When I signed into my account on Walmart.com this morning to reorder a prescription, it asked me for my date of birth. I had to scroll twice on the drop-down menu to find the year I was born.
In other words, I’m getting a bit long in the tooth.
If I were to use that phrase around my youngest niece, who is nine, she would respond the way she did the last time I visited and said something else that was dated. I can't remember what it was, but it's not important.
“Uncle Lee, you are so old school.”
How could I disagree?
All of us grew up using certain words or phrases that have been replaced by the next generation (or two). I’m not referring to slang, though each generation has its own slang as well. Instead, I’m talking about commonly accepted words or phrases that have been replaced, or changed. A motion picture is now a movie. Decoration Day is now Memorial Day. Junior high school is now middle school.
My grandmother used to refer to Decoration Day because that’s what it was called when she grew up. And even though a federal law changed the name to Memorial Day in 1967, she never referred to it as such. How could she? She was 52 when they decided to rename the holiday.
But that didn’t stop me from being confused as a child whenever she referred to it by its former name. For a while, I thought it was two distinct holidays, but as we were decorating graves one year, it hit me – Decoration Day is Memorial Day. I asked her if she knew when the name changed and she didn’t, probably because it didn’t matter to her.
Technology, styles, language, cultural norms – they all change so quickly. If you ask to see a photo of me from the 1980s, you'll see that my wardrobe was mostly Bike shorts and long tube socks. I don’t wear either any longer, but I have to tell you – modern shorts that nearly touch my ankles will never feel right.
Most of us reach an age when we stop trying to keep up. And I get that. I am close to that point right now regarding technology, styles and cultural norms. But I don’t want to get to that point regarding language – especially as a writer. I want to be able to talk to younger generations using terms they understand.
Now I just have to figure out how to retire the phrase “long in the tooth.” Maybe I should just say I’m getting old. Every generation would understand that.
Lee Warren is a freelance writer and editor who has written twelve non-fiction books, one novella and hundreds of articles for various newspapers and magazines as well as edited more than 50 books that currently appear in print. He's a fan of NASCAR, baseball, tennis, books, movies and coffee shops.
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