Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat! Language keeps changing

Jumpin' Jehoshaphat! Language keeps changing by Bob Karolevitz I was talking with a fellow the other day, and somewhere in the conversation he used the expression: "That's a fine kettle of fish." Right away I knew he was from my generation!

As he started to leave, I said: "See you in the funny papers."

That's when it dawned on me that the words and phrases we once used were as antiquated as we were.

"Heavens to Betsy," I thought to myself. "We said that when we were 'knee high to a grasshopper,' and we've been saying stuff like 'holey moley' and 'Jumpin' Jehoshaphat' ever since."

An article by Richard Lederer in AARP Magazine put that groovy, stilted lingo of yesteryear in perspective when he used phrases out of the past, like:

I'll be a monkey's uncle.

Remember the starving Armenians.

In like Flynn.

The cat's pajamas.

Kilroy was here.

Living the life of Riley.

You look like the wreck of Hesperus.

All the tea in China.

Don't take any wooden nickels.

Going like sixty.

Oh my aching back.

More than Carter has little liver pills.

Talk about cliches. He also used words like hunky-dory, peachy keen, real gas, hubba-hubba, bee's knees, fiddlesticks, tin lizzie, cut a rug, making whoopee, nincompoop and copacetic.

Teenagers wouldn't be caught dead uttering them now, unless they revived one. Even cool, fab and awesome are no longer considered language of the day among the younger set.

They say that something like 900 words are added to the English language each year. No wonder my dictionary is obsolete. I can't even do a crossword puzzle without knowing what's in common usage now.

"What's a blog?" I asked Phyllis recently. The lexicon of the dot-com age is, to say the least, frightening to me � but I'm doing my best to keep abreast of it.

I no longer talk of rumble seats, running boards, ice boxes, Victrolas, head pins, fountain pens, ink wells, etc. � unless I'm working on history. They are � in the words of Dick Lederer � as out-of-date as "spats, knickers, fedoras, poodle skirts and pedal pushers."

We might just as well say buggy whips, BVDs and high button shoes, to throw in a few things of my own.

And so I try to be as modern as I can. For instance, I now know what an iPod is, and blogging and other computer jargon doesn't throw me.

I'm comfortable with gigabytes and chat rooms, although I don't know what they are. However, every now and then I feel like retrogressing and saying things like "bigger than a breadbox" or "banned in Boston." I might even say "I'll take my jalopy to lover's lane for a bit of smoochin'."

That dates me, I understand, but not so much as if I said "deader than a door nail."

I don't know what that means either!

© 2005 Robert F. Karolevitz

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