Aging Out of the English Language

A photograph of a man dressed in old style clothing and a man in new style clothing

PrintFriendlyCustom BookmarkEmailFacebook

This coronavirus is turning me paranoid. I stay at home with all the doors and windows closed. The drapes are pulled, and I only part them a nanometer to see if a cloud of round, knobby germs might be rumbling down my block.

I haven’t had a haircut since this pandemic began, so I find myself frequently staring into my mirror to see what I look like. I’ve decided I’m a cross between the Duck Dynasty guys and ZZ Top.

Maybe you’ve done the same and decided you might look better – a euphemism for younger – with a few minor changes. Nothing too obvious. A new hair tint, maybe. Just a scootch of Botox, perhaps.

Didn’t the eye doctor suggest an eyelid tuck? Well, if I go that far, how about a jawline lift? And a teeny, tiny bit of liposuction.

Pretty soon, you’re looking and feeling much better – read younger. Now you can go outside safely, just like all those 20-somethings you’ve seen on the news, shoulder-to-shoulder in packed dive bars, flouting social distancing.

Match With These Providers

On second thought, maybe not. Nonetheless, you’ll be able to re-emerge from your personal lockdown a new person. Never again will youngsters call you a senior citizen, a seasoned citizen, an old-timer, a geezer or any of the 100 or so pretty negative names the dictionary lists for someone of your advanced age.

You can probably pull it off, until you open your mouth.

Drive your Chevy to the levee, and just say “groovy” as you compliment a millennial on his shiny, brand-new ride. You’re dinged!

Listen to a 20-something tell a story about something really interesting that’s happened to them, even if you can’t understand half of what they’re talking about, and exclaim, “Far out!”

You’re immediately tagged not as a kindred spirit but as a creaky fan of the late, great John Denver, who’s been singing high tenor in the Choir Celestial for a few decades now.

Let’s face it, any cross-generational conversation is a minefield. If you want to praise something by calling it “primo,” you’re secondo. Report on some extraordinary event or occurrence as “outta sight” and you’re outta luck.

Perish the thought that you should refer to a young couple – of any admix of genders – as “going steady.” Is that something that permits them to French kiss?

And it gets worse. One outmoded expression leads to another, and, before long, you’ll be jabbering in a lingo that could only recall those wasted years parked in front of “the tube” – Hint: TVs don’t have tubes anymore – fixated on “American Bandstand.”

If you’re as interesting a person as you believe you are, a youthful companion might just overlook your musty slang and label you “dope.” That’s not “a drag.” That’s a compliment.

As for me, I’ve already laundered my language. No idiom, argot or vernacular for me. I’ll speak naught but the queen’s English as a man of my senescence ought. I shall bear my years proudly.

On the other hand, maybe a shaved head and a colorful tattoo would do the trick.

Feedback On This Story

* Required fields