I’m listening to one of my favorite groups from the '70s, Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, a fun jazzy group with tight rhythms, catchy lyrics, and such amazing harmonies.
I use the word amazing, as it’s a popular term to describe anything that you appreciate these days. When I read posts from my pals on Facebook, amazing is one of the most utilized words, along with like and awesome.
As a writer, I’m always curious about these temporary terms, as these fashionable words seem to populate sentences for a while before they disappear.
For example, whatever happened to terms like nifty, neat, bitchen, ding bat, golly, and scuttlebutt? Were these words retired to an early grave? Did a group of dictionaries have a service as they placed these words underground?
The use of language seems to be a verbal fashion statement, and one that evolves over time.
Going back a few more years, who remembers words like hoosegow, thingamajig, and doohickey? My older sisters and brothers were privy to words like these, and upon occasion, I hear them sprinkled into our current conversations.
My love of language probably began in Mr. Malley’s English class at Walter Reed. He was a nifty teacher, so boss, with his turtle races, and his creative ways of getting us to memorize our helping verbs. Who remembers this mantra, executed in class with a snappy conga dance move?
IS BE BEEN AM ARE,
WAS WERE, HAS HAVE HAD,
DO DOES DID,
MAY CAN MIGHT,
COULD MUST SHALL WILL,
Clearly, Mr. Malley, forever fingering his false tooth with his pinky finger, made learning fun, and probably instilled some enthusiasm to those of us with an interest in writing.
At North Hollywood High School, one of my most inspirational English teachers was Merle Gould, a tough gal to impress, with stricter standards than any English teacher I’d encountered. She was very hard to please. Even with the dismal grade that I received in her class, at least I wasn’t daunted from pursuing my love of creative writing.
So, what are some of the terms you used while growing up and do you still use them today?