Is there a name for adjectives like beautiful, incredible, amazing, etc.? Adjectives that are often generically substitutable when, say, describing vacation resorts, or the like. Preferably a name that doesn't sound salesperson-ey, but I'm curious to know those too, so do comment.
Words like those that have been stripped of semantic content and are used in a vain attempt to add emotion are usually called intensifiers.
intensifier a word, esp an adjective or adverb, that has little semantic content of its own but that serves to intensify the meaning of the word or phrase that it modifies.
They're Polar predicates. They lie at the pole of a semantic cline, like freezing and boiling:
- freezing - cold - cool - tepid - warm - hot - boiling
They're not the only ones, of course. The semantic test for them in English is use of absolute(ly), which is limited to use with polar predicates.
- It's absolutely freezing in here.
- *It's absolutely cold in here.
- *It's absolutely cool in here.
- *It's absolutely tepid in here.
- *It's absolutely warm in here.
- *It's absolutely hot in here.
- It's absolutely boiling in here.
Absolute(ly) also distinguishes the polar 'crazy' sense of mad from its non-polar 'angry' sense.
- He's mad about the horses. (ambiguous: either 'angry' or 'crazy')
- He's absolutely mad about the horses. (unambiguous: 'crazy')
Thus, note the grammaticality of
- absolutely beautiful
- absolutely incredible
- absolutely amazing
and of course
- Absolutely Fabulous.
When used to the extreme exaggeration, "Hyperbole" comes to mind:
From the Wikipedia Dictionary:
hy·per·bo·le (/hīˈpərbəlē/), Noun
Exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally. Synonyms: exaggeration - hyperbola - overstatement
From the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:
Latin, from Greek hyperbolē excess, hyperbole, hyperbola, from hyperballein to exceed, from hyper- + ballein to throw First Known Use: 15th century
The word I use most often is "nondescript". I use it with writers in discussing words that poorly describe their subjects, but it is generally a good description of your cohort of adjectives.
- belonging or appearing to belong to no particular class or kind : not easily described
- lacking distinctive or interesting qualities
If those words were about a person, it would be empty flattery. Maybe trite adjectives would serve for your purposes? I don't think there's a single word term to describe these words. Easier to come by are terms to describe the act of using overstated but meaningless adjectives and terms to label a person doing this. Depending on situation examples are: gloating, over-stating, being over-the-top, stupendifying (?), facecious, suck-up.