Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Current Obsolete Idioms

I opened my mouth the other day and said to Tallest Son 'you're sounding like a broken record'. And stopped. He had no idea what a broken record sounded like. In fact I realize that some of my younger friends also have no idea. They might know what a skipping CD sounds like but a 'broken record'?

They never had to deal with the vinyl archane mysteries of changing the needle... or wonder of wonders 'the cartridge' or if worst came to worse, gluing a penny on the tone-arm head, any more than they had to learn how to deal with a wind-up grammophone or wax cylinder player.

Yet we continue to say such things as if they had any kind of meaning in the current world. People react as if they understand and thus the phrases continue to be used.

English is littered with phrases, current phrases, whose meaning has actually become virtual. A shared metaphor where people never actually had the physical connection with the thing or the sound, or the reality that spawned the phrase in the first place.

In radio... people asked 'are we rolling'? As far as I know, they still do, even though the recording medium is no longer tape going from one reel to another.

So I have now commented on two phrases that are obsolete in reality but still 'live' on our lips and tongues. Shall we talk about more of them, or haul out the recycling bin full of these old phrases? Are they still useful even though detached from reality?

And if we choose to let these obsolete old terms die a natural death well, English will just have to put that in its pipe and smoke it!

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