Dated Words – Here Today Gone Tomorrow

This blog highlights popular expressions made obsolete as technology marches forward. For example, I used to joke that I had a photographic memory that wasn’t developed (which worked fine in the camera film era but not in digital days). Some joke that it’s hard for any Clark Kent to change into Superman in this cell phone age when he can’t find a phone booth

When a grandmother told her grandson she used to drive a Jalopy, he looked at her and asked, “What is a Jalopy?”

She said, “Heavens to Mergatroyd, you don’t know what a Jalopy is?”

He drew a blank again. Mergatroyd isn’t in Spellcheck. Google says the phrase is popularized by the cartoon character Snagglepuss on the Yogi Bear Show in the ‘60s but was used on the radio in 1944 by Bert Lahr, who played the cowardly lion in The Wizard of Oz. Mergatroyd was the family name of aristocrats living in Yorkshire, England in 1371, but no one knows how their name jumped to an American cartoon. Before Mergatroyd, it was “Heavens to Betsy!” or “Gee whillikers!” but I won’t go there.

Sometimes few years go by before such changes occur, but those unaware of earlier technologies look at us like we’re from a different planet. Other words or phrases becoming obsolete include, “Don’t touch that dial”, “You sound like a broken record”, or “You should be hung out to dry.” What?

It’s sad when familiar words enter archival museums to be replaced by space-age-and-beyond terms. To communicate with current and coming generations, we must bridge vocabulary gaps, or risk obsoletism like Gregg’s Shorthand (which I still enjoy), Cursive Writing, or Stick Shift cars which are endangered species. Thankfully our kids and grandkids can help us.

Language is alive and grows with the times. Perhaps we can part with outdated technology terms if we’re careful to embrace the new ones taking their place but still pay respectful homage to the past.

What little-known word or term do you still most wish to hang onto? One friend just replied, “it’s hard these days to ‘roll down a window’.” So true!

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