Wow

We learned Steve Jobs’s very last words from his sister Mona Simpson, in her eulogy published in the New York Times. “Before embarking, he’d looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life’s partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them. Steve’s final words were: OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.”

What are we to make of this articulate, intelligent, and influential person’s use of the word wow? That it was this word he uttered, not another, at this momentous time.

Wow [wou] an interjection meaning an exclamation of surprise, wonder, or pleasure, as a verb (used with object) it means to get a thrill, as a noun it is an extraordinary success or a great pleasure.  dictionary.com

Origin is from 1513, a Scottish interjection, a natural expression of amazement. Used as a noun since 1920 meaning an unqualified success and as a verb in 1924 meaning to overwhelm with delight or amazement. etymonline.com

We hear and say it all the time. I think we use it mostly unthinking. It’s a word that can fill a void. But it can also express precisely how we feel. When we are surprised by something or someone we say it. When something impresses us we say it. Wow, that’s great. Wow, you’re great. Wow, I love it! And as bored as I am with amazing, when paired with wow, it is omnipresent. Wow, that’s amazing!

“Kiss Me Kate” (the Cole Porter musical based on Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew”), has a wow in one of its well-known songs. “Brush Up Your Shakespeare, Start quoting him now. Brush up your Shakespeare And the women you will wow.”

Shakespeare himself uses it (just a few centuries earlier) in Ariel’s Song in Act One from “The Tempest,” when the spirit, Ariel, guides Ferdinand with her voice. “Hark, hark! The watch-dogs bark. Bow wow. Hark, hark!” Here it is connected with bow to reference the sound a dog makes.

Wow has a sense of wonder about it. It is a palindrome (spelled the same backward and forward). And it is onomatopoeic. It sounds just like what it means. And when you say it, your mouth opens and you look like you are in awe! It simply implies awesomeness to the nth degree and then to infinity. Wow.

Back to Steve Jobs. Was it a feeling of wonder at being welcomed into the cosmos? Was it seeing all his loved ones around him? Perhaps he was thinking about his life’s favorite moments. Or his achievements. Maybe all those beautifully designed and technologically sophisticated iPods, iMacs, iPhones, and iPads made a final farewell appearance.

That a sensation of wow was clearly how Steve Jobs felt at what his sister calls his “still more beautiful later,” then no word conveys a more promising message courtesy of this singular communicator who left behind a communications brand like no other. Wow indeed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s