Friday, January 25, 2008

Did You Get The Word?

When I wasn’t looking, some words disappeared - like haberdasher. In 1960 we stopped needing a name for someone who sells men’s hats. That’s when John F. Kennedy went hatless to his inauguration. That’s when men stopped wearing hats. When women went to work in a man’s world, they stopped wearing hats. That’s when we stopped needing milliner, a name for someone who sells ladies hats.

Caps are the thing now - baseball caps. Printed with names of businesses, sports teams and vacation spots, baseball caps are heads-up advertising. Considering the number of men who wear caps inside, it’s no longer bad manners. Considering the number of men who wear caps backward, they no longer look in mirrors.

Galoshes are high, warmly lined overshoes. People don’t wear galoshes anymore. They wear boots. Women wear fashionable, leather boots with three-inch heels. These boots may be made for walking - but not far.

Penny loafers are gone too. Maybe they’re out of style because of inflation. Maybe penny pinchers should be nickel pinchers. Maybe bright as a penny isn’t as much of a compliment.

My grandmother loved compliments on how she looked and she loved to gussie up for special occasions. My generation used to dress up for special occasions, but not anymore. Dress down Fridays have spread through the week. Dressing has become so casual that soon you won’t see the sign "Shirts and Shoes Required" on restaurants. You’ll just see those words on formal invitations.

You think you see house painters, but you don’t. What you see are "colorists". A colorist recently colored our home with butter yellow and silver spruce. When I asked him to color the bathroom white, you’d think I’d said a four-letter word.

House painters are gone and they’ve taken dancers with them. Dancers are movement artists now. That’s fine - unless it interferes with Christmas. Would Santa want Movement Artist pulling the sleigh?

Some words have been changed. Others are new. Ringtone, spyware and supersize are on the list of almost one hundred new, Merriam-Webster-approved entries for 2006. Okay, where’s the list of old entries - ones that have fallen out of favor and may fall out of use - like "belt". Yes, I mean a strip of leather worn around the waist. The younger generation of males doesn’t use belts. Their pants precariously hang on their hips. The future of the word belt may hang there too.


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