Everything Is Epic

EPIC

At a grocery store last week, the cover of Cosmopolitan‘s January issue caught my eye with the headline “EPIC SEX.” Immediately, in my head, I started imagining the scenario:

“… and that was after about two hours of this. So I untied him, and we cleaned up all the broken watermelons, put away the jumper cables and started to drive to the hospital. That’s when the car broke down. It was raining, and as I got out of the car, I dropped my phone in a puddle, so goodbye phone. Since we couldn’t call a cab, we just started walking. Finally, after a half-hour, someone stopped and gave us a ride. In the emergency room, the doctor looked at the X-rays and said ‘So how did you get a trophy stuck up there?’ and I was like, ‘I don’t think I have to answer that; plus it’s a statue, not a trophy,” and he says, ‘No, it’s obviously a bowling trophy. I can see the guy’s hand here …’”

Of course, the Cosmo article was not about “epic” in the sense outdoorsfolk use it when describing mountain bike rides, ultramarathons, and long days of climbing and mountaineering. I assume Cosmo just looking for another word to describe “improved” sex, which seems to be a monthly cover topic, based on my ongoing informal survey.

It appears that, despite warnings like Maddox’s “Not Everything Is Epic, Shitheads,” we’re changing the definition of the word, like we’ve done in the past with “gnarly,” “sick,” and, ahem, “radical.” Urban Dictionary now defines epic as “the most overused word ever.”

Fact: Beowulf is epic. “Epic poetry” is one of the original uses of the word. Hell, it takes most people a few days just to read Beowulf, which is pretty epic, compared to scrolling through my Facebook feed.

In its traditional use in mountaineering, epic was a noun, not an adjective — you had “an epic”: Broken bones, open bivies, nights of suffering, frostbite, chopped ropes, crevasse falls, people not knowing whether they’d make it back alive, rescues — you know, Ernest Shackleton and his crew surviving their Antarctic voyage. Joe Simpson crawling three days back to camp with a broken leg. Aron Ralston. Now, it’s pretty much everything, isn’t it?

A hashtag search for #epic on Instagram the other day found 1.6 million photos, including the following epic things:

  • A guy’s shirtless self-portrait
  • Two photos of people playing Jenga
  • A labradoodle puppy eating a hair tie
  • A photo of a limo on New Year’s Eve
  • A 7-year-old kid doing a cannonball into a pool in Bryan, Texas
  • A photo of Someday by Justin Bieber perfume

etymology

I used to pride myself on never having had an epic. Sure, I’ve had plenty of long days, but nothing where I didn’t think I was going to live. Maybe have to survive a night out with no shelter, or spend the next three days not walking, or stay moving for 19 straight hours, but no broken legs on a climbing route, no getting lost in a whiteout, nothing like that.

The good news is, you no longer have to get your toes amputated, spend a night on a snowy peak without a sleeping bag, go without food or water for 48 hours, or drink your own urine to have an epic (although all those things are in themselves still epic). You can just play Jenga, or take a photo of yourself with your phone, or have a hangover. Or, as the aforementioned Cosmo article advises, you can “hook up like high schoolers,” “lead him on,” and/or “tease with a vengeance.” I am about to eat a burrito, which, if my math is correct, is basically the same thing as Beowulf. Or, to break it down:

Slaying Grendel + slaying Grendel’s mother + slaying dragon = burrito

-Brendan

Semi-Rad is brought to you by Outdoor Research.

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24 Comments

  1. Aaron F
    January 10, 2013

    OMG! You write up this week was totally EPIC dude!

    Reply
  2. January 10, 2013

    That timeline is awesome (dare I say epic?). I like how the length between the 1960s and present day is longer than the length between the 8th century and 20th century!

    Reply
  3. Wade
    January 10, 2013

    I like that “Beware the Urine-Drinking Mountain Goats” is listed as a related post. Sounds epic.

    Reply
  4. Laurel
    January 10, 2013

    Until recently I claimed to have never had an epic.

