Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Consider all the social changes you have witnessed in your lifetime -- and beware of present-day changes in meaning of words that could inadvertantly affect what you write to readers and prospects in the 21st. Century.
Folk born before 1945 arrived before television, and the Internet; before polio shots, frozen foods, Xerox, plastic, Web porn, contact lenses, Frisbees, and the Pill.
We were born before credit cards, split atoms, laser beams and ball-point pens; before pantyhose, dishwashers, clothes dryers, electric blankets, air-conditioners in our homes, drip-dry clothes, and before man walked on the moon.
We got married first and then lived together. How quaint can you be? Back then, a "gay" marriage just meant a happy one. Political correctness meant you knew which party you voted for. In our time, closets were for clothes, not for "coming out of."
Bunnies were small rabbits, and rabbits were not Volkswagens. Designer jeans were scheming girls named Jean or Jeanne. Having a meaningful relationship meant getting along well with our cousins. We thought that fast food was what you ate during Lent, and climate change was what happened in spring, summer, fall, and winter.
We were before house-husbands, gay rights, computer-dating, dual careers and commuter marriages. We were before daycare centers, group therapy and nursing homes.
There were not yet any computers, text-messaging, FM radio, tape decks, electric typewriters, artificial hearts, word processors, yogurt, and guys wearing earrings. For us, time-sharing means togetherness, not computers or condominiums. A "chip" meant a piece of wood. Hardware meant, well, all kinds of metal stuff you bought at a hardware store, and "software" wasn't even a word.
In 1940, "made in Japan" usually meant junk, and the term "making out" referred to asking how you did on your exam. Hitting on somebody suggested punching them. Pizzas, McDonald's, Starbucks, and instant coffee were unheard of.
We hit the scene when there were 5 and 10 cent stores, where you bought things for five and ten cents. Ice cream cones sold for a nickel or a dime. For one nickel, you could ride a bus, make a phone call, buy Pepsi, or enough stamps to mail one letter and two postcards. You could buy a Chevy Coupe for $600.00, but who could afford one? A pity, because gas was 11 cents a gallon at the time.
In our day, cigarette smoking was fashionable. GRASS was mowed, COKE was a cold drink, and POT was something you cooked in. ROCK MUSIC was a Grandma's lullaby, and AIDS were helpers in the Principal's office.
We were certainly not before the differences between the sexes was discovered, but we were surely before sex-changes. We made do with what we had, because we had to. And we were the last generation that was so dumb as to think that you needed a husband to have a baby.
No wonder there is still such a generation-gap today, that could affect audience understanding of advertising copy or even your next novel.

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