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Kamloops News

THOMPSON: 'Awesome' and other words that should be banned

April 26, 2021 - 12:00 PM



There are certain words in English that maybe we should no longer use, and others that we banished some time ago that maybe we should resurrect.

Language is organic and words come and go in our cultural lexicon. Last year, just over 900 words were added to the English language, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. We don’t bring many back, often with good reason they simply fall out of fashion.

A good example that will date you...and one not likely to ever make a comeback is...“mobile phone.” Except for the Michael Douglas character Gordon Gekko in the 1987 movie “Wall Street” phone sounds as silly as Gekko’s three-pound phone looks in a scene as he makes a call while walking on the beach. It’s so anachronistic - so distracting - that when I recently watched the movie...I actually laughed and had to rewind the movie to catch what the actors said.

Here’s another...“Rolodex.” The last time I thumbed through a Rolodex...George Herbert Walker Bush was president of the U.S. It’s one of those words all four of my grandchildren would burst into laughter if I said the word. Of course, I would have to explain to them exactly what a Rolodex was...and why I didn’t simply go to contacts on my iPhone.

And unless your last airline flight was to Los Angeles to see a youngish Terry Bradshaw lead the Pittsburgh Steelers over the L.A Rams 31-19, you probably shouldn’t use the word “stewardess”...or even worse...“perky stewardess.”

I haven’t used the word “groovy” since the early 70s, and even then I recall not feeling good about the last time I said it. I once wished “bell bottoms” would make a comeback...but if it came with “groovy” then I’ll pass. Also, let’s not say “far out”...largely because nothing seems “far out” today...we’ve pretty much seen it all by age ten.

The words “galoshes”, “Mackintosh” and “bumbershoot” will convince most Canadians you are either at least 90 years old...or perhaps playing in a re-make of “Mary Poppins” or “Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang.” Twenty years ago I asked about “galoshes” in a fine men’s wear store before finally walking out after confusing the young woman waiting on me...who gave me a look not unlike a dog hearing a high-pitched whistle.

I’m trying to no longer use the word “pocketbook” but being a man it’s not a regular term in my speech anyway. Apparently, “purse” is the more proper term today.

If you use the word “icebox” you probably say things like “whippersnapper” and “fiddlesticks”, as well...and are considered an “old fogey.” This just in...“old fogey” is as passé as the three previous words.

Don’t use “videotape” or “cassette tape” unless you are giving a tour in a museum of audio and video equipment...and never, never say “videotape” for recording on your iPhone or Samsung device. Kids and grandkids will wrinkle their noses and/or shake their heads.

The last time I used the word “dungarees” I was maybe 8 years old...and probably wore them the day I got my polio vaccine at school. “Dungarees” - not jeans - were sold at J.C. Penney and Sears...they were indestructible. You couldn’t put holes in them with a 12-gauge shotgun. You simply had to outgrow them...which was hard to do because your mom made you wear them “cuffed” the first couple of years.

My father called television the “boob tube”...but not until the 1970s when there was a plethora of bad programs. In the 1960s dad used a “clicker” to change channels...but in the 50s he would just summon me from my spot on the living room floor - approximately six feet from the screen - to hand-select one of the three channels he wanted on the “television set.”

I’ve struggled with another word for more than a decade...and I’d like to see it banned...“awesome.” People use it - especially young parents when their children do normal stuff - instead of thinking of more precise and appropriate words. Suffice it to say that synonyms for awesome include horrifying, frightening, overwhelming and maybe junior doesn’t always merit “awesome” for his latest escapade.

If you refer to the “world wide web” when talking with’re probably rarely online and your “peeps” know it. By the way, “peeps” a syllable-saving reference to people is just one of those words I think sounds stupid. I’m OK with “peeps” if you’re talking about those tiny marshmallows in the shape of chicks you see around Easter.

And if you use the terms “going steady” or “courting” or “necking” you probably aren’t in a new relationship and you likely haven’t every gone on Tinder, Bumble or OKCupid.

As for words that seem to have gone by the wayside...but get my vote for bringing them back...I like “décolletage” and “grumpish” and “deliciate”. They just sound cool...“cool” by the way is still cool more than 90 years after it came into fashion.

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines.

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