Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Saying things that now no longer make sense

In my podcast this week (which you need to hear and subscribe to already) I inadvertently mentioned turning off a “tape recorder.” A few of you good-naturedly razzed me for being so “last century.” The truth is I record the podcast digitally but the term “tape” recorder is ingrained in my brain. And in describing TV shows I recorded on my DVR I will still sometimes say I “taped” them.

So it got me thinking about words and expressions we use in everyday speech that have since outlived their meaning but we still use anyway. Here are a few examples.

“The tube” – a popular synonym for a television. Once upon a time there were tubes in a TV set. No longer. I guess you could call it “the chip” but I don’t see that catching on.

People order additional phone “lines”. In this cellphone world there are no “lines” -- everything is wireless.

“Don’t touch that dial”. You’ll hear announcers still say that. At one time you did have a big dial on your radio or TV, which you twisted to change stations. When was the last time you saw one of those that wasn’t in the Smithsonian right next to Abe Lincoln’s log cabin?

And for that matter, no one “dials” a phone anymore. We’ve been pushing buttons for forty years. And we no longer “hang up on people” although we still say we do.

People still say “roll up your window” in a car even though crank handles are now relics. 

Good photo opportunities are still referred to as “Kodak Moments”. Kodak made film for a thousand years. Today we have “Digital Nanoseconds”.

We used to correspond with certain friends in distant locales by getting out the old Bic and writing letters. Today we email, text, or IM but still refer to them as “Pen Pals”.

Recording artists are still coming out with new “records”. That’s what they were in the old days – vinyl platters. You could even argue that CD’s are just an updated technological version. But now music is released on line (again, is there really a “line”?).

And folks use the expression "But on the flip side," which refers to when vinyl records had two sides.  45 rpm's had a song on each side.  There was usually the hit and if you "flipped" the record over, a second song.  

I hear TV weathermen (actually – hot babes) say “tomorrow will be a carbon copy of today.” When was the last time you used carbon paper to make a copy? How many of you have even heard of carbon paper?

Many years ago scripts were duplicated by a mimeograph machine. When a writing staff prepared a production draft of a script to be distributed to the actors, network, crew, etc. they would say, “time to put the script into mimeo.” That expression remained long after mimeograph machines were recycled into soda cans.

So what are other examples? It’s kind of interesting isn’t it, to stop and think once in a while about just what the hell we’re saying?

67 comments :

N Gray said...

Ditto

That was the brand name of a major manufacturer of mimio machines. Used one when I was in grade school.

scottmc said...

The first expression that came to mind was 'drop a dime'as a way to describe when someone decides to tell the police the name of somebody they are looking for. When was the last time you saw a movie where a character searched for a pay phone?

Frank Kuchno said...

phone booths
phone books
Fotomats

Chris P said...

Star Trek fans can attest to this. In some episodes of the series such as The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine they're still saying "paperwork" as in "I'm just finishing up some paperwork." Surely they're not still producing and writing on paper in the 24th century, right? We all know they're tapping on their PADD devices or on computer screens, but they still refer to it as paperwork sometimes.

Chris P said...

Star Trek fans can attest to this. In some of the episodes of The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, they still say the word "paperwork" as in "I'm just finishing up some paperwork." I guess they still have trees in the 24th century! Obviously they're not filling out paper forms or filing paper reports, but the term is still in use (at least in our fictional future).

Frank Kuchno said...

More vanished telephone memories:

The word "telephone'
long distance calls
collect calls
person-to-person calls

Oh.....and telegrams

Jack Leyhane said...

We still use carbon paper drafting orders in the Daley Center -- the Cook County Courthouse with the Picasso out front. Granted, it's really old carbon paper, usually, but with just enough ink remaining to tease you into believing it might make a legible copy.

Hold a sheet up to the light and you may see Abe Lincoln's handwriting.

Or Clarence Darrow's. But seasoned carbon paper connoisseurs don't get excited about a Darrow sighting. Too common.

Now and again, someone brings nice, new carbon paper to court. The rest of us hate these showoffs. Unless they share with us.

