We Need These Funny "Old People Words" Back in Our Vocabulary
Old slang is just funny, and that’s why I like it.
When my daughter was a little girl I remember trying to encourage her one day by saying, “Don’t worry Darlin’, everything’s hunky-dory.”
There was a pause, then she looked at me and laughed, “Daddy, is that an old people word?”
I thought for a second and replied, “Yes, I guess it is.”
No wonder she laughed. “Hunky-dory” is just funny. And it’s funny because it’s an old people word. I looked it up, and the hyphenated four-syllable word has been around in the English language since at least the mid 1800s and appears in most dictionaries, so yes, it is a real word. David Bowie thought enough of it to title his fourth album Hunky Dory (without the hyphen) on which he included his well-known song “Changes,” so maybe he thought it was funny too.
I like to see people laugh. That’s why I sometimes don’t mind acting like a fool, just as long as someone is entertained. And I’ve discovered that one way to make people chuckle is to use silly-sounding outdated “old people words.” Comedians do it all the time in their punch lines. My late father-in-law did it too, and I have incorporated some of his unique euphemisms into my own personal lexicon, partly in his memory, and partly because of their humor value. One of his favorite phrases was the exclamation “Great snort!” which carries the same meaning as Daily Planet Editor Perry White’s “Great Caesar’s ghost!” (which is funny too). As far as I know, my father-in-law made his phrase up, but I think it deserves to live on after him, so I say “Great snort!” whenever appropriate. Sure, it’s corny and unfashionable, but that is precisely why it’s so much fun to say out loud.
I believe there are many other words we should bring back into use, simply with the hopes that they might elicit laughter. For example, “Galoshes” is a funny word, as in “Kids, go put on your galoshes, it’s raining cats and dogs!” “Hooch” is an entertaining but too-seldom-used word, but you’ll probably get a chuckle if you say something like, “I do believe he’s been hitting the hooch a little heavy.” And why use something like “Those are nice jeans!” as a compliment when you could just as easily say, “Groovy dungarees” and get a wry smile.
If something’s easy, it’s more fun to say it’s “duck soup.” Instead of the overrated and tired term “fake news,” I prefer “baloney” with just the right vocal inflection. When you hand your wife her purse, try saying “Here’s your pocketbook, dear” and see how she reacts. When your teenage son talks back to you, call him a “wisenheimer” and just see if it doesn’t dampen the discord. If he continues, call him a “whippersnapper” in front of his friends and wait for them to laugh. (Probably behind your back though because they’ll think you’re acting like a “spaz.” And they’ll be right, but at least you’ll get a laugh).
There are a number of funny phrases you can use by simply employing the word “cut.” You can “cut a rug,” “cut the mustard,” “cut someone someone to the quick,” “cut them off at the pass,” and under the right circumstances even “cut the cheese.” As for me, I think it’s time to fish or “cut bait” and get these phrases back into common usage.
Here are a few more sure to get a laugh: “For grins” means just for fun. “Trousers” is a word you can say just for grins, and much more “choice” than plain old “pants.” I mean “good gravy,” “Shenanigans” is more fun to say than “mischief.” “Swell” means good, and if you have it “made in the shade” then everything’s swell and you can throw a “humdinger” of a “wingding” to celebrate, and get a laugh out of it at the same time.
Maybe you’d prefer not to be laughed at, so it’s possible these old phrases don’t “razz your berries” like they do mine. And frankly I don’t want to embarrass my friends and family too much with my old people words, so I may not choose to do it “to the max” when I’m in public with them. But if they think my weird speech is a “bummer,” I’m guessing they won’t think it too much of a bummer simply because “bummer” is so much fun to say.
Humor can always defuse a tense situation, so if someone’s really mad at you, just say, “I’ll bet you’d like to give me a “knuckle sandwich.” If that doesn’t calm things down, ask him if he thinks you’re “cruisin’ for a bruisin’” and he may very well walk away from the argument shaking his head with a sardonic smile. Still, it’s best to avoid a possible “knuckle sandwich” situation by simply not “having a cow” over everything. If you agree that this is the “word from the bird,” then let’s hear you say “10-4 good buddy.”
What would be funniest is if two people carried on a real conversation just using old people words. Can you imagine the expressions on the faces of anyone overhearing this conversation today?
“What’s shakin’ Daddio?”
“Nothin’, just hanging loose.”
“Far out, man. I just hope you aren’t out to lunch!”
“Whoa, take a chill pill pardner! I’m no space cadet!”
“You bet your sweet bippy you’re not! You’re a gas, bro!”
“You’re da bomb too, dude. Listen, I gotta beat feet.”
“You have to split now?”
“Yeah, time to blow. Me and my old lady are gonna catch a flick at the passion pit.”
“Gonna suck face at the drive-in, huh? Well, no makin’ whoopee now!”
“You’re bodacious, dude! Catch you on the flip side.”
So what do you say, comical communicators? Even though some might think I should “cool my jets” about these archaic phrases, I’m certain we’d hear a lot more laughter if we could convince people that old-fashioned slang is actually “the cat’s pajamas.” I say we either convince the members of this generation of the entertainment value of these words or annoy them trying.
Because if we succeed, it will be so gnarly.
© Nick Walker 2019
What old words or phrases do you think we should bring back? Please scroll down and leave a comment below.