And away they go

Over the course of our lifetimes, most of us witness significant change in the world around us. In the late 1800s, travel across the country became more accessible with the completion of the transcontinental railway; in the first half of the 1900s, electric grids connected houses and telephones made communication easier.

In second part of that century, jumbo jet travel and household appliances such as microwaves, TVs, and refrigerators became commonplace. 

With each major innovation came new words and expressions. Consider ‘non-stop,’ which was first used as an adverb in the 1920s to describe railway trains, and ‘nuke,’ a verb referring to the use of a microwave emerged in the late 1980s.

Although each innovation become less novel over the years, some of their resulting expressions had staying power. For example, we clearly don’t ‘dial’ a phone anymore, but we still refer to the action of pushing numbers to call someone as ‘dialing.’ ‘Redial’ and ‘misdial’ were coined in the early 1960s as we moved from party lines to land lines.

There are, however, many terms that fall by the wayside with the each new technological advancement. According to a recent article in the New York?Times, we are currently living through “an era in which digital technology is transforming the underpinnings of human existence.” As someone living through it, I have to agree.

I often marvel at the fact that my teenage child will never remember a time when personal handheld computers didn’t exist. In fact, IMHO (just practicing my internet slang for ‘in my humble opinion’) most people under 30 won’t either.

Millennials will not remember replacing a typewriter ribbon, rushing home after a long day to excitedly check the answering machine, or worrying about the cost of a long distance call. These computer-driven changes will inevitably force us to say goodbye to some expressions that, at one time, seemed so deeply implanted in our lexicon that most of us never thought they would go.  

Just the other day while I was Face-timing a friend in Italy, my mom said “Mellissa, that long distance call is going to cost you a fortune!” My snarky response was, “Umm, mom. You’re referring to the olden days. This call is free.” Yep, that’s right—not only is paying for a long distance call no longer necessary in most cases, but the expression ‘long-distance call’ is becoming meaningless.

I recently came across an article on titled, “Words and Phrases that Will Show Your Age.” Unfortunately the young millennial writer was addressing her message to me, an aging Gen X-er. If you find yourself asking questions like, “Did you tape the Golden Globes?” it’s likely that you’re pushing 50. Hint: nowadays they record or DVR shows, or just catch them later on Netflix or YouTube. Along these lines, the words ‘videotape’ and ‘VCR’ are also on their way out. 

The author went on to define more waning terms. Now with all of our loved-ones saved under contacts, there is no need to separate lovers or work colleagues from friends. We can simply color-code them or add a picture or song next to their number.

In other words, if you haven’t already, it’s time to say goodbye to the ‘little black book’ and your ‘Rolodex.’ Sure, some hipster store might stock one of these items as a throwback to the 70s, but come on, how long will that be funny?

Sadly, we also need to part with one of my longtime childhood companions, the ‘Walkman.’ People of my generation occasionally slip up, and when in a hurry, we might blurt out, “Where’s my Walkman?” but shame quickly sets in and we usually try to recover with, “I mean iPod.”

Unfortunately, we can’t win on this one. The terms ‘IPod’ and ‘MP3’ are also outdated. To be honest, I don’t even know what to call a portable music device anymore because all of my music is on my phone!

Computers have also rid the world of the dreadful, ‘Dear John letter.’

Coined in World War II, this was named for the breakup letter from a soldier’s girlfriend. John was one of the most common boy’s names of the era, and it’s safe to assume that many Johns (and others) received such news weeks, or months, after the sentiment was penned. Nowadays, there is no delivery wait time on heartbreak. A text or email does the job in an instant. 

By the way, Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers, keep in mind that some of the new expressions are already considered old. Beware saying something like, ‘surf the web’ or ‘webcam.’ It’s better not to get used to expressions that simply aren’t staying.

Also, stay tuned (no, not the original sense of don’t change the radio dial during this brief advertisement) for more changes to words you thought you could use freely. Time to check the new meanings of ‘poke,’ ‘feed,’ ‘tag,’ ‘viral,’ and ‘troll’ and take solace in the fact that in 30 years, the millennials will, no doubt, be in the same boat as we are


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