February 13, 2020 § Leave a comment
A woman slammed the phone down on my friend yesterday – or did she. They were talking, she got angry and she abruptly and angrily ended the call. But did she actually, literally, physically, slam down the phone on him? Probably not.
I mentioned this and he realised I wasn’t concentrating on his story but wondering about the turn of phrase.
“You know what I mean!” he said.
Yes, I know what he meant, but technically, I pointed out, if she was speaking on a mobile phone she didn’t need to slam it down and actually, slamming it down wouldn’t have achieved the outcome she wanted.
So that’s one phrase in the English language whose days are numbered. There are others:
- Carbon copy. When I was a young journalist using a manual typewriter I used carbon paper to make a copy of the story I was writing. That isn’t necessary now that we all use computers. From there we coined the expression ‘she’s a carbon copy of her mother’ meaning she’s very similar in appearance to her mother. However…we’re using ‘carbon copy’ often without knowing it. When we cc somebody on an email, we all know that we’re copying them in. We don’t all know (I didn’t) that cc stands for carbon copy.
- Winding down the window (of a car). We don’t do that anymore. In place of the winder-type apparatus that was fitted in old cars, we use a button and the window shoots down.
- Kodak moment. In the days of camera film, we were careful about capturing the moment we wanted to cherish on film – frankly because we had to pay for it to be developed and in the first place make the effort to go to the developer. So a Kodak moment was a special picture moment. These days billions of pictures are taken every minute on Smart Phones, special or not. We just snap away.
- Nothing to write home about – meaning it’s not big news. Back in the day, before mobile phones, people actually wrote letters to family when they had news – even sent postcards when they were on holiday! But if they didn’t have news or weren’t on holiday they had ‘nothing to write home about’.
- Put somebody through the wringer – give them a hard time. Several generations back wringers were used to squeeze every last drop of water from just-washed clothes. We’ve used the expression since to suggest someone’s been drained of everything they’ve got! eg. the lawyer really put him through the wringer.
- Snapping a photograph. I just used the expression in Number 3 – where did we get that from? Old cameras used to make a snapping sound when they took the shot.
- And, is a newspaper still a newspaper when it’s published online – no paper involved!
There must be many more phrases that, even if they’ve stood the test of time, don’t really make sense any more. Any thoughts? Answers on a postcard please – well, not literally. We don’t need to send postcards when we can whizz over a suggestion via the comments box.