Monday, November 16, 2009

The language of age

A friend at work recently loaned me a book she found amusing—How Not to Act Old by Pamela Redmond Satran. The cover alone made me laugh: a pair of granny panties swinging alongside a leopard-print thong on a clothesline. The book’s chapters cover the actions we older people take that give away our generation, sometimes before we open our mouths. According to Satran, if we leave a voice message for a younger person or even send an e-mail, we’re labeled as old. Instead we should text. I don’t text, and in the interest of full disclosure, I admit that we’ve blocked texting on our family cell plan so we don’t get hit with extra fees.

The book is funny, and some of the tips, I’m sure, will not be heeded by most people over 40. And many, I have to believe, are tongue-in-cheek. But it got me to thinking about my habits and how I’m noticing more of a divide between the young and myself. I specifically said “myself” because not all of my contemporaries are stubborn about giving up past practices.

My word choice is an excellent example. I still say medication instead of meds, pharmaceutical instead of pharma, applications instead of apps. It’s hard for me to cut doctors down to docs, although I used it in an earlier post. (It felt odd as I typed it then, but I was trying to be hip….do they still say that?) Some of the newer shortened words are, in my opinion, short enough in their original form. What’s the time saving there? And are we supposed to be too busy—or too lazy—to sound out two syllables? You are now getting the picture as to why I’m not texting. Can you imagine me typing "C U later" and not obsessing about the omitted letters—not to mention a misplaced “C”? I have tried Twitter though, and anyone who reads my writing can understand why I’d have difficulty saying anything in only 140 characters.

I'm told I look younger than I am, and most of the time my clothes are appropriately youthful. And I’d like to believe that I think young—when I’m not trying to come up with the ironies of aging for this space. So, the handwriting is on the wall (does anyone ever say that anymore?), and you’ll probably see me texting my grandchildren in the future—if texting isn’t considered old by the time they learn to type with their thumbs.

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