The Disappearing Words
This week I will start with a definition.
- Something or someone that is not in its correct historical or chronological time, especially a thing or person that belongs to an earlier time: The sword is an anachronism in modern warfare.
- An error in chronology in which a person, object, event, etc., is assigned a date or period other than the correct one: To assign Michelangelo to the 14th century is an anachronism.
For the many who were insulted with this opening, as you interpreted this as a challenge to your intelligence and your extremely large vocabulary, I will also start with an apology. To be clear, this opening was not intended for you, it was intended for your stupid friends who often ask you a lot of annoying questions when you occasionally explain your brilliant theory on good parenting.
The word anachronism is a word I rarely use. I have a vague recollection of my high school teacher using this word, and by vague I mean I don’t remember it at all. If I had been paying attention in this media class, I would have understood his anger in seeing telephone poles in old western movies. He was trying to teach us that during the old wild west, phones had not been invented yet. I got his point, though he was not clear on whether telephone poles had been invented during this time. Many historians still argue that once the telephone pole had been invented, it was only a matter of time until someone would inevitably invent (there’s two words you don’t often see side by side) the telephone.
So if an anachronism is a sign of being out of step with a defined reality, I thought it was high time I helped people who commit this anachronistic error on a daily basis. They do this by invoking words, so out of fashion, the bewildered audience of those words, begin to question the speaker’s credibility. The very fact that anachronism describes a thing out of time, got me to thinking about the future of language in an ever changing world.
I will attempt to help both parties here: The speaker of the anachronistic term, and the receiver of this out of date expression. (If this were a legal document, it would say things like “the party of the first part” and “the party of the second part”). Rarely do I deliver information that helps both parties. I rarely deliver information that helps one party. I suppose this might explain why I don’t get invited to parties anymore.
The following is a menu of words you should probably never use for the rest of your life. Using this helpful list may even get you invited back to those secret family parties that have included everyone but you, to an event with free food and free alcohol.
Wise Acre: There was a time this was the ultimate insult one could say about another person. It helped describe a blow hard, who thought they were better and smarter then everybody else. If you are struggling transporting this word in today’s world, think Donald Trump.
Tarnation: Another word that gained popularity when, swearing in public was frowned upon, it had a certain cache, when screamed loudly, to express your displeasure about something. This word was immortalized in the cartoon world by Yosemite Sam, when things weren’t going well with a certain rabbit.
Rapscallion: This multi syllable word was a popular way for the ladies to describe the bad boy, they secretly admired. Over time this was logically replaced with the actual words “bad boy” to help simplify its basic meaning.
Sawbuck: This descriptor of a ten dollar bill just got too hard to understand through the sound system at your local McDonalds drive through, so staff were trained to use more current currency terms. A little future prediction: Pennies will disappear so asking someone “A penny for your thoughts” will no longer get you the information you desire. By the time you explain what a penny is, the thought will be gone.
Cockamamie: This is a word that was popular in a kinder, gentler time where people called out your crazy ideas. It has been replaced by two letters: B. S.
Hootenanny: Avoid this word when you get very excited about a great evening of drinking, singing and dancing. I would recommend similar advice with the word hullaballoo.
Doohickey: This catchall word was constantly used to describe gadgets that were almost impossible to comprehend. Today this has morphed into the more common term New Software.
Skedaddle: Occasionally used by the guy driving the getaway car at well-planned bank robberies to encourage the robbers to hurry up. More commonly it was a way to express your need to speed up and get away. Sadly people don’t skedaddle as much as they used to, and only tend to demonstrate this when the presenter says “Meeting Adjourned.”
Fret: Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of fretting going on, but with the proliferation of anti-anxiety medications, it just make it harder to notice.
Umbrage: There was a time people took umbrage with other people all the time. I suspect this happened so often, that there is now no umbrage left for the rest of us to use.
Victuals: This word to describe “good eats”’ was popularized by The Beverly Hillbillies at meal times. Since I believe that show is no longer on the air, avoiding this word when you are hungry, will exponentially increase your chance of getting some food.
Chum: Like Cockamamie, this word has also been replaced with letters. BFF
Lollygag: This musical word was used to describe those who stalled, were unproductive and couldn’t make a decision. Today we promote these people to management.
Fisticuffs: In less violent times, this was much more gentler way to describe people who were beating the crap out of each other.
Flummoxed: In the good old days, this was a word to describe a very rare occasion when an employee seemed unclear about what the boss was saying. Since today this happens at an hourly rate, it lost its rarity of use and was conveniently replaced by the more positive term “alignment.”
I have done my best to help you not to sound too out of touch in your daily conversations. Surfing the net is now as archaic as describing real surfing as hanging ten. This explains the slow demise of The Beach Boys. Of course that doesn’t stop them from touring endlessly.
I only hope in my attempt to make you sound less ridiculous when talking to others, I have also improved your ability to know language constantly evolves. To ensure this lesson continues, I will end with a sentence that will force you to appreciate today’s painful lesson.
This peccadillo of gobbledygook and rigmarole could hornswoggle the most resplendent haberdasher you know.
Cue the Blong: Oh yes, the good old days…