Which ages faster: words or people?

lovebirds talking

Twitter: the old version. Image courtesy of Alexa, Pixabay.

I’m in a stationary store the other day, looking for some birthday cards to buy for some of my relatives. I come across these cards that talk in a teasing way about what you’re supposed to do and to not do when you get older. One of them mentioned that after a certain age, you’re not supposed to use the word “cool” to describe things that are clever, interesting or awe-inspiring.

Now since it is my constitutional right to say whatever I want (within reasonable limits of decency, at least), I’m continuing to use the word “cool” whenever I want. So there, birthday card store! Take that!

But IS there a certain age when it does sound ridiculous for you to be using a certain word? To my mind, words definitely mark an era. I associate “groovy” and “Right on!” with the 1960s and “awesome” with the 1980s.

I know that words go across international borders, whether by electronic means such as computers and television or by humans talking with one another. Years ago when I was traveling in the U.K., I heard some Brits using the word “mental” to describe someone else’s odd behavior in a certain situation. And then I started hearing it over here in the U.S. on a regular basis.

Words go in and out of fashion, it seems. One person starts using a certain word and others adopt it. The word then becomes a common term and goes into the dictionary. After a few decades or so, fewer and fewer people use it and the word mostly fades from public consciousness, except for a few diehards.

Before words like “texting” came along, characters in books had conversations. Now texts are occasionally integrated into book plots to add humor, summon help if a character’s in imminent danger or help two characters talk with each other.

And what of sign language such as American Sign Language (ASL) or British Sign Language (BSL)? Does a certain sign representing a word go through the same word fashion cycle until most people stop using it for communication? I wonder.

Have we lost the art of a fine conversation with all our gadgetry? I’m no Luddite, but I miss real conversation because it doesn’t seem to happen so much anymore. (And maybe that’s why we have blogs for those back-and-forth conversations?)

One of the greatest pleasures in life is talking with an expert who really knows his/her topic or having a group conversation in a relaxed environment (living room or quiet restaurant) where everybody contributes their own viewpoints for consideration and discussion. (Guess that’s why people start events at Meetup.com.) Oh, well.

Blog readers, your thoughts?

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20 Comments

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20 responses to “Which ages faster: words or people?

  1. I’m concerned about words I can no longer use because of their new connotative meanings. It’s tough to teach Wordsworth and cohorts and avoid “gay” and “frisky” used to mean playful, and so it goes. No one shall remove “cool” from my lexicon no matter my age.

  2. I agree that it’s one of life’s greatest pleasures but there certainly is a dearth.

  3. Quiet restaurant? That’s so 50s! I’d love to find one of those. It would be “cool.”

  4. Real conversations for us happen when we are with those real friends we don’t get to see so much. Our generation has conversations. Unfortunately, our kids don’t seem to know how. Too many electronic devices, too few hours spent just talking to living people. I have no idea how or if they will manage to sustain long term relationships. Forget marriage. Just simple friendship seems to be outside their understanding … and I’m not kidding about this. My granddaughter is definitely relationship-challenged. And so are the people with whom she (occasionally) hangs out. They don’t even seem to know HOW to hang out.

  5. Using certain words can certainly lock you into a time. I try to make a point of not using buzz words.

  6. birthday cards to words to “modern” words to conversation…hmm. Makes me want to also come over and sit and exchange viewpoints for a couple of hours. My husband and I were just in the store also attempting to pick a birthday card for his niece – and ended up with a silly idea to make a goofy video about it, which we sent to her instead of a card. (if we were having a nice meal, or a coffee, that is where you would probably ask about the short film’s content) Oh, and I love how you put the difference between real conversation and speaking through typing: “whether by electronic means such as computers or televisions or by humans talking to each other.” Did you intend a slight tone about differentiating in that statement? (sigh, unfortunately I have to wait for the computer to transport electronically your typed message to know, rather than be humanly present and talking). Anyway, since I’m a little impatient, I’ll respond already and tell you that I wholeheartedly agree! I think face to face communication, with real conversation, is a dying art that modern human beings are losing: and we really need it back.

    • With that statement about electronic means and conversation, I was talking more about how words don’t stay in one place and how they often cross borders.

      Love the idea of a birthday video — how fun!

  7. This post is totally rad. As a historical fiction writer, I love the fact that the words we use evolve and change so rapidly. It makes the huge task of recreating a world no one remembers a little more manageable. The trick is introducing words in such a way that the reader can glean their meaning and trust that the author knows what she’s doing.

  8. “Cool” like rebel James Dean, Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn’s styles will always seem current somehow.
    Word do morph with the times. (Did you learn the vocabulary word “niggardly” from Dicken’s “Great Expectations”? From Europe – the Middle Ages – it had a character establishing meaning/usage that had nothing to do with skin color)
    It was easier to have discussion and conversations when you didn’t have to worry about the alternative meanings of every little word – and when people would listen to wrods in context, use exact vocabulary, and weren’t looking to be offended ( which means anger which means not listening at all to what is trying to be said)
    At the current rate, we’ll be back to pictures shortly.
    Intriguing point about sign language changing with the times. There’s bound to be slang – if there’s kids involved there’s slang and rude, surly “talk” – it’s their job to do that HA HA

  9. Terri

    I always use “awesome!” (child of the 80’s here) and “groovy!” Perhaps I have no idea what decade I’m in :/

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