Disappearing Words


I haven’t thought about “fender skirts” in years.

When I was a kid, I considered it such a funny term.

Made me think of a car in a dress.

Thinking about “fender skirts” started me thinking about

other words that quietly disap­pear from our language

with hardly a notice — like “curb feelers” and “steering knobs.”

Since I’d been thinking of cars, my mind naturally went that direction first.

Remember “Continental kits?” They were rear bumper extenders,

and spare tire covers that were supposed to make any car as cool as

a Lincoln Continental.

When did we quit calling them “emer­gency brakes?”

At some point “parking brake” became the proper term.

But I miss the hint of drama that went with emergency brake.

I’m sad, too, that almost all the old folks are gone who would

call the accelerator the “foot feed.”

Did you ever wait at the street for your Daddy to come home,

so you could ride the “running board” up to the house.

Here’s a phrase I heard all the time in my youth but never

anymore — “store-bought.” Of course, just about everything

is store-bought these days. But once it was bragging rights

to have a store-bought dress, or a store-bought bag of candy.

“Coast to coast” is a phrase that once held all sorts of excitement,

and now means almost nothing. Now we take the term “worldwide”

for granted.

This floors me. On a smaller scale, “wall-to-wall” was once a magical

term in our homes. In the ‘50s, everyone covered his or her

hardwood floors with (WOW!) wall-to-wall carpeting! Today,

everyone replaces their wall-to-wall carpeting with hardwood floors.

Go figure.

When is the last time you heard the quaint phrase “in a family way?”

It’s hard to imagine that the word “pregnant” was once considered a

little too graphic, a little too clinical for use in polite company.

So we talked about stork visits, “being in a family way,” or simply expecting”

It’s hard to recall that this word was once said in a whisper — “divorce.”

And no one is called a “divorcee” anymore, certainly not a “gay divorcee.”

Come to think of it, “confirmed bach­elors” and “career girls” are long gone, too.

I always loved going to the “picture show,” but I considered “movie”

an affec­tation. Most of these words go back to the ‘50s, but here’s a

pure ‘60s word I came across the other day “rat fink.” Ooh, what a nasty put-down.

A word I miss — “percolator.” That was just a fun word to say.

And what was it replaced with? “Coffeemaker.” How dull. Mr. Coffee,

I blame you for this.

I miss those made-up marketing words that were meant to sound so

modern and now sound so retro. Words like “DynaFlow” and

“Electrolux.” Introducing the 1963 Admiral TV, now with “SpectraVision!”

Food for thought — Did something wipe out lumbago? Nobody complains

of that anymore. Maybe that’s what castor oil cured, because I never hear

mothers threatening their kids with castor oil anymore.

Some words aren’t gone, but are definitely on the endangered list.

The one that grieves me most is “supper.” Now everybody says “dinner.”

Save a great word. Invite someone to supper. Discuss fender skirts.

Someone sent this to me, and I thought some of us of a “certain age”

would remember many of these “old” words. How­ever, you may

want to think twice before showing this (or sending this) to your kids,

it might take quite awhile to explain all of these old words.

 — by author unknown


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