Do you ever feel out of date like an old 45 record in an age of digital music? One possible reason is that each new generation tries to separate themselves from older generations by creating their own language or slang words – as we did when we were young.
If you grew up in the 50s, you may remember “knuckle sandwich”, “shiner”, “made in the shade”, or “the royal shaft”. If you were a child of the 60s, how about “far out”, “dig it”, (“It’s) a gas”, “mellow”, “bummer”, and of course “groovy”. For you younger readers who grew up in the 70s, there was “psyche”, “don’t be such a spaz”, and “up your nose with a rubber hose” popularized by Vinnie Barbarino in the TV show Welcome Back, Kotter. Over time each generation has introduced its own slang. But unless you are a real “dork”, you probably won’t be using most of those slang words – unless you want to get that look of “When were you born?”
Those expressions are innocent anachronisms from our youth. But there are also words we consider vulgar and offensive and those too change over time. For example, when my son was elected 2003 senior class president in high school, he ended his acceptance speech with “We’re going to have a “badass” year!” Well, that didn’t go over well – except with his classmates – and he was disqualified. He knew it wasn’t acceptable, but in his defense, he argued words considered unacceptable are always changing. (The same can be said about what you can wear to school. I remember when boys couldn’t wear jeans and girls had to wear skirts.)
Today we may accept the use of “badass” – or maybe not? But what is difficult to accept for many of us is the excessive use of words we find offensive. I know many friends who won’t watch certain television shows because of all the swear words – particularly the use of “bleep” which seems to be common in entertainment and music these days, Once I tried to watch who I heard was considered a popular cutting edge young comedian on Netflix, but I couldn’t get past the first five minutes. If I was in the audience, I would have been squirming in my seat. It was just too much of a bad thing. Maybe you have had similar situations.
When we were young, we weren’t so direct. We used euphemisms for words that were considered vulgar: “What the fudge”, “dagnammit”, “Jiminy cricket”, “Oh, shoot”. I remember being shocked when my 8th-grade football coach told a lineman to keep his “butt” up. In my family, we didn’t use that word!
What language we think is “cool” and what we think is vulgar is different for each of us and each generation. We may feel that the freedom of speech to say anything you want has gone too far and just isn’t right, but it isn’t the end of the world. Words we consider offensive today will lose their power to offend, and new words will take their place. It wasn’t that long ago when the public was shocked to hear Rhett Butler end “Gone With The Wind” with the famous line “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
Brain Tease: You’re escaping a labyrinth and there are three exits. Exit A leads to an inferno. Exit B leads to an assassin. Exit C leads to a lion that hasn’t eaten in 3 years. Which exit do you pick?
Because of Memorial Day, I submitted this column early so I will mention everyone who answered last week’s question next week.
in 1972 an American comedian used in one of his monologues the “seven dirty words”. For this week’s “Remember When” question who was this comedian and social critic? Email your answer to email@example.com, leave a message at 541-296-4788, or mail it with the forecast from the “hippy-dippy weatherman”.
Well, it’s been another week, trying to focus among all the distractions. Until we meet again, if you ever get down, there is always more than one way to get back up.
“If you feel you are doing as much at seventy as you did when you were twenty, you must have not been doing much at twenty.”
Answer: Exit C. If a lion hasn’t eaten in 3 years, it has definitely starved to death.