The written language is the benchmark of whether a civilization is considered to be intelligent or not. If archeologists can’t find a written record left behind, an extinct society is often deemed “primitive” or “less developed intellectually.”
What did these drawings really mean? Was this an outhouse or a temple? We just don’t know. We could compare it to someone 1,000 years from now finding the installation sheet for a piece of my cheap press board furniture (okay, bad example, no one can understand those).
The point is, communication should unite – not divide us. (Everybody hold hands now.) Koombaya.
Not so fast amigo. Add the generational barrier to the geographical barrier and things get really hairy.
Take slang, as an example. In one fell swoop, slang sets the pre-adult generation apart as the most modern and popular (“Hip”, “Cool”, or “In” as my generation would have said). And at the same time it ensures the generation gap will always exist.
This confusion also applies in reverse. Read a 100 year old book and you’ll be asking:
What the heck does all-overish mean? What about Boodle? Having a brick in your hat? Didoes? Gallnipper? Honey-fuggled? Smile? (Not what you’d think) Hooter? (Definitely not what you think).
And doesn’t it really bug you when the author slips in a few lines in a foreign language – but there’s no secret decoder ring?
To make matters worse, the human brain can only absorb about 2 decades of slang. I know this to be true because I am 46 and have been “clueless” for some time now. (50 to 100 years ago, I would have been “adrift”.)
And don’t think you can fake it to fit in, either. If you are over 40, the speaking apparatus just can not form the current slang sounds in such a way as to sound anything but stupid. It’s the law of the Slang Gods.
Don’t despair! Maybe we can’t use the new words, but all we have to do to stay current is use a different tone or inflection on an existing word. Presto-chango – a snotty new slang word is born! Two examples of words that have been around forever but have continued to evolve are: “really” and “seriously”.
1950 – “Really” meant: “Is that really true? Tell me more.”
1990 – “Really” progressed to: “You’re stupid.” (Said sarcastically without a question mark.)
Today, “Really” means: “Not really.” (Very pronounced question mark, as if what you’re hearing is too dumb to believe.)
Seriously. (See “Really”)
It’s difficult for us older folks to keep up with all the nuances. My husband is a good example. He told me he was going to spend his day off cleaning the garage. I thought it made more sense to put up the blinds, towel bars and light fixtures we had been stock piling for the past year. We seem to be good at shopping but “not so much” on installing.
My response was – “Really?”
Did you hear it? Here- I’ll say it again-
I actually said that twice to him- in just that special “tone”.
And he completely did not get it. Each time he cheerfully replied “yes”, and went on to explain his plan.
Now, after using the “tone” twice, I had to let it go. If a tone is not picked up on twice in a row, it expires.
It occurred to me that my 49 year old husband must have reached some invisible tone barrier the Slang Gods have imposed. He can’t really be held accountable, so I chose to “shut-pan.”
What started out for me as “Really” (not really), became “Really” as in “Tell me more.” (By the way honey, the garage looks great!)
If you’re my age, and all this seems unfair – don’t worry. Some day these “young whipper-snappers” will be old and their speech will be out of date. Slang is the universal humbler.
Okay, here’s the secret decoder ring-
All overish- uncomfortable
Boodle- a group of people
Having a brick in your hat- being drunk
Dideoes- causing mischief
Gallnipper- a large mosquito
Honey-fuggled- to cheat or fool someone
Smile- a drink, or to take a drink (Hmmmm, the progression makes sense. Now we smile after we take a drink.)
Hooter- a tiny amount (Opposite of the modern expression “Would you take a look at those…”)
And finally, I’ll end by doing this: