Oh, how our language has changed


Not too long ago a woman was driving in her grandson’s car. She was teasing him and said something about riding around with him in his jalopy. He looked at her and said, “What is a jalopy?” Then she knew she was old. This crazy term from the past used to mean an old, decrepit, maybe worthless car, which could be a money pit. It wasn’t a car compliment!
Now I’ve used the term, “money pit.” I should explain it’s not really a common saying. It means something of value which continually needs money to maintain it and that value may never be recoverable… like pouring money down a hole.
Back to the car names – unlike the jalopy, I remember my grandparents had a one-year-old 1954 Ford. It was light blue with black interior and had a big, long stick shift, which protruded from the floor between the front seats. My grandfather drove, my grandmother did not. When she needed to go somewhere she would ask him to get the “machine” ready. My brother and I used to laugh about the term, “machine.”
There are other terms from the past, which teenagers today might not recognize due to technology. It has changed everything. One of them was “don’t touch that dial.” Most of us haven’t touched a dial on a television for 30 or 40 years. We operate everything by remote control, when actually we really need that little bit of exercise of getting up out of our chair and going over to the television to make an adjustment. But now there are no dials to turn.
Then there was the term, “carbon copy.” That meant something that was exactly like the first one. Carbon paper was placed into the typewriter between two regular pieces of paper and the typing began. When the typist was done, there were two exact copies, thus a carbon copy. How backward that seems now when we can have 30 copies in a few seconds.
How about the statement, “you sound like a broken record.” That meant someone who just continued to say the same thing again and again. With old record players, when you had a broken record the needle would be stuck on something, possibly a scratch on the record, and it would just go around with the same sound coming out, never moving onto the next part. It was irritating. We don’t even have a turntable anymore, but we do still have some records with no way to play them.
There was also the term, “hung out to dry.” It usually meant someone who was deserted in a dangerous situation or left to take the blame. The whole expression is actually, “run through the ringer and hung out to dry.” That referred back to hanging clothes on the line, which would be dried by the sun and the wind instead of an electric dryer.
Now we come to the expression, “Gee whillikers!” It means surprise, amazement or serious frustration. It’s an old term, but actually I do still hear it today. It’s an outdated phrase, except I believe Robin used to say it to Batman.
Speaking of old expressions there’s also the woman who said, “I hate when people accuse me of lollygagging when I’m quite clearly dillydallying.”
Now finally we come to a time-honored expression, ”See you later alligator.” Even though it’s a statement from the past, I know a very smart little eight-year-old boy who today will always answer, “After while crocodile!”
(Melanie Behrens – melb@marysvillejt.com)

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