As You Like It: Just Ring That Up For MeBy Joan Florek Schottenfeld
Nostalgia is a dirty word when you’ve reached a certain age — especially when your past has become a playground for the younger set. People go to parties dressed in ’60s costumes (hey guys, that was what I wore every day) and the latest movies extol how much fun getting dressed in the ’70s was. You can buy all kinds of tech equipment disguised as their old-fashioned counterparts, and at various times it almost seems like vinyl records are making a comeback. But recently I came across an article that reminded me how, though my best days may be behind me, the old vocabulary is still hanging around front and center.
I enjoy exploring the social media news site Mashable.com. It’s a hodgepodge of colorful graphics, the latest tech news, and fun stuff to discuss around the water cooler if you have one. My latest find is an article by Yohana Desta called 9 Old Fashioned Tech Terms You Still Use Today. Desta takes a technical slant on the origins of words. Usually we have no idea where our words originated. But these are nostalgia words for many of us — not only do we know exactly where they came from, we came from there as well. As Desta tells us:
Old terminology dies hard. Though technology changes swiftly from day to day, there are still old-fashioned terms we cling to, using them frequently even though they no longer have a relevant meaning … Unless you’re a Luddite exclusively using obsolete technology, you’ll recognize these nine ancient tech terms as relics of a bygone era.
Ancient? Relics? Yohana, dear, go gently into that dark night. Before long you too will be a relic of a bygone era. But let’s begin.
Dialing — Notice how we still talk about dialing a phone? When was the last time you dialed a phone? I actually remember because we still had a rotary phone when Lisa was a baby. There it sat in our living room, a lovely ’70s gold color, sporting a dial and receiver that sat so comfortably on my shoulder when I needed my hands free. (I keep forgetting that I can’t do that with my smart phone — I only succeed in putting my caller on mute or hanging up). I once told a 7 year old to call his mom on that phone. He sat there staring at it for a few minutes before he wailed, “I don’t know how to use this!” That’s when I realized that it was time to retire the dial.
A complement to dialing your phone is hanging it up. Phones once hung on the wall, usually in the kitchen. They had cords so long that you could strangle yourself, two kids and a dog with it! When you were done speaking you hung up the receiver. And if you were angry, you had the satisfaction of being able to slam the phone when you hung up. Now it’s just a meaningless gesture. No one can hear you tapping your phone up no matter how hard you pound it.
Another tech term that I fondly remember is carbon-copy. Somehow I could never master the fine art of gracefully slipping that navy blue sheet between the pages without getting myself and the paper completely smeared with ink. I celebrated when the copy machine was invented. Today we still “cc” someone on email. We also maintain files though they are no longer made of cardboard and “cut and paste” documents but without glue or scissors.
Our television sets are a mine of tech words that no longer reflect what is actually happening. We talk about watching the “boob-tube” even though our sets no longer contain a cathode ray tube and use Youtube to watch our favorite oldies. We tune-in to our favorite shows even though in this digital age we no longer have to adjust frequencies on television sets. And we still use our clickers to change the channel even though our remote controls no longer make a clicking sound. Radio and television announcers still say, “Don’t touch that dial,” which is interesting because just like phones, TVs and radios haven’t had dials in a while.
I still use the words rewind and tape, even as I watch my DVDs. But then again I still have shelves of VHS tapes that I will throw out any day now since you can’t even donate them to anyone anymore.
And then there is our car. Desta reminds us that:
In ye olden days, cars had a handle that you needed to rotate in order to pull the window up or down. Modern cars aren’t made with a crank anymore — they just have a button or switch that you can click upward or downward to maneuver the window direction.
Yet we still tell people to roll down the window. What else are we going to say, click down the window? It just doesn’t have that certain ring. And speaking of ringing, salespeople still ask me if they can “ring that up for me?” even though their digital registers don’t have that lovely bell-like sound when their drawer opens.
I know I sound like a broken record (Ever notice that the sound of a needle scratching across a record is still used in film when a sequence stops abruptly?) so I’ll stop and rejoin the present. There will be no more Kodak moments for me.
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