Friday, August 20, 2010

words' lingering life

wednesday: on the phone a couple weeks ago a retired man from -- where, PA or NJ? -- shocked me. he: 'so i'll get back to you by tuesday or weDnesday.' he kept talking but i was grinning to myself, amazed: someone actually pronounces the first 'd' in wednesday? he didn't pronounce it as i used to as a kid to remind myself the spelling -- wed-nes-day -- but more like 'wed'ns-day,' like a 'day for weddins'. is there some spot in the US where, 60 years ago when he was little, people used to pronounce the 'd' in that word? how mysterious, unexpected. otherwise his speech is completely normal from my point of view.

deck, stoked: recently, now i forget where -- maybe at the pond at chatfield hollow state park? -- we overheard some sophisticated pre-teens squabbling. amidst their charges and counter-claims, i heard one say 'i'm so stoked!' and another say 'i'm gonna deck you.' 'stoked' surprised me the most. i associate that with my sister Janice who graduated high school in, i think, 1980. i never used it myself. so how did this word 'leap generations'? how did this young brat get hold of this venerable piece of slang? has it been revived by the media, like 'that 70s show'? or did kids my age pick it up without me? now that i think of it, i can kind of remember kids my age maybe using it. and 'deck' i thought was just used in my age cohort. though who knows, it may have risen decades ago. maybe what this incident tells me is that adolescents are frogs in a well, and everything they can see in their little circle of sky is unique to them and their time. an illusion.

swell: for toby's 6 month check up, the doctor, with a big head of hair a la the beehive, said 'swell,' in response to one of our comments. how can swell, that dead word of the 1920s thru 40s, be coming to life through this one female doctor? is the word a fashion statement for her? are there hipster subcultures somewhere busily rehabilitating it?

a month of linguistic surprises indeed.

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