My hairdresser looked at me quizzically. She didn’t know what dungarees were. When I pointed out they were the pants she was wearing, she nodded and said “…Oh, you mean jeans…” It made me wonder how many perfectly good words in our vocabulary have been left to languish and finally vanish over time.
As jeans stylishly faded, so did dungarees. Dungarees were named after the thick, cotton cloth exported from India to England during British colonial times. Jeans borrowed its name from Genoa, Italy a more recent source of cloth. Wearing jeans evokes sipping a cappuccino at a café in high heels with legs crossed. Dungarees conjures up sweating while shoveling manure in the barn.
The dicky (also spelled dickie or dickey) began as a shirt front worn with a tux in the early 1900s and by the late 1900s transformed into a turtleneck sweater without the sweater. The over the head addition to any wardrobe created less bulk, both on the wearer and in his closet. Thought to be a classic fashion trend, you would be hard pressed to find even one Dicky of the Month club nowadays.
No one is sure how calf length trousers got their start or their name back in the 1950s. Rumor has it that no designer wanted their name associated with these pants that all of a sudden stopped midstream down your leg. Whether you called them pedal pushers or clam diggers, the short pants or long shorts just didn’t make the cut.
Culinary terms can also evaporate. The Jell-O salad jiggled its way onto everyone’s table until sneaky cooks started hiding yesterday’s leftovers in it. Fondue warmed our hearts until double dippers gave us concern for germs.
The biggest disappointment to me, personally, is the disappearance of Pig Latin. An easy to understand, made up language, it served its rightful purpose whenever speaking in code became necessary. No apps, language classes or tutors necessary; just transfer the first letter of a word to the end and add the suffix “ay.” Any boar can say “…Let’s meet at seven…,” but state it as “…Etslay eetmay taay evensay..” and you will really hog the conversation.
There’s no one stopping us from adopting a few of our favorite extinct words and casually dropping them into a sentence or two during the course of the day. Who knows? This could start a new trend of vintage vocabulary.