Wanda Nelson Borel sent this to me 11-16-05:

Phrase Extinction

Who of us ever thought we'd live to see common phrases and words from our childhood just disappear....... and we didn't even notice until our kids or grandkids say "what does that mean?"

My grandfather always called his car his auto-mobile.  But then, he was around before there were cars.  A term I haven't heard in a long time was "fender skirts" which started me thinking about other words that quietly disappear from our language with hardly a notice. Like "curb feelers" and "steering knobs." Since I'd been thinking of cars, my mind naturally went that direction first. Any kids will probably have to find some elderly person over 50 to explain some of these terms to you.  (Did you know you're not "middle aged" after 50 unless you actually personally know someone who is over 100?)  Remember "Continental kits?" They were rear bumper extenders and spare tire covers that were supposed to make any car as cool as a Lincoln Continental.  When did we quit calling them "emergency brakes?" At some point "parking brake" became the proper term. But I miss the hint of drama that went with "emergency brake." I'm sad, too, that almost all the old folks are now gone who would call the accelerator the "foot feed." Didn't you ever wait at the street for your daddy to come home, so you could ride the "running board" up to the house?


Here's another phrase I heard all the time in my youth but never anymore - "store-bought." Of course, just about everything is store-bought these days. But once it was bragging material to have a store-bought dress or  store-bought candy.

"Coast to coast" is a phrase that once held all sorts of excitement and now means almost nothing. Now we even take the term "world wide" for granted. This floors me.

Speaking of floors, "wall-to-wall" was once a magical term in our homes. In the '50s, everyone covered his or her hardwood floors with, wow, wall-to-wall carpeting! Today, everyone replaces their wall-to-wall carpeting with hard
wood floors. Go figure.


When's the last time you heard the quaint phrase "in a family way?" It's hard to imagine that the word "pregnant" was once considered a little too graphic, a little too clinical for use in polite company. So we had all that talk
about stork visits and "being in a family way" or simply "expecting."


Apparently "brassiere" is a word no longer in usage either. I said it the other day and my daughter cracked up. I guess it's just "bra" now.  And "unmentionables" probably wouldn't be understood at all.  Wonder how long any of today's young ladies would put up with the itchy net of petticoats, or stockings held up by panty girdles or garter belts.

I always loved going to the "picture show," but I considered "movie" an affectation.  But I'm surprised cinemas have survived.  When "Monday Night at the Movies" brought us our one movie on t.v. each week, we thought sure we had died and gone to movie heaven and would never leave the comfort of our homes again.  Don't see any "drive-ins" any more, although I heard a few exists, so guess they did suffer some.  Wonder if the sell of "mosquito coils" fell to an all-time low when the drive-in movies starting disappearing? 

Though my kids are approaching "middle age" themselves now, they hardly remember life before color t.v. and remote controls.  Getting up to change channels, play with those buttons on the back to adjust things and decorating the "rabbit ears" with aluminum foil or running outside to "turn the antenna" was part of the entertainment, wasn't it?

Most of these words go back to the '50s, but here's a pure-'60s word I came across the other day - "rat fink."  Ooh, what a nasty put-down!

Here's a word I miss - "percolator." That was just a fun word to say and watching the coffee bubble in the glass lid knob was pretty neat, too. And what was it replaced with? "Coffee maker." How dull. Mr. Coffee, I blame you for this.

I miss those made-up marketing words that were meant to sound so modern now sound so retro. Words like "DynaFlow" and "Electrolux." Introducing the 1963 Admiral TV, now with "SpectraVision!"

Food for thought - was there a telethon that wiped out lumbago? Nobody complains of that anymore. Maybe that's what castor oil cured, because I never hear mothers threatening kids with castor oil anymore either.


Some words aren't gone, but are definitely on the endangered list. The one that grieves me most "supper." Now everybody says "dinner." Save a great word:  Invite someone to supper (without a cell phone)-- try making it on the "range" (without the microwave), store the left-overs in wax paper in the "ice box", stack the dishes on the "drain board" and "hang out" the "dish rags" to dry. Serve a store-bought pie for dessert and discuss fender skirts.