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Whatever Happened To... ?

Our language changes over time and we lose words

I was sitting along the edge of the river last week with a long-time friend, enjoying a lovely day after the horrible storm. We got to talking about words you don't hear much any more—you know words, like "lumbago" or "rheumatism." Nobody complains of those ailments any more (I wonder—were they cured by all those Flintstone Vitamins we took as kids?)

My buddy and I came up with quite a list of words we don't here around Nyack anymore. When is the last time you saw a car on Main or Broadway with "fender skirts?" If you wanted to be a cool-cat at NHS, your wheels better have had "skirts." Also missing are "curb feelers" and "steering knobs." They're gone.

How about "continental kits," those rear bumper extenders for the spare tire? They didn't do a thing for my old Nash Rambler. (Also gone.) How about my grandfather's car that had "running boards"? I guess too dangerous to hang off the side of the old "fliver" like we did.

Oh yes, an old question I have heard around: when did the emergency brake become the parking brake? And one more car term long-gone: "gooey-go" transmissions. I used to pay extra for them.

One of the terms I don't see in the paper any more is "wall-to-wall carpeting;"  Back when I was a kid, everybody simply had rugs. W2W meant your were rich!

Another term is "store-bought:" just about everything today is bought in a store, sure, but years ago we wore "hand me downs" and "hand-made" clothes. I even remember a special occasion when "store-bought cookies" were served. Does anyone bake cookies anymore?  If you do, invite me over... please?

You know a word I really miss? "Percolate." It was fun just saying it, let alone the memories it brings back of the coffee pot on my grandmother's stove. Mmmm, did that smell good along with the oatmeal cookies in the oven. 

How about the term "grabbing a sandwich"? Now days we "do lunch"—boring. You know what else is missing? "Lunch pails" or "lunch buckets." And, finally, my favorite missing word: "supper." Does anybody eat supper today? No—we have dinner, and it's not the same.

So, a plea from me: do an old Nyacker a favor and save a great word. Invite a friend to supper and discuss emergency brakes and "unmentionables."

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Cari Kimberley September 11, 2011 at 08:46 PM
I still refer to non-home made cakes and cookies as store bought! My sister was always jealous of other kid's fancy store bought cakes (which tasted like crap). For me, it's a rare bakery who can out bake me or my mom - and now, my 12 year old!
art gunther III September 12, 2011 at 05:18 AM
Excellent column, Jim

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