Dear Ides of March,
It may be tempting fate to say it, but I am not scared. Not the least bit wary. Should I be? How did an expression that originally meant “Look out Caesar! You’re gonna get stabbed today!!” turn into some kind of universal superstition about March 15th? Ok, I wouldn’t call it a universal superstition – it’s not like the average person gets out of bed today and worries that a ladder’s gonna fall on them, or their cat’s gonna develop a cocaine habit, or that the milk that was juuust this side of fresh yesterday will SUDDENLY TURN WITH A VILE AND PUTRID VENGEANCE. “Beware the ides of March” is something only your Nana says anymore, to no consequence whatsoever. (Except for a roll of the eyes and a mental note to start doubling her meds.) Yup, “the Ides of March” can pretty confidently be added to the pile of obsolete expressions without too much worry that it’s going to spring back into vogue any time soon.
(…unless toga parties regain their 70s appeal. According to Wikipedia, in Rome the Ides are celebrated with an annual toga sprint through the streets, and there’s nothing like a boyish frat prank to make me fear for my life! I don’t know about you, but an all-male street riot with optional bed sheets would give me MORE than enough reason to “beware” – I’ve lived through St. Patrick’s Day in midtown Manhattan.)
Anyway, I was thinking the other day about obsolete expressions: phrases like “radio silence” that, by virtue of the ever-accelerating march of time and progress, will be entirely meaningless to any person born after 1990. They may use the expression, in air quotes, as a quaint tip of the hat to their parents’ generation, but they will have no visceral sense of what it actually means. Not that that’s a bad thing – I mean why would they need to? Radio barely exists for ME anymore (aside from a few local or indie stations that I REALLY wish I could arm with enough money and wattage to blow the morning cockjocks and adult contempo shitpeddlers off the airwaves for good.) But I digress.
It was less a thought about linguistic nostalgia, and more about becoming aware that expressions I use with some – ahem – frequency (ie I repeat myself – like a certain parent I could name) are becoming extinct. Basically, the cognizance gap between me and the Millennials is widening, and into that gap is falling all kinds of sayings and figures of speech that shoot off bright metaphorical fireworks spelling out “OLD LADY HERE! DON’T SPEAK TOO LOUD OR EXPECT ME TO UNDERSTAND DONKEY PUNCHING!! JUST TURN ON DR. PHIL AND HAND ME A TUB OF ACTIVIA!!”
(The Millennials are the kids under 25, right? I can never remember if they’re separate from Gen Y or not. Either way, whoever thought of that label shafted an entire generation. You think “Generation X” is bad? “The Millennials” sounds like a straight-to-video buddy flick starring Chris Kattan and Keifer Sutherland as aliens who perform vaudeville in space.)
So yeah. I’ve been getting pretty cozy with my mortality lately. In its honor, I’ve assembled a list of expressions that, to me, represent the border of comprehension between my generation and the next; expressions that will drop dead right when we do* (then probably rise again once the Sexicentennials – or whatever the following generation will be called – discovers retro-irony and starts wearing Skechers the way 20-somethings today wear sweater vests and monocles.)
*Btw, it’s much harder to think of expressions that the next generation won’t get than cultural references – if it was a cultural literacy test I was after, I’d need go no further than one of the 3,000 facebook groups called You know you were a child of the 80s if you had a crush on Skeletor and wanked off to a Muppet . Finding figures of speech is MUCH harder. Just so you appreciate what I’ve done here…
- Radio Silence (now a modern classic!)
- Rolodex (as in “Open my Rolodex and help yourself to a cigar”)
- “Doing” lunch (I’m pretty sure lunchtime cuddling has supplanted lunchtime sex among the young)
- To “nuke” something (as in “I need to nuke this tomato soup; it’s a threat to our national security”)
- Dial Tone (as in “I’d like to paint my bathroom walls Dial tone, to match the soap”)
- Reasonable facsimile (as in “Saying that a document is ‘like the original’ is a reasonable fax simile.”)
- To “crunch numbers” (in the future all numbers will be smooth, like peanut butter)
- American Craftsmanship (ha!)
- Writing in “cursive” (redundant; in the future, written language will consist exclusively of swear words)
- “Telemarketing” (instead of marketing by phone, it will refer to buying groceries using one’s holographic avatar)
- To “carbon someone” (as in “I don’t know how to use this bong. Please carb me on it.”)
- Going postal (once postal mail is obsolete we’ll all be free to antagonize ourselves!)
Being the pretentious logophile that I am, a part of me actually enjoys the idea that someday no one will be able to understand what the hell I’m saying. My outdated witticisms will make me and my contemporaries seem wise, mysterious… adorably senile. It’ll be like having a generation-specific version of creepy twin language, or Vulcan! (Actually it’ll probably sound more like Vulcans speaking English – they do it with such a sexy, stoic formality, am I right?) I’ll be the cantankerous (but funny!) great aunt who all my nieces and nephews bring their friends to interview for their Technology Pre-History class. I’ll say “Speak through my ear chip; I can’t hear you! It’s like radio silence in here!” and they’ll laugh, recharge my electric heart, and fill my IV bag with bourbon (“Irished up” with a little whisky.) And once their kids are old enough, they’ll rediscover the quaint joys of speaking like an 80-year old in skinny jeans and Uggs. And me? I’ll just smile and tell them all about the Ides of March Riots of Twenty-Ott-Twelve.