I say “Trousers”, you say “What?”


When I was growing up, it wasn’t uncommon to hear people refer to pants as trousers or slacks. Both of the words have almost disappeared from use, and certainly are far from every day terms.

It’s not a matter of the words shifting in meaning. Doesn’t seem to be a case of new words taking over. People just don’t use the word trousers these days.

Brimstone is a such a word. For another, we don’t see that many rapscallions around anymore. (Well… to be fair… I think we are seeing more rapscallions than ever. We just identify them differently.)

Methinks a lot of this is perfectly normal stuff. We all go through waves of using certain words. And often that isn’t just reflected in what an individual says, but how groups phrase things as well. Different level, still it’s not all that different than the reasons we have different languages, or even why groups that speak the same language can have completely different words that sound absolutely foreign to others.

Soda. Pop. Tonic. Seltzer.

I think a good chunk of it involves the way we communicate. Something like Twitter… with its character limits… rewards dropping vowels and selecting shorter words. But I’m not looking to investigate whether or not we just don’t want to deal with typing out longer words because we’re lazy or drawn to simplicity.

I’d say thinking about it is all for naught, but just typing that out got me thinking about naught. I think I still hear it being used. But I don’t know that I still hear it being used.

When I got my driver’s license, I seem to remember my grandmother asking if I was going to be out gallivanting. It has definitely been quite some time since I last gallivanted.

About thirty years ago, I worked with a wonderful woman. Actually, I worked with several. But in this case, for this woman, I’m thinking of her today because of how much she hated the word ma’am. Hated isn’t even in the right zip code to describe how angry she became if you called her ma’am. I could not warn you strongly enough to never say something like “yes, ma’am” to her. And, over the years, I have found that many, many, many women share her feelings.

Is that it? Is it because someone hates the words that they are disappearing? Maybe. But I don’t think that’s our answer.

Most of these aren’t terms that became popular during this trend or that. And I’m not sure they were phased out because someone didn’t like them. If I had to describe it, I’d say they were being used by one generation, not so much the next, and the result was they were never passed on to the third. Not slang of the day… not like or dislike… just worked at one time but not so much thereafter. The grandchildren don’t speak like the grandparents.

A portion of it is probably a sense of formality for some of the words. Armistice is a good example to show what I mean there. From the “greatest generation” we might hear of the armistice… born around the time of one armistice, defined in many ways by the last times you might think of the word armistice being used. A hundred years after the armistice, it’s a truce, and armistice isn’t heard.

I’m not sure where this is going, or how we even got here. But it’s time to move along. Got some other work to do. So, I’m going to hitch up my britches and get on my way.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com