We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
OLD WORDS AND PHRASES REMIND US OF THE WAY WE WORD by Richard Lederer
About a month ago, I illuminated old expressions that have become obsolete because of the inexorable march of technology. These phrases included don’t touch that dial, carbon copy, you sound like a broken record and hung out to dry. A bevy of readers have asked me to shine light on more faded words and expressions, and I am happy to oblige:
Back in the olden days we had a lot of moxie. We’d put on our best bib and tucker and straighten up and fly right. Hubba-hubba! We’d cut a rug in some juke joint and then go necking and petting and smooching and spooning and billing & cooing and pitching woo in hot rods and jalopies in some passion pit or lovers’ lane. Heavens to Betsy! Gee whillikers! Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat! Holy moley! We were in like Flynn and living the life of Riley, and even a regular guy couldn’t accuse us of being a knucklehead, a nincompoop or a pill. Not for all the tea in China!
Back in the olden days, life used to be swell, but when’s the last time anything was swell? Swell has gone the way of beehives, pageboys and the D.A.; of spats, knickers, fedoras, poodle skirts, saddle shoes and pedal pushers. Oh, my aching back. Kilroy was here, but he isn’t anymore.
Like Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle and Kurt Vonnegut’s Billy Pilgrim, we have become unstuck in time. We wake up from what surely has been just a short nap, and before we can say, “I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!” or “This is a fine kettle of fish!” we discover that the words we grew up with, the words that seemed omnipresent as oxygen, have vanished with scarcely a notice from our tongues and our pens and our keyboards.
Poof, poof, poof go the words of our youth, the words we’ve left behind. We blink, and they’re gone, evanesced from the landscape and wordscape of our perception, like Mickey Mouse wristwatches, hula hoops, skate keys, candy cigarettes, little wax bottles of colored sugar water and an organ grinder’s monkey.
Where have all those phrases gone? Long time passing. Where have all those phrases gone? Long time ago: Pshaw! The milkman did it. Think about the starving Armenians. Bigger than a bread box. Banned in Boston. The very idea! It’s your nickel. Don’t forget to pull the chain. Knee high to a grasshopper. Turn-of-the-century. Iron curtain. Domino theory. Fail safe. Civil defense. Fiddlesticks! You look like the wreck of the Hesperus. Cooties. Going like sixty. I’ll see you in the funny papers. Don’t take any wooden nickels. Heavens to Murgatroyd! And awa-a-ay we go!
Oh, my stars and garters! It turns out there are more of these lost words and expressions than Carter had liver pills!
This can be disturbing stuff, this winking out of the words of our youth, these words that lodge in our heart’s deep core. But just as one never steps into the same river twice, one cannot step into the same language twice. Even as one enters, words are swept downstream into the past, forever making a different river.
We of a certain age have been blessed to live in changeful times. For a child each new word is like a shiny toy, a toy that has no age. We at the other end of the chronological arc have the advantage of remembering there are words that once did not exist and there were words that once strutted their hour upon the earthly stage and now are heard no more, except in our collective memories. It’s one of the greatest advantages of aging.
There are numerous phrases which are still in circulation..."don't take any wooden nickels", "holey moley", "in like Flynn"...and the last time I heard "knucklehead" was a week or two ago...guess it depends on your companions!
First, a quibble. You can still get candy cigarettes. They are not called that, and one end isn't colored red anymore, and they don't have parodied names from real cigarettes, but they still come in a cigarette sized box with a fictitious name. They also have a bubblegum version with white paper wrapped around the gum. Tastes like Double Bubble to me, as opposed to Bazooka. I know because Mrs. feeblemind put some in my Christmas stocking. Perhaps they are illegal in some locales?
I still use the phrase, 'carbon copy'. Can't help it. I am a 20th Century man. Maybe the younger generations have no clue as to what I am referring?
One time I responded to a teenage girl by saying, "That'll make your braces light up and flash 'TILT'." I got a blank look. She had no idea what that meant and had never heard of a pinball machine.
I can think of one phrase to add to your list. "Pour on the coal", meaning to go as fast as you can.
As for single words, recall when women were dames or broads, and money was dough.
Speaking of old phrases not used anymore reminds me of reading Willa Cather's My Antonia several years ago. One of the Czech immigrants in the book says "I want you should do this," which I remember Slavic immigrants saying during my childhood, a half century ago and a half century after My Antonia was written. I have never heard the phrase in my adulthood. Similarly, Cather writes of "baching it," of an unmarried male setting up a household. I had heretofore only heard the phrase from my Great Plains grandmother.
I suspect that a lot of Biblical phrases commonly used in times past are not being used as much nowadays.
Gringo - yes, have heard, and used, "baching it" quite a bit over time, but usually in reference to a married male going it alone for a while while his wife was elsewhere (on travel, seeing family, etc).