWW has a different definition: “away without warning”. The apparent idea for this is that when someone needs to leave a chat unexpectedly, they just type “AWW” and sign off.

I’ve never seen this abbreviation, and I’m glad to say that. I’d have to point out to the person who leaves it that by posting “AWW,” they’re giving the very warning they claim not to have time to give. I would think that would be fairly obvious.

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.


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