I was watching a talk show on TV the other day and it made me realize just how far behind I am in keeping up with all of the new terms and expressions in the English language. You see, even though the guests on the show, a group of teenagers, were speaking English (at least I think they were), I barely understood a word they said.
One girl, for example, was angrily discussing her recent breakup with her boyfriend. “He used to be so nice, telling me all the time what a bomb I was, how bad I was and how fat I was, so why then, did he cheat on me with my best friend?”
I just sat there, staring at the TV because the girl made no sense to me. I mean, she actually liked it when her boyfriend called her a fat, bad bomb? He sounded like a real creep to me. Still, out of curiosity, I decided to check out the words online.
I was surprised to learn that nowadays, “bad” actually means good. And a bomb is something that’s flashy and exciting – really “dynamite” (I’ll bet a lot of Broadway stars whose plays were called box-office bombs are wishing the latest definition had applied to them instead). I also discovered that the word isn’t “fat,” but “PHAT,” which stands for “pretty hot and tempting” (Oh great – now when people tell me I look fat (phat?), I’ll have to ask them to spell it before I get upset?).
Out of curiosity, I also happened to look up modern-day terms for kissing. They included, among others, “sucking face,” “tonsil hockey,” and “swapping saliva.”
Back when I was a teen, the popular terms for kissing were “making out” and “necking” (I hate to even think of what they might mean nowadays). I mean, look at what happened to the term my mother’s generation called kissing—“mugging!” At exactly what point in time, I wonder, did something so romantic suddenly transform into something that could get you 5-10 in prison? Can you just see some poor old guy bragging to his grandchildren, “Yep, when I was in my prime, I spent a lot of time mugging in the back seat of my car over at Massabesic Lake. The ladies told me I was one of the best around!”
Even a lot of the words and expressions I used when I was a teenager already are obsolete. When was the last time you heard someone say “groovy” or “far out?” Refer to the police as “the fuzz?” Call a house a “pad?” Describe wild colors or music as “psychedelic, or anything pleasurable as “neat-o?” And I’m pretty sure the word “cool” is on life support right about now, too.
If I’m feeling behind the times, I just can imagine how my mother’s generation feels. Back when she was young, a really special guy was called “the cat’s pajamas” (though I have NO idea why), and a pretty woman would elicit appreciative choruses of “hubba, hubba, zing, zing!” from men.
Even job titles have changed over the years. A secretary is an administrative assistant, a waitress is a food server, a stewardess is a flight attendant, a phone solicitor is a telemarketer, and a dog groomer is a fur-coiffure specialist (okay, so I made up that last one).
But I learned yet another new job title when I was in a department store the other day and asked the woman at the service desk if there might be a stock boy available to help me lift a 35-lb. bag of dog food into my cart.
She said, “No problem. I will page a merchandise replenisher to help you.”
What concerns me is that if the English language continues to change at the rate it has been, everything I’ve written in my old diaries might be grossly misconstrued when some future generation happens to find them lying among the ruins.
Take, for example, the word “boob.” When I was growing up, it was used solely to describe a foolish person—someone who acted like a juvenile. So just imagine someone picking up my old diary and reading, “It seemed as if every time I turned around at the party last night, these two boobs – both husky with long hair – were staring me in the face!”
And “dogs” were a common term for feet. In fact, an old slogan for the “Hush Puppies” brand of shoes was, “They quiet your barking dogs.” One of my old diary excerpts reads: “My dogs are in so much pain right now I barely can stand on them! That’s what I get for forcing them to walk around in spiked heels all day!” Sounds like a pretty good case for the SPCA.
But the worst thing I wrote in my old diaries was the expression, “fooling around.” Back then, it meant to hang out with someone. Just about every weekend, I wrote something like, “Tonight I fooled around with George, his cousin Ken and their two girlfriends.” People who might read that in the future probably will think I was a real “floozy.”
Oh, actually they won’t...because that’s another expression that’s become obsolete.
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