Occasionally a courtroom will get a fresh supply -- but, sadly, it doesn't last. Word spreads among the attorneys and sheets are borrowed from that courtroom for a room down the hall. The sheets never come back. The courtroom deputies may try and stop smuggling, but so far they have refrained from using deadly force.

Jeff Carter said...

"I'm going to run to the store." -- Who runs anywhere anymore???
"Rewind"

VincentS said...

How about, "sounding like a broken record" and calling movies, "films?"

DBA said...

My car isn't THAT old...and it has manual windows...

Bugdun said...

I have an uncle who still says "icebox".

John E. Williams said...

"Stay tuned" is still used, hearkening back to the days when you had to fiddle with the TV dial and rabbit ears

Astroboy said...

Oh man, what I wouldn't give to have a freshly mimeographed paper to sniff right now!

Breadbaker said...

People still refer to "faxing" (a technology that was brand new 30 years ago) when what they are doing is emailing a pdf.

re Chris P.'s comments, the original Star Trek referred to "tapes" all the time.

Astroboy said...

Are there still 'lunchcounters' or 'luncheonettes' out there?

Mike Doran said...

When I was but a child, I began reading television columnists in newspapers.
To a man (archaic usage; many were female), they all considered the new medium to be beneath them, and they took pride in how little they knew about the technical side of it all.
This persists to the present day.
Back then, all the "critics" used the words film and tape interchangeably.
Even today, many "TV columnists" use both of these words, which in our digital age are basically obsolete.
I've long believed that most news organizations give the media beat to the last guy in the newsroom who yells "Not it!"

From High School, I well remember the ditto machine (or to give it its real name, the hectograph).
This was the mimeograph's "red-headed stepchild", famed for the blurry blue letters that we were supposed to try to read while doing tests.
Also for the pungent aroma of hectograph fluid, one of the earliest examples of a "contact high" that teens of my era experienced, if they were doing office duty and had to help print up exams.
The blessed Xerox came into use not a moment too soon.

Some other time, maybe we can get into how you can tell somebody's age by the money amounts he attaches to goods and services ("Dime for a cup of coffee, mister?").

Wendy M. Grossman said...

- Carbon copy persists in email, as the cc: line in the header.

- "Dial it back" still means turn down the volume, even though we don't have dials on loudspeakers any more.

- In Britain, as late as the 1980s "put the fire on" referred to turning on a gas heater (which might be situated in a fireplace formerly used to burn coal), even though it wasn't an actual fire. (Of course, in Britain "tube" has never meant TV, but the London Underground, which Americans would call a "subway", which British people use to mean underground passages for pedestrians.)

On a different note,

"Nuke it" for microwaving something, despite the fact that microwave ovens are not nuclear-powered.

wg

Barry in Portland said...

clockwise

Mark Winters said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John Hammes said...

Something that makes sense, but is no longer said:

" This Program Was Pre-Recorded. "

(Spoken/teletype end credits, mostly variety/game shows.)

Corvus Imbrifer said...

My nephews, 13 and 10, know what the 'save' icon does, but have no idea what a floppy disc is.

They know what the phone icon does, even though they've only ever dealt with wireless handsets. (And they both have their own cellphones.)

5000 years of civilization and we've gone back to hieroglyphs.

Matt said...

Everytime I hear the Paul Simon song Kodachrome I think about how anachronistic it is.

Matthew E said...

I disagree about "record". An MP3 is a record. It's a record of music; it is recorded music. Music that has been preserved for the record.

Chris said...

Slideshow.

Unless you're watching Drew Carey present a special about water parks and jungle gyms across the country, you're not actually watching "slides". You can still buy slide film (aka "reversal film") but I can't remember the last time I saw a slide projector.

Kosmo13 said...

I still hear people say "We're going to the movies," even though double-features rarely exist anymore. "We're going to a movie" sounds better to me.

I wince when I hear an old-timer refer to a female student as a "co-ed." Nowadays it's more noteworthy when you find a rare school that still has single-sex enrollment.

Sometimes I hear the redundant expression "color TV." I haven't seen a black and white one in over 25 years.

Peter said...

Some people still refer to Eddie Murphy as a comedian.

estiv said...