    However, a couple weeks ago, we had a long day on Solar Slab in Red Rocks. We had taken a somewhat leisurely pace on the way up, climbing 13 pitches in 7 hours. We then underestimated the class 4 descent in the dark and proceeded to take about 14 hours to get back to the car. One might think: this is a desert, how bad could the bushwhacking be? One word: cactus (I was glad I had my belay/gardening gloves). Oh, and it was snowing for the last 2 hours.

    It was well (ok, a couple hours) before sunrise when we got back to the car, so I insisted that it hadn’t really been an epic.

    Then a car pulls up across the street, one guy shuffles over to my car window and points a gun at me and demands all our stuff.

    Reply
    • Erik
      January 10, 2013

      oldschool epic.

      Reply
    • brendan
      January 10, 2013

      Holy shit, Laurel. Where were you parked?

      Reply
      • Laurel
        January 10, 2013

        Pullout on 159 right outside the gate. On the way back I was congratulating myself for avoiding a parking ticket by parking outside the loop. In retrospect I should have chosen the ticket.

        Reply
        • Ben
          January 10, 2013

          holy shit is right…glad you came out alright!

          Reply
    • lisa
      January 12, 2013

      Woah, random question, were you at the Bozeman Ice Fest in December?

      Reply
      • Laurel
        January 12, 2013

        Yeah, I was! That definitely didn’t count as an epic…

        Reply
        • lisa
          January 12, 2013

          It’s a small blog world after all, too funny. No, that was about the opposite of epic. More on the failure spectrum.

          Reply
  5. Marc
    January 10, 2013

    You hit this right on the head. How can you describe something that is truly epic (or an epic) anymore when it’s become so diluted? My thoughts are the same with “adventure.” But at least when someone asks for an “epic” story around the table, you’ll always have that burrito…

    Reply
  6. David
    January 10, 2013

    Related. Saw this via kottke.org.
    The extraordinary is the new ordinary

    http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2013/01/the_improbable.php

    So along with commoditizing everything else the Internet has also brought down the perceived value of Epic.

    Reply
  7. Amy O
    January 10, 2013

    Yay! Seeing the title of this and knowing how you LOVE the word made me so excited to read this one. Last line is the best and may have to be the quote of the day. You think people will think I’m weird?

    Reply
  8. January 10, 2013

    Slaying Grendel + slaying Grendel’s mother + slaying dragon = burrito

    That sounds like one EPIC burrito…seriously!

    Reply
  9. January 10, 2013

    Seriously! I’ve taken recently to just saying GREAB. It stands for gnarly rad epic awesome bro and can apply to anything that is actually none of those things.
    You rode two loops of the local mountain bike trail and had fun? GREAB.
    You got a two sodas out of the machine when you only put in a dollar? GREAB.

    Reply
    • Ben
      October 11, 2013

      I don’t know you at all, but I’ve taken to saying greab all the time too. An epically important invention for the ironically inclined mountain person. Your stroke of genius is much appreciated.

      Reply
  10. Tim
    January 10, 2013

    or

    Epoch: An interval of geologic time longer than an “age” and shorter than a “period”, during which which the rocks of a “series” were formed.

    Slaying Grendel+ Slaying Grendel’s Mother + Slaying a Dragon+ Eating a Burrito = Epic Coprolite

    Reply
  11. January 10, 2013

    I can’t believe you pulled out Maddox. Between you and Maddox, all of life’s questions can be answered.

    Reply
  12. January 11, 2013

    I’m so chuckling at this post. Thanks for bringing us back to reality.

    Reply
  13. January 13, 2013

    Thanks for keeping it real Brendan.

    Reply
  14. Jay
    January 15, 2013

    Hahahahaha! Climbing Magazine’s readership will laugh so hard it’ll shit epics when it casts its collective beady gaze on your work. Congratulations on that, btw.

    Reply
  15. Alex
    February 21, 2013

    I read this post a few weeks ago. Then on Monday as I was driving home from a weekend in Bishop, I saw a McDonald’s billboard advertising a Big Mac: “Epic Taste. Epic-er Price.” God damnit humanity, we’re better than this (I think).

    Reply

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