Grammar

Tourism Commercial Mixes Up Awe and Aww

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A commercial promoting Central Florida tourism contains an error many might miss. It confuses the similar-sounding words Awe and Aww.

Do you know the difference between awe and aww? If you do, consider yourself fortunate. Not many people seem to be able to make that distinction these days.

I suppose it’s to be expected in a world where we can now speak into the phone to dictate text messages and complete so much work over video chats rather than emails. We’re not thinking about writing out the words we say.

But the two words are different.

I recently saw a tourism commercial for Central Florida. I’ve looked for the spot online but I can’t find the specific one I saw. So I’ll describe it briefly. The spot featured lots of beauty shots of the area mixed with plenty of tourist attractions. At one point, text on the screen matches the announcer’s voiceover: “You’ll trade awe-inspiring for awe-yeah!”

In this case, if they didn’t add the text, it would be fine. The sounds of the two words aren’t the issue. The spelling is what caused the grammatical blunder.

They meant to say, “You’ll trade awe-inspiring for aww-yeah!”

I wrote about the confusion over these two words a while back. But I’ll revisit the difference.

Awe

Awe refers to a sense of wonder or amazement. It can also refer to a sense of being mesmerized or fascinated by something. One can feel awe when seeing the giant redwoods and sequoias in California. I felt a sense of awe when I visited Northern California more than a decade ago and rode across the Golden Gate Bridge. No matter how many times you see photos of the Golden Gate, until you’re in a vehicle driving under those towers, you can’t imagine how tall they actually stand.

One can even be in awe of people — their talent, their success, their dedication. As someone who will never be mistaken for a gym rat, I find myself in awe of a few friends of mine who are so dedicated to exercise. As a introvert, I’m awed by my best friend who can be so outgoing and makes friends with strangers so easily.

Aww

Aww on the other hand is a simple case of a thing we call onomatopoeia. No, that word does not roll off one’s tongue at all. But we deal with examples of it all the time in English. It simply means words created based on the sounds they describe. If you’ve ever described the “pop” of a popcorn popper, the “hum” of an electric current or the “fizz” of a Coke being poured into a glass, you’ve used it.

Do you remember the old 1960s TV series, Batman? Remember when the Caped Crusader got into a fistfight those comic strip-inspired titles like “Pow!” and “Smash!” would fill the screen? More examples.

Aww came from the sound we make when we express mostly sympathy or consolation. Occasionally we may use it in a phrase like, “Aww yeah!” when we want to express approval of something.


The commercial would not turn me off from visiting Central Florida. But for someone who appreciates grammar, it doesn’t sell me on it, either.

I haven’t seen the commercial in several weeks now…so maybe they’re quietly revising it. That I would appreciate!

1 Comment

  1. Patrick, I was in the Florida Division of Tourism in the eighies for a few years and the state slogan was a winner: Over intense scenes of blizzard-like snow and freezing weather, people bundled up and shivering, the message on the screen flashed: “FLORIDA…when you’ve got it bad, we’ve got it good !” We ran the tv and print ads in ALL the cold spots. Very effective!

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 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.