Not exactly the same, but watching the ancient game shows on the Buzzr network, it's weirdly sad how small the dollar amounts are that contestants get excited about.

Jeffrey Graebner said...

Actually, "pre-recorded" never really made sense. Either it was live or recorded.


One item for this list that immediately came to mind is visual rather than verbal. How many modern computer applications do we use that still have a save icon shaped like a little floppy disk?

geonicholas@gmail.com said...

Dialing a number...calling information...hanging up on somebody.

Gas stations became service stations and are now convenience stores.

Sean MacDonald said...

Usually when this sort of topic comes up, one of the first such words mentioned is "clicker" as in "You know why we call them clickers? They used to make a click sound!" But I don't know that anybody actually calls them clickers anymore.

I haven't mentioned what a "clicker" is yet so that if someone has no idea what one is, well, they will be puzzled and I will have made my point that nobody calls them that anymore.

But just for the sake of people who don't know: A "clicker" is what some people used to call the remote control for the TV.

Cap'n Bob said...

I have a 2008 Chevy pickup that has crank up windows and doesn't have keyless entry.

Reproduction methods before Xerox or desktop printers were hectograph, spirit duplicator (AKA ditto), or mimeograph. Rex Rotary was a big maker of mimeo machines (IIRC, may be dittos), as was Gestetner. I used to publish a fanzine on my mimeo every month when I was a comics fanboy. I loved the smell of ink and the feel of Fibertone paper.

Unknown said...

This is good stuff. But I am reading it at work, when I get home I will dial up and read some more.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

The word "FILE" is used all the time in computerspeak and digital items incorporated because of paperwork

according the Merriam Webster "FILE" means "a device (as a folder, case, or cabinet) by means of which papers are kept in order" and "a collection of papers or publications usually arranged or classified"

Then there are FOLDERS, SLIDESHOWS... all computer terms that have to do with actual physical things.
The "Enter" key is still called the return button. But the typewriter carriage is gone.


Also RINGTONE. There are no bells or actual ringing on a cell phone.



JED said...

We still talk about Sunrise and Sunset (or Sundown in the old westerns) but we've known for centuries (if not for thousands of years) that it's the Earth's rotation that makes the Sun seem to move. But what are better words? Maybe Daybreak is OK but Nightfall is just as bad as Sunset. I can't imagine Tevye and Golde singing "Light appears, Light leaves." Sometimes it's better to just leave the poetic words alone.

Unknown said...

Some of these comments are like watching a test pattern....

Loosehead said...

How about making a "phone call"? A phone shout maybe, when calling customer support, but we don't have to call the operator to connect our, uh, call, anymore.

Peter said...

On a different topic, Ken, have you seen the Wonder Woman trailer?

I cannot wait to see this. Gal Gadot is smokin hot. And the icing on the cake is that it will piss off anti-Semites that Wonder Woman is played by an Israeli Jewish babe. I just hope it's a better movie than Batman vs Superman.

Bryan L said...

What about - ahem - "disk jockey" and "DJ." I'm pretty sure they don't actually manipulate disks these days.

Pizzagod said...

I was on my way to the ice box (I wanted a snack before I headed to the movie house) and doggone it! I couldn't think of a single example!

Where did I put that church key?

Wallis Lane said...

We still use "telegraph" as a verb to mean "reveal something prematurely" and "crank it up" even though hand cranking an engine died out with the Model T.

One that always fascinated me is using "butt dial" for accidentally calling someone by sitting on a cellphone. Not only does it use the term of an obsolete technology, but it describes an action that couldn't happen with that obsolete technology.

Mike Lonergan said...

Now I'm really curious. About 15 comments above, I see "This comment has been removed by a blog administrator." What could it have been--an obsolete reference to an obscene act?

Arthur Mee said...

Agree with Matthew E about "record", which at least still refers to a recording.

But "album" (as a set of several tunes packaged together) has been weirdly obsolete for over 60 years. Initially, it referred to an actual *book* that a series of 78s were placed in ... so an album could consist of, say, 5 or 6 Frank Sinatra records sold as a package, held in a dedicated case. Then when LP records came out in the mid-50s, they could hold as much music as an "album" -- so they were called albums.

