Language Lost

Photo Lost Language

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do You Portmanteau?

Photo Portmanteau

Move over, Abba, Ikea and meatballs, there’s a new Swedish trend that’s cleaning up. Leave it to those Swedes; they are able to bewilder us and create a new fitness craze all at the same time. According to a recent issue of American Way (the American Airlines magazine), picking up litter while jogging (plogging) benefits the environment and your body all at once. In fact, ploggers burn 175 more calories an hour than mere joggers. Already popular in Europe, plogging is on its way to a jogging trail near you.

Which makes me wonder; is Sweden on to something? Maybe we should take multitasking to a new level by combining activities that have no reason to be intermingled and jumble them together just for the heck of it.

We can thank the French for the creation of words such as smog (smoke and fog) and motel (motor and hotel). Back in the 16th century the first portmanteau (two words combined into a new one) was spoken and the fascination of coining new words continues to this day.

Writing has always been known as a solitary endeavor. What would happen if you merged it with some free form hopping? Wopping might loosen you up, unlock your creativity and give you a cardio workout all at the same time. Still in the trial stage, some writer’s clubs have reported back that even though some volunteer woppers have experienced motion sickness and larger than normal paper cuts, they have all since bounced back and the research study continues.

Most likely, nothing good will come from trinking (texting while drinking). I imagine bars displaying signs with a big red line through this newly created word to remind its guests that one loose trink can alter your life. Somewhere, someone working out of their parents’ garage will come up with an Apple iPhone application that will be able to sense the alcohol level of the phone’s owner, have a black coffee delivered to its location, lock the phone and have Siri provide a lecture the next day about responsibility.

Psychologists interviewed were curiously optimistic about finging (fighting while singing). Now you would be able to get out your aggression in the musical style of your choice. Imagine two men in a parking lot, one scratched car and the sounds of Pavarotti and Snoop Dog echoing through the air. Couples counseling would take on the rhythm of a Broadway Show, with some husbands and wives actually breaking into a tap dance number. Fingers would be snapped, toes would be tapped and harmony would prevail.

In a perfect world, we would not need to link our words together. We could live life one word at a time, giving each one its due, articulating its meaning and savoring its uniqueness. A word to the wise; use your portmanteaus prudently.