Words Long Gone - and Sorely Missed

Previously I’ve written about words that are still being used though with different meanings, but I’ve been thinking about others that have disappeared entirely from our vocabularies. For example, when I was learning to drive, my dad would say, “don’t be so heavy on the foot pedal.” I don’t remember when the term accelerator took the place of foot pedal.

I still tell people I use the emergency brake. Today, it is referred to as the parking brake. Somehow, the word emergency made me feel safe, as though I had something to fall back on if things went wrong.

Remember when commentators rather than newscasters announced they were bringing us all the latest happenings from coast to coast? Walter Winchell’s radio show comes to mind. He opened with, “Good evening Mr and Mrs America, from coast to coast and all the ships at sea.” Today, the term coast to coast is obsolete. World-wide has taken its place, and I wouldn’t be surprised if one day the term inter-galactic comes into use.

Growing up, my bubbie made many of my clothes. The terms store bought and ready made, not heard these days, was used to describe the outfit a person got for that special occasion, purchased in a department store rather than made on the old Singer at home.

And when was the last time you heard the term wall to wall when referring to carpeting? Back in the 50’s, everyone covered their wood floors with it. What a luxury! Today, people are ripping out their wall to wall and replacing it with hardwood floors. Some things just don’t seem to make sense.

Today it isn’t unusual to hear the word pregnant on TV or radio. Polite people never used that word when I was growing up. In a family way was much more appropriate. As a young child, I’m sure I found the phrase confusing.

In school, we were forced to take gym which is now called P.E. or physical education. Gym used to include climbing ropes, going across bars and hopping over an apparatus called a buck. Today, it’s softball and soccer and even dance. And I believe kids wear street shorts when they go to these classes. I’m sure they wouldn’t know what I am talking about if I told them I had to wear bloomers.

Apparently brassiere is a word no longer in use. It's just bra now. If I were to mention the word unmentionables to my grandkids, they wouldn’t have a clue as to what they are. Words such as boxers, briefs, thongs etc. are now commonly used, even in mixed company. So of course we can’t refer to undergarments as unmentionables when they’re mentioned all the time.

The English language may have changed a lot, but I will continue to refer to my wall to wall and use my emergency brake. Who knows what emergency I may be preventing when I do?


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