Similar idea with a photo album on your computer, of course.

BobinVT said...

The radio in my truck still has dials, and that's the only place I ever listen to the radio. So for me, "don't touch that dial" still fits.

VP81955 said...

To Matt:

I'll go you one better -- Jerry Butler's 1968 hit "Western Union Man" ("Send a telegram...to my baby"). These days, about the only thing you send via Western Union is cash. And Butler's nickname, "the Iceman" (for his cool soul vocal style) itself is obsolete.

D. McEwan said...

"“The tube” – a popular synonym for a television. Once upon a time there were tubes in a TV set. No longer. I guess you could call it “the chip” but I don’t see that catching on."

So you don't expect that "The Boob Tube" will ever become "The Dip Chip"?

Let's see. no longer accurate expressions. I have one. We still say "We elected a president," when we don't, as our current Fuhrer who LOST the election by THREE MILLION VOTES clearly shows.

Kaleberg said...

Tin foil? I don't remember tin foil, even from back in the 1950s. Did they use up all the tin in the 1940s war effort? Tin can for that matter, though some cans may still have a tin coating.

Andy Rose said...

I used to be a stickler about the difference between shows on tape and shows on film, but now everything is digital. You can give the same raw digital video a "tape look" or a "film look" just by changing a couple of equipment settings.

I still see a lot of TV critics -- and even some hosts -- use "satellite" as a catch-all for any remote link on television, but most of them are no longer done by satellite.

You could even argue that the term "live TV" is no longer accurate. In the analog days, signals moved in their entirety at the speed of light, so the picture went from the TV station to your home instantaneously. Now, the digital signal is first compressed on the transmission end, and then decompressed at your set, and there may also be some buffering to deal with an unreliable line. This causes a delay of anywhere from a few seconds to a minute depending on what kind of system you're using, meaning that you never actually see an event on TV at the exact moment it is happening in real life anymore.

Glenn E said...

Ken: What the Sam Hill are you doing bringing up antiquated expressions? Here’s one for you – when was the last time anyone “licked a stamp”? You peel ‘em off (if you even use the things anymore). Now doesn’t that beat all get out!

Donald Benson said...

Cracker Jack prizes. It's still around and still has prizes (miniature baseball cards, last time I looked), but it's not a go-to descriptor for cheap jewelry any more.

Saturday Morning Cartoons. Extinct, except on the cable channels that run cartoons 24/7 anyway. Saturday Morning Cartoons, incidentally, helped kill the Saturday Matinee as a raucous weekly ritual.

Kid show / horror movie hosts. Both reached a combined apotheosis in "Mystery Science Theater 3000". Now down to a comparative handful of mostly ironic holdouts.

Comic books in grocery and drug stores instead of comic shops and bookstores. And costing 12¢ and 25¢.

Ginger Gee said...

"Clicker" still lives on as the name for the thing that advances the slides when you're giving a Power Point presentation. I don't remember anyone calling the TV remote that though. Funny story, the first VCR my parents bought cost $800 and had a remote control -- that connected to it by a ten foot cable.

The other day my 8 year old asked me when cell phones were invented. I mentioned that we used to have a car phone that plugged into the cigarette lighter, for emergencies. "Wait, WHAT?! Why would someone need a cigarette lighter in their car?"

The obsolete term "car phone," of course, continues to exist in the name of the British company Carphone Warehouse.

Brian said...

Many people say "Hot water heater" - hot water doesn't need any heating.

I have a Chevy pickup from this millennium with crank windows and a vinyl floor. I bought it that way on purpose. I love it when I see people looking for the button. I get to say "Grab that handle and rotate in a COUNTER CLOCKWISE" direction to lower the window.

Breadbaker said...

"I'm in the phone book." Does anyone use them anymore? Here, they give us about eight books for our house and we immediately recycle seven of them and never open the eighth.

Keith Nichols said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lorimartian said...

