In conversation with a colleague a few days ago, the phrase “jumping the shark” came up. Its origins are obvious to “Happy Days” fans who remember the show’s declining years; but for others, it’s just a colorful term for finally going over the edge in a misguided effort to attract attention. The discussion set me thinking about other references that seem clear to us today but that might become obscure phrases in the vernacular of future generations.
I’m not talking so much about references to obsolete items, which become apparent in such questions as, what in the world does “dialing” or “hanging up” have to do with a smartphone? What exactly do you mean by “typing”? You say “CC” stands for “carbon copy”? What is that—a lightweight version made of carbon fibers?
The examples go on for a generation’s worth of irrelevance, from “coffee-table book” to “clothespin.” But beyond outdated references, other phrases simply become a part of our language from the way they were used initially. Here are a few examples of such terms from technology and media that our grandkids may use every week in a broader sense than their initial meaning:
Terms from technology
- To tweet: (v.) To constantly feel the need to report in to a spouse or boss and an obsession with ensuring that all your colleagues know exactly where you are, every minute of the day.
- Blogger: (n.) Someone who chooses to communicate through the written word, rather than by voice or through gesture-based interfaces, thus making the individual appear to be out of date, isolated, and (ironically) a nerd.
- Site (or Hub): (n.) Any place where an individual digitally collects and shares his personal information and entertainment materials, whether in a 10,000 gigabyte wristband, a wearable tablet or other device that constantly downloads customized data from the cloud to present to the user without what we used to call a Web interface.
1. (v.) To lay out one’s wardrobe in preparation for getting dressed. 2. (n.) A compulsion–like that of graffiti artists of previous generations—to fill the surfaces of walls, refrigerators and windows with images and collages.
- Emailer: 1. (n.) A Luddite; someone who resists technological change. 2. (n.) An individual who slows or clogs a process; someone who is not a “team player”
Phrases from media
- The tribe has spoken: 1. An indication that the individual has failed in an endeavor. 2. A request that someone leave the premises.
- It’s a singing competition: The devotion of excessive time, energy, talent and/or explanation to efforts that are unrelated to achieving a group’s predetermined goal.
- Penny, Penny, Penny!: An exclamation indicating the need for immediate help from a neighbor or from a party with which the individual has a relationship agreement.
- Whaddaya got, Abbs? 1. A request for lab results. 2. A general expression of kinship between individuals with dissimilar personalities.
- Wednesday is Halo night: A phrase in response to any attempt to change the status quo or to reorder priorities.
Surely it won’t be long before the origins of these terms become a complete mystery, so let’s enjoy them now with the smug satisfaction that we’ll at least know something that our grandkids don’t.