CHARLOTTE, NC. If you are of a certain age, do you ever look back and wonder. How much of the language Boomers thought was “hip” and “with it” back in the day has survived to the year 2019? How many dated phrases and outdated words are completely lost today on current generations?
A typewriter? What’s a typewriter?
Let’s use a fairly recent 2008 movie entitled Kit Kittredge: An American Mystery. We can use it as an example of what we’re discussing. In the film, we encounter a scene in which 10-year old Kit, who is passionate about writing, sits down at her typewriter. She dreams of having something she has written appear in the local newspaper.
Now, the story takes place during the Great Depression. So the typewriter Kit uses is one of the old-style hammer and chisel manual machines that were so commonplace in that era. Some of us, at least, may still remember using a similar typewriter even into the 1960s. If you want to really feel old however, watch this picture along with someone born after about 1990. Wait for the kid to ask, “What kind of machine is that?”
The familiar modern joke is, if you don’t know how to use a computer, just ask any three-year old. He will set you straight. But maybe today’s high tech whiz kids still need you to explain that typewriter.
Myth Trivia explores dated phrases and outdated words circa 2019
And so, with that background set up for today’s Myth Trivia edition, let’s explore some of the now dated phrases and outdated words once familiar to the Baby Boomer generation that have apparently passed into history. They have been lost in our ever-evolving world of contemporary English.
A sample outdated word
Let’s try this for an outdated word. Tell a youngster today that you drove and old “jalopy” when you were growing up. He’ll probably give you a blank stare when he hears the word “jalopy.” And don’t try to cover this up by using the term “rattle-trap” as a substitute. That won’t work, either.
An somewhat outdated abbreviation: CC me on this
Some terms live on even though the people who use them probably have no idea what they’re referring to. Such is the case with “CC.” As all seasoned citizens know, that’s the short form for “carbon copy.” Youngsters today have never seen a sheet of carbon paper, much less know what it is. So for them, the term “CC” is just part of their vernacular. It means “make a copy,” or “copy me on this.”
A dated phrase from those ancient Zenith TV days
Remember when television announcers used to say, “Don’t touch that dial”? That routine annoyance existed long before the remote channel “clicker” was invented. In those days, a TV network could induce you to stay connected to its local affiliate throughout an entire evening. That is, they could do it if its lineup of shows was strong enough to keep viewers from getting out of their easy chairs. To help you out, though, they liked to remind you not to bother getting up and changing the channel. Which you did by walking to the TV and literally clicking a mechanical tuner dial from channel to channel. So stay with us, they urged us. And “Don’t touch that dial!”
Hokey smokes, Bullwinkle, have you checked your laundry lately?
Now we move from TV to a laundry metaphor and assorted expressions of amazement.
As for that first motif, let’s look at that old expression, “Hung out to dry.” That’s how people around the world used to dry their washloads. They’d hang their laundry from clotheslines or the equivalent to dry in the sun and breeze. The term also came into use as a metaphor for the poor sap who ended up taking the rap for some misdeed that may have been committed by others. His pals simply “Hung him out to dry,” feigning innocence.
It’s still a common practice to hang laundry outside in Europe today. But in the U.S. the old clothesline has pretty much yielded to washers and dryers. Many generations still use the expression. But more recent generations have now forgotten why.
Back in the day, the closest thing to 2019’s enduringly popular F-bombs were expressions such as “Holy Moley,” “Great Googly-Moogly,” “Leapin’ Lizards,” “Heavens to Betsy (or Mergatroid),” “Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat!” or “Gee Whillikers!”
If you didn’t use those expressions then that’s because everything was just “Hunky Dory.”
Even more dated phrases: Does President Trump have “Moxie”?
Speaking of dates phrases, people who were brash and outspoken had a lot of “Moxie.” Believe it or not, Moxie is still a popular soft drink in New England. Many folks don’t like it due to its bitter flavor and aftertaste. Since that carbonated beverage remains an acquired taste only found locally in the northeast, the expression “having a lot of Moxie” refers to someone who is bold in his mannerisms. You might also say that this individual “has a lot of nerve!”
Would anyone today have a clue if you said, “Go ahead, it’s your nickel.” In truth, do young people today even know what a nickel is? That mostly forgotten phrase likely means it would be a waste of time to warn someone not “to take any wooden nickels” as well.
Did your grandmother ever say, “Well that’s a fine kettle of fish!” How about outdated words like “Fiddlesticks!” or “Phooey!” All perfectly good, clean grandma words and phrases that no one uses today.
Derogatory words and just plain weird ones
Derogatory words, anyone? Commentator Bill O’Reilly used to use the word “knucklehead.” but that, too, is a rarity along with derogatory words like “nincompoop” and “pill.” In 2019, at least in some circles, it’s chic to call someone you don’t like a “fascist.” Or worse.
If you’re looking for more positive outdated words, you might try one popularized in some of the movies from the 1940s. You can often find them on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). Check out some of those old black & white classics see how often the word “swell” is used. As in, “That’s a swell idea.” Meaning a really, really good one.
As we search for even more outdated words, there were plenty of popular fashions from the “Good Old Days” that have disappeared into the world of anachronisms as well. Try beehives, pageboys, mohawks, D.A.s, spats, knickers, deck pants, fedoras, poodle skirts, weejuns, pedal pushers, saddle shoes and that ever-popular color combination of black and pink.
A veritable plethora of once chic but now outdated words and dated phrases
Time was when someone was successful they were “living the life of Riley.” William Bendix later did thus that on his early, eponymous TV sitcom.
During World War II, it was popular to draw a picture of a little man peering over a fence with the expression “Kilroy was here.” The Germans knew who Kilroy was back then. And they didn’t want to meet him.
Then there was always dad or grandpa admonishing you to “straighten up and fly right” by putting on your best “bib and tucker.”
More colorful exclamations were available at that time, some bordering on the vulgar. But all of them avoided that impolite pitfall, even as some edged up to that territory. “Jeepers Creepers” was yet another favorite, along with “Godfrey Daniels” (favored by W.C. Fields), “For Pete’s sake,” “For crying out loud” and “Holy smoke!”
It’s a wrap
To paraphrase that famous, unanswered question Pete Seeger posed in the mid-1960s, “Where have all those phrases gone?Long time passing…”
Who knows? if we could come back at the turn of the 22nd century, we might not even be able to speak with Americans in the English language, thanks to its constant evolution.
As Sylvester the Cat might say, “Sufferin’ succotash!”
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
Editors Note: Support Bob’s GoFundMe to give him a hand up