Unless heard in a period piece or re-runs of "Real Time," it's likely we'll never hear the telephone time lady say, "At the tone, the time will be..." ever again given that Bill Maher removed it from his new main title. I was disappointed. It's familiarity was somehow comforting, and it served a purpose in the introduction. I'm sure the younger generation(s) don't have a clue about its history which is probably why it was dropped. Now it's gone. Sigh.

Jon H said...

I remember a sitcom from the 80s or 90s, maybe Perfect Strangers, where leading into a commercial break one of the male leads said "Don't touch that dial" and the other said "People don't have dials anymore!", showing that dials have been moving toward obsolescence for a long time now.

thirteen said...

In re "pre-recorded": Old-time radio shows were mostly done live. Those that had been pre-recorded were introduced as "transcription features."

The hectograph was the machine that made those wonderful-smelling copies with the purple ink. The more expensive mimeograph made copies with black ink, and they didn't smell like anything.

Matthew said...

Tube isn't because of vacuum tubes, it's because of cathode ray tubes. So now it'd be 'Let's watch the panel" rather than "Let's watch the chip".

Stoney said...

Don't feel bad about use of the word "tape" as being so "last century". Apparently, the use of tape for audio recordings will make a huge comeback in the 23rd century!

https://youtu.be/7JWe3hCes1o?t=31

Kosmo13 said...

"And Butler's nickname, "the Iceman" (for his cool soul vocal style) itself is obsolete"

Jerry Butler's nickname was based on his secondary profession: he studied cooking, restaurant management and ice sculpture as a fallback career in case music career failed him.

Source: "Nowhere To Run The Story of Soul Music" by Gerri Hirshey.[Times Books, 1984]

Stoney said...

We're not done with "flipside" just yet; at least according to Norah Jones.

https://youtu.be/TTy8iSdQMwM

Buttermilk Sky said...

The most important award in the music industry is the Grammy, short for gramophone (the British term for a phonograph -- they wisely decided against calling it the Phony). How many recipients even know what that is?

Pamela Jaye said...

In 1956 my parents bought a 1955 Zenith TV with flash Matic remote control. Since we only had maybe four stations and the rest was snow and the resultant snow sound, and the remote control was light activated, it was important to close your curtains at night. When morning the TV came on, the volume turned all the way up, and it started changing channels rapidly but not rapidly enough that you missed the sound of the snow stations. After that my father disabled it. I've heard that a clicker is New England for remote control but I never heard that in my house. Probably because we never had a remote control after that first one. And the first remote control I ever had controlled my VCR which we used to change the channels on our television because my than husband and his mother had ruined the channel changing knob because they like to channel surf without a remote. When we got it set properly on one station we had to brace it up with a bunch of index cards under it, otherwise it would fall off the channel and just not come in good. So you set it to channel 3 and we used the VCR to change channels until we got a new TV

One day my mother was visiting and using the VCR remote and she asked me how to turn up the volume. It took every ounce of self-control I had to be respectful and not say, Get up, walk across the room, turn the dial."
Since the commercials were always louder then the programs they were in, we learned to just change the channel when a commercial came on.

Several months ago in an attempt to get our cable bill down, my roommate finally got a cable box and attached it to the TV in the living room. I am still box free but we don't know for how long. Our cable company was bought. Last night I was in the living room watching TV - I don't do that there - when the phone rang. It actually showed up on the television before it started ringing audibly. Anyway I thought it was pretty neat. They are going to drag me kicking and screaming into the decade before this one.
;-)

Dave Wrighteous said...

"Reading the tea leaves" ...how antiquated is that?
Does ANYONE remember a time when tea wasn't in a bag?
Can you read the leaves and predict the future through the bag?
It's questions like these that made me a coffee drinker...

Anonymous said...

I still say "put the phone back on the hook," when what I really mean is,"put the cordless phone back on the charger.

Roger R. said...

The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson

Dana Gabbard said...

Needle drop.

Roger Owen Green said...

Loose tea is better than bagged tea, IMO

And wile I'll accept RECORD as a collection, I also think of ALBUM that way:
for music, a collection of songs
for photos, a collection of pictures
I use ALBUM all the time, and the format (LP, cassette, CD, MP3) is irrelevant.