Sharing Buzzwords and Expressions from the Past and Present Day

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

nytimes.com

nytimes.com

My grandmother uses a lot of expressions that I’ve come to understand over the years. As a child, though, I didn’t know what she was saying. It was as though she was speaking another language, or speaking in constant similies. One of her favorite expressions, for example, was “I slept like a top last night.” “How does a top sleep?” I’d ask her.

Now, there are lots of expressions and buzzwords I use that she doesn’t get. “I’m updating my Facebook status to say I’m at home,” I told her the other day. “What’s a Facebook status?” she asked. She knows what Facebook is and understands the basic premise of it, but she sometimes calls it “MyBook,” a combination of MySpace and Facebook. She laughs, knowing she’s not saying it correctly.

The expressions and buzzwords people use (or misuse) sometimes cloak the true meaning of what they’re trying to say. When Sen. John McCain kept saying “Joe the Plumber,” for example, people wondered, “Who is this guy?” Come to find out, he was a real person who represented the average guy. So why not just say “middle class” or even the more popular expression, “your average Joe” (or Josephine!)?

Buzzwords and expressions can often become part of our everyday vocabulary and, when spoken among people of different ages, can reflect a generational divide. The New York Times ran a piece in Sunday’s paper about 2008 buzzwords, most of which my grandmother probably doesn’t know. Heck, I hadn’t even heard of some of them. Among my favorites: “frugalista,” “staycation,” “lipstick on a pig,” “twitt-,” and “photobombing.”

I’ll have to share some of these with gram.

What are some of your favorite buzzwords and or expressions?

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