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Looking Back to the '60s-The Slang We Used

Back then, things were nifty, boss or cool....

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,

SHOULD WOULD.

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?

Jack McGrath January 24, 2012 at 03:49 PM
The famous budget cuts- sorry we cannot pay you for your creative writing. I have sent my sister's column to many old friends in CA and other states. I enjoyed writing for the Patch myself, but had to stop because they were cutting my rate by 75%. Maybe it is time to say good bye to the Patch everywhere. You cannot expect talented writers to write for free. AOL needs a new business model. This one does not work.
Mary McGrath January 24, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Thanks for stopping by Jack. I guess we'll see what will happen. I hope to continue this column, as I've really enjoyed it.
teresa mcgrath January 24, 2012 at 04:32 PM
love the article mary....your love of writing and talent is so evident all thru these columns, and in other venues....glad merle gould didn't deter you from your excellent writing pieces....your writing inspires such vivid imagery, and it's been so much fun to comment and piece together fractions of our collective memory in the looking back columns.....jack, miss your column too, as it was fun to try and stump you with a question you couldn't answer....still waiting on the answer to the little log cabins behind du-par/tiny naylors...community newspapers such as the studio city patch, offer a glimpse into the everyday life of the neighborhood ...long live walter reed junior high....all of our brothers and sisters had mr malley as their homeroom teacher, and/or as their geography teacher....he made junior high tolerable and fascinating....merle gould, mrs thedford, mr galindo(1st yr spanish), and miss messler(p.e.- she inspired flag football with the girls)...words: in the '50's skag, hag...mary, what was hoosegow?? later, cool, bitchen, hot, and some abusive terms, retard, and jerk....i don't think we understood a lot of those terms in our younger years....the cus words were coming to fruition at walter reed....sex was prevalent with the "fast people"....first, 2nd, 3rd base, going all the way, among other terms...let's toast to mary and jack, mr malley's adverbs, and editor, mike szymanski...thx a lot...
teresa mcgrath January 24, 2012 at 04:39 PM
great photos too mary
Mary McGrath January 24, 2012 at 04:51 PM
P.S. And thanks for all the great photos you've sent Teresa and your words of wisdom in filling in the cracks of my memories. Re-visiting the past has been a great source of comfort for me from time to time, and a real inspiration!
Mary McGrath January 24, 2012 at 04:52 PM
And I hope to continue this thread in the months ahead. People consume media for a myriad of reasons-some for news, entertainment, stock tips, gossip...I hope this column has given all of you a chance to reflect, ponder and enjoy. Many thanks for all your comments, feedback and collaboration of memories!
teresa mcgrath January 24, 2012 at 04:59 PM
pal, carl, mentioned peachy-keen..thx for the gray matter!
Ingrid Hart January 24, 2012 at 05:04 PM
To lose an insightful writer like Mary McGrath to budget cuts is akin to losing a national treasure. Everytime I read one of her "Then and Now" columns I find myself chuckling. Here's hoping that this Los Angeles treasure will continue to grace my computer screen.
Mary McGrath January 24, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Yes, peachy-keen, fiddlesticks, etc.!
Mary McGrath January 24, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Thank you Ingrid, from one writer to another. I appreciate the feedback.
Dennis Blakeley January 24, 2012 at 05:58 PM
I love these. Keep em' coming!
Dennis Blakeley January 24, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Drats, Dagnabit, Are those guys daft? Holy Toledo! Well don't that make your brown eyes blue?
teresa mcgrath January 24, 2012 at 06:15 PM
what's hoosegow again?...sure mary glad to fill in, and add photos...more coming
Mary McGrath January 24, 2012 at 06:21 PM
It's another term for a jail, prison, etc. A fun word!
LynnHB January 24, 2012 at 06:33 PM
great column - I think it's sad that the Patch (which is supposed to be all about local viewpoints) is cutting writers like Mary McGrath who brings back memories of local life in her columns!
Lew Wright January 24, 2012 at 07:54 PM
As always, you crafted a delightful read Mary. Perhaps I'm getting cynical about online content, but it makes the ol' journalism axiom "If it bleeds it leads" appear tame and passe. It's becoming too rare that online content reflects thoughtful and creative presentation. That said, I'm confident there will be a time and place for personal, antecdotal stories you are so gifted at writing. Though many, many online surfers pause only to consider 'free' content, they too will eventually tire of the combination of brief research and rapid-fire writing. And here are a few words I'd like to see become meaningful in today's lexicon: quality; personal; trusted and integrity. Your work earns all of those labels Mary. Lew Wright
Mary McGrath January 24, 2012 at 11:00 PM
Thank you Lynn. I've always appreciated your creative efforts as well, and I know that you are well-versed in the challenges of publishing these days...
teresa mcgrath January 24, 2012 at 11:54 PM
a mouthful, hoosegow....good one
Catherine Roberts Leach January 25, 2012 at 03:13 AM
I always enjoy your columns, Mary. My theory is that the pendulum will eventually swing all the way back to good content coming from paid professionals, whose work the public is willing to pay for. The expression, "You get what you pay for" (and in so many cases, readers pay NOTHING) has never been more apt. If writers can't make a living (or at least a semblance of one), then the good stuff will disappear and all we'll be left with is FREE garbage. I hope with all my heart it won't get to that point. By the way, in my day, we used to say "out a sight!!" just the way everyone today says, "awesome." Same response, different lingo.
teresa mcgrath January 25, 2012 at 10:21 AM
forgot about out of sight, that was very popular catherine...wonderful comments about the state of writing above...was groovy mentioned earlier?
Mary McGrath January 25, 2012 at 01:59 PM
As an editor, I know you are well-versed in the nuances of publishing Catherine. I so appreciate your feedback. You're awesome, groovy, boss and out a sight! See you soon, I hope!
Mary McGrath January 25, 2012 at 03:25 PM
Yeah, all the slurs that were so common back then thankfully aren't uttered anymore...but new ones crop up all the time, don't they?

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