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John's awesomesauce weekend in Vegas ended prematurely.

And he prayed with such authority that my prayers felt like weak sauce by comparison.

How did the words awesomesauce and weak sauce originate and when were they used for the first time?

Also, is it correct for there to be a space between weak sauce but for there to be no space in awesomesauce?

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    I wrote an answer but this has been closed. Both are in the OED, but only "weak sauce" has made Merriam-Webster. Nobody knows the origin of either, but weak sauce is attested in 1989 in the San Jose Mercury News, and awesomesauce on Usenet in 2001. Origin of "weak sauce" as a term for something bad/disappointing should be obvious. There's also a Grammarly post on the topic which I won't link because it's totally wrong based on the OED's evidence.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 17:21
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    Reader's Digest: This slang term for “good” was first uttered by the character Strong Bad in the Homestar Runner web series of animated shorts, created by brothers Mike and Matt Chapman in the early 2000s. Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 17:21
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    @StuartF: Sorry about that! It's happened to me several times, so I know it can be very irritating. I've sometimes cut & pasted the text from my "thwarted Answer" into a temporary file, and voted to reopen (if others endorse the reopen, my saved text is ready and waiting). BTW - I assume weak sauce is modeled after figurative and literal strong / weak beer (there's also figurative strong meat, but no-one refers to weak meat so far as I know). Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 17:33
  • @StuartF You should be able to post your answer now.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jan 22, 2023 at 20:51

4 Answers 4

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Both expressions appears to have originated at the beginning of the 21c according to Green’s Dictionary of Slang:

weaksauce (n.)

(US teen/campus) something or someone second-rate, tedious, specifically an unfunny joke.

  • 2002 [US] Teen Lingo: The Source for Youth Ministry 🌐 weaksauce n. Joke that didn’t quite make you laugh ‘That was weaksauce.’.
  • 2014 [US] Eble UNC-CH Campus Sl. Spring 2014 16: WEAK SAUCE — something mediocre, boring: X: ‘I think I’ll just stay in tonight.’ Y: ‘Weak sauce, man!’.

awesomesauce (adj.)

(US) epitomizing excellence; also as excl. of approbation [underpinned by brand name of cleaning product Awesome Sauce].

  • 2001 alt.tv.kids-in-hall 22 Sept. [Usenet group] 🌐 You guys are awesomesauce.

  • 2005 Urban Dict. 8 June 🌐 awesome sauce a beautifully assonant phrase which can and should be used on any occasion where joy and elation are expressed.

  • 2016 [US] C. Eble UNC-CH Campus Sl. Spring 2016 1: AWESOMESAUCE - excellent: X: ‘I’ll have this project done by tomorrow.’ Y: ‘Awesomesauce.’.

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With regard to the expression "weak sauce," I note the following (unmoored) instance from an untitled column in the Columbia [University (in New York City)] Spectator (December 7, 1995):

Special shout outs to: ... Peter "can't she buy a bigger shirt?" Freeman, Zach "that's weak sauce" Rothenberg, Jason "you plagiarized my stories all semester, you greedy bastard" Shames, Jessica "was that e-mail I heard?" Bloch, Dayna "I'm never gonna be in Playboy—l can't even wink!" Alpine, the rest of 119th Managing Board, the anonymous Emily, C. Lowell Harriss, and the innumerable nagging Drectacle and non-editorial bastards who have literally begged and pleaded to be in the non-nitebox (i.e. Bianca "purple revolution" Strul, who will always be the sweetest-smelling person alive.) Shireen- Keep your P-funks alight and your spirits high. You're the best. Please keep in touch because I'll miss you very much. Love, ELS

This occurrence matches the "teen/campus" milieu that Jonathon Green (cited in Gio's answer) identifies as the source of the expression—but is somewhat older than the start of the twenty-first century.

Also, from Brian Murphy, "What's Up with That" in the [Santa Rosa, California] Press Democrat (October 29, 1996):

William Floyd sits on the bench, arms folded, refusing to cheer on his team as they drive for the winning score in the fourth quarter because he was pulled from the lineup.

WHAT'S UP WITH THAT? Weak sauce, William. Try and sell yourself as the Ultimate Team Player, try telling us how you told [49ers head coach] George Seifert last week "Put me in George, you know I'm the sparkplug", and then fail to give your team a little emotional support when the game is on the line.

Murphy, who is now a broadcaster and commentator on an all-sports radio station in the San Francisco Bay Area, was in his late twenties when he wrote this column.

And from a listing of upcoming band performances at the Showcase Theatre in Corona, California, in the San Bernardino [California] Sun (February 6, 1998):

Backside, Jughead's Revenge, Union 13, Chuck, Rubberneck, Weaksauce, Feb. 14. Cost: $8.

The 1989 instance from the San Jose [California] Mercury News mentioned in Stuart F's comment beneath the posted question evidently refers to a 607-word subscription-walled article dated August 19, 1989, in the San Jose Mercury News Archives whose title begins "Teens Reveal How to Talk Like ..." and whose opening sentence reads as follows:

Extensive market research has determined that only a dweeb would use a term like "awesome."

If this lede sentence can be trusted, and if "weak sauce" appears in the article as a cool-kids term, it follows that teens who used the term "weak sauce" in 1989 would have been very unlikely to use the term "awesome sauce" under any circumstances unless they happened to be dweebs—and cutting-edge dweebs at that. From this conclusion, it further follows that "weak sauce" probably antedates "awesome sauce" by a significant amount of time—time enough for non-dweeb teens to have rehabilitated "awesome" for use in tandem with "sauce."


A much early but surely unrelated instance of "weak sauce" used to convey a similar idea appears in F. Dixon, "Sunday Excursions," in the [Grafton, New South Wales] Clarence and Richmond Examiner (December 31, 1901):

Holidays are so numerous now-a-days that Sunday desecration is without excuse. As a rule, these excursions are not patronized by the "weary workers" who have no week-day opportunities of gaining "a few hours of pure ozone," but by a class of persons who are "gone" on selfish pleasure, end care little for church worship and God. It adds very weak "sauce" to my friend's arguments, to call me a "faddist," but reminds one of the saying, "When you've a bad case, abuse the plaintiff. We hope, however, to survive this shock.

I have not found any pre-2000 instances of "awesomesauce" or "awesome sauce."

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As the commenters note, the precise etymology remains unknown, but it seems reasonable to suspect that these come from the slang term "the sauce," meaning alcohol (see Merriam-Webster).

Incidentally, I've always thought of "the sauce" as slang from the UK or Australia, but I haven't found any sources to back that claim up; regardless, it seems less common in contemporary American slang.

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The year 1990 Southern California Warren HS Freshman football team would go across the street to Taco Bell inbetween practices during two-a-days. Obviously, we would get loud and horse around. During a session of trading verbal blows with the JV team, I showed then the HOT SAUCE and said, this is us.... showed them the WEAK SAUCE and said...this is you... "you're weak sauce" ... The whole restuarant laughed because of how I presented the statement... like a informercial selling products .. WEAK SAUCE became viral and we didnt have the internet.

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