Language changes over time. Usually, we aren?t aware of the changes, we incorporate new words into our vocabulary all of the time. CDs, DVDs, MP3 players; all have entered common parlance and are almost universally known. Mention an LP or a 45 and you might get entirely different responses. If you speak of an LP, you might get a blank stare, while if you talk of a 45, the hearer is more likely to think of a pistol rather than a record. Record, you ask? Surely you haven?t forgotten those vinyl disks with recorded music on both sides. And does the old saw, ?he sounds like a broken record,? have any meaning in today?s society? Many members of the present generation have never seen a turntable or a cassette player. For that matter they have never used a rotary dial telephone, let alone seen one. Such things are artifacts of an earlier age.
Yet, even as language changes, vestiges of old usage remains with us, sometimes to the amusement of others. My daughter, Megan, always comments when I say I am going to town. ?Yup, yup, yup,? she says, ?gotta go to town to get supplies, Zebediah.? Having grown up in suburbia, the concept of going to town is alien to her. I suppose there are people in rural areas who still speak of ?going to town.? But I would guess the term would be used by a generation other than the present one. Going to town at one time meant going to the grocery store (no, it wasn?t a supermarket) and maybe to the drug store next to it; or the hardware just down the street. Normally a clothing store and a 5 and dime were within a few steps also. That was going to town. For the most part, such a situation no longer pertains. The town centers are largely deserted as malls and big box stores spring up on the outskirts. Hardware stores and 5 and dimes no longer exist. They have been forced out of business by large chain stores. And not very well, I might add.
As yet another Super Bowl approaches, I have to be mindful of my own vocabulary. I am not a sports fan, a fact looked upon as strange in this sports-minded society. I have learned a few catch phrases to get by, but I don?t honestly know what makes the quarterback so special or why a game of two 30-minute halfs can take up to 4 hours to play out; minutes of players standing around interspersed by 5 seconds of action. Despite this ignorance on my part, people still insist in trying to engage me in sports talk. If I am not pressed too keenly, I can get by without making an obvious faux pas like ?did you see how he double dribbled at the 40 yard line??. My wife, Judi, is proud of me for that.
Still, I have to disengage myself from the conversation as gracefully as I can, usually begging off with some excuse. Saying I have to go to town usually works.