Pencil me in, on your iPod
Minor MusingsHave you ever thought about how many clichés don't make sense anymore? Often, the catch phrases we use were coined decades ago and have no interpretation in today's vernacular, yet we continue to say them, because trying to update them somehow just doesn't work.
Published: October 17, 2010
Published: October 17, 2010
For instance, if something has to be redone, I might say it's "back to the drawing board," and you'd know exactly what I mean even though hardly anyone uses an actual drawing board anymore. These days architects and engineers use computer software programs to design. But somehow "back to the AutoCad" just doesn't have the same ring.
If I say she "sounded like a broken record" people over 40 know exactly what I mean, what I mean, what I mean. But if you're under 40, you're more likely to think she's bragging about a marathon milestone. I could say, "catch you on the flip side," but unless you're familiar with old 45s it makes no sense.
In the 1960s and '70s, when I was growing up, we were proud to say "better dead than red." Then the Berlin Wall came down. Now, "better dead than red" is more likely the way Gators feel about the Crimson Tide.
Some phrases still make sense, sort of. Consider the clichés created in the heyday of railroads. My husband's father worked for Penn Central in the control tower. When he radioed an engineer to say "full steam ahead" they knew the track was clear to run at "full throttle." And when a 20-ton engine came barreling toward a crossing he knew he better not be "asleep at the switch."
In offices some people still ask for a "carbon copy" though no one has used carbon paper for years. Today we don't refer to something that came in "over the transom" because few even remember when offices had a little window over the door for ventilation and mail drops. Some still refer to "getting the pink slip," but today you could get sued for firing someone that way.
Many of our catch phrases are based on housekeeping, like being "put through the wringer" or "hung out to dry." No one has wringer washing machines these days; in fact our young people have probably never even seen one. And clotheslines? My mother still has one but she rarely uses it, and the guys who mow her lawn would love to sabotage the thing. Me? I'm "tied to her apron strings," though I haven't seen her in an apron since I was 10. Some phrases we use originated in the early days of movies and television. If things just come easy for him, he's "in like Flynn," referring to silent films leading man Errol Flynn who could do virtually anything. If we want to skip the boring part and get to the good stuff we request to "cut to the chase," because silent films often ended with an exciting chase seen. If something is colorful it's "in Technicolor." But actually, no one has used that film process for decades. "Film at eleven" used to mean exactly that, but today no one uses film. TV news is digital, and the "tube" no longer has a tube, but a flat screen.
Race car drivers still "put the pedal to the metal" but they don't "get cranking" like my grandfather did when he fired up his Model T.
Remembering the good old days is fun but not exactly the "best thing since sliced bread" (yes it really did come unsliced way back when.) But I'll "take a rain check" on that because "my dance card is full." (If you know the origin of those clichés, go to Minor Musings on Facebook and tell me about it.)