Please Be Kind And Rewind

Oh man. I’m feeling old. It’s not for the usual reasons, like when I start to sit and I pinch my pants at the knees and give them a little hike. Or when my wife (nine years my junior) catches me using a word like mimeograph when I mean Xerox.

I’m feeling dated because I keep noticing everyday words whose literal meanings have become obsolete in my lifetime.

For instance, it’s natural enough for kids today to fast-forward through commercials or a song. But when they rewind something, do they appreciate that there is no spool of tape to wind?

Likewise when we turn on the television, there is nothing to actually turn. TVs have shed their chunky knobs and dials. But the concept is at least preserved in plumbing, as when we turn on a faucet.

Not so when we dial a phone number. Though the word is probably safe, the notion of a rotary dial is forever lost on my son. Even worse, he will never know the sexy precision of a woman using a pencil eraser to dial a number. Bummer.

When he does start calling girls, Fox will have to get used to them hanging up on him. But there’s nothing to hang and nowhere to hang it: wall-mounted landlines are nearly extinct. Too bad, because there’s something to be said for the catharsis one feels when slamming a phone’s receiver in its cradle.

We own an iron but I have never used it. Neither has my wife, except once to get wax out of the couch. But every so often our friend Toby will visit from London and ask to use our iron. I’ll bet the irons in England are still actually made of iron, because everything in that country is old. But I don’t think that’s been the case here for awhile.

Sometimes when I email Toby, I’ll cc his mates Simon and Nigel. I like to tell them what to expect on Lost, because they get our TV shows like, ten years later. But I don’t actually make carbon copies, even though they’re still probably in widespread use in England. I’ll bet when my son is grown, cc will be a Final Jeopardy question. And James Franco will be the host.

Hmm, odds are that when my son must look up a word’s definition, he’ll do it exclusively online. He’ll never know the tactile pleasure of hefting a dictionary, riffling the pages, squinting at the tiny typography and literally looking for a word. All he’ll ever know is search.

And if, while at his keyboard, he uses the shift key, he will never associate the word with actually shifting a cartridge on a manual typewriter. It actually required some effort; you could totally sprain your pinky on the shift key. Serious.

Let’s see, what else? Oh here’s one: I call nearly every disagreeable person a douchebag. In fact, my son probably thinks it’s our upstairs neighbors’ last name, because I’m always marveling at “the Douchebags.”

But who really douches anymore? And who among them still uses bags? If I want to set a proper example for my son, I should get with the times and switch over to calling people douche-nozzles.

My mother-in-law hates my gratuitous use of offensive words. And even though she’s the only one who reads my blog regularly, she’s convinced such obscenities will bring me bad press.

Newspapers were in fact pressed in my lifetime. But now it’s anachronistic to say something is hot off the presses. Worse, a frantic newsman can no longer sincerely holler, “Stop the presses!” The printer is on the other end of the phone and he’s like, “Dude, you want me to press Cancel?”

My son will intuitively grasp press by its context. But he will never make that unconscious connection to the industrial printing press. And he’ll be puzzled by A.J. Liebling’s insight that “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.” The quote is now obsolete, since everyone with internet access effectively owns a press. But A.J. would doubtlessly have approved. That freedom is now widespread. And it even extends to douchebags.

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6 Responses to Please Be Kind And Rewind

  1. Michele May 11, 2012 at 5:52 pm #

    Can I just tell you how much I simply LOVE this? Peter and I were discussing things like this the other day. So true… Oh so true… Growing up, we had a rotary phone hanging in the kitchen and I’d sit at the table and chat to my friends. My mom could A) walk by and hang up if I disregarded the ‘get off the phone’ remarks or B) pick up and extension (also corded!) and tell me, in no uncertain terms, to get off the phone. Man… I’m sad I wont be able to do that!

    And this gem?

    “But who really douches anymore? And who among them still uses bags? If I want to set a proper example for my son, I should get with the times and switch over to calling people douche-nozzles.”

    Priceless… Abso-f-ing-lutely priceless.

  2. Megan Alton May 11, 2012 at 5:52 pm #

    The one that always gets me is the “save” icon in word documents. It’s still an old school square disc which is so far gone, considering we’ve almost passed discs entirely, square, circular or otherwise.

    Then there’s the answering machine tape that we had to constantly reuse and hope that it didn’t get tangled before we heard all our messages. Instead there’s voice mail. How did mail ever get associated with voices messages anyway?

    • Daddy Confidential May 12, 2012 at 11:45 am #

      But isn’t the disk icon still applicable? Unless you’re saving to the cloud or flash memory, then you actually are backing up to a disk. It’s just internal/non-removable. What would be a better icon?

  3. Sabina May 11, 2012 at 6:50 pm #

    brilliant commentary :)

  4. Amanda May 12, 2012 at 9:56 am #

    My husband and I often have this conversation. My grandparents lived further out of town than most other folks, so they didn’t even have the option to get cable until I was in high school when the cable lines ran out that far – in the mid-90’s.

    I still LOVE going to my aunt’s house. There’s no cell signal. You have to go up to the church parking lot on the hill. The neighbors had a wireless signal that we mooched to check email on the laptop once, but it was excruciatingly slow, so we don’t bother anymore. They only have basic cable so they can get the major networks and a few of the others they like. Going there in the summer, we spend most of our time outside on the porch and in the garden. The kids learn to help in the garden as I did, and play outside all day. Thankfully I don’t have sit in front of the TV all day type children as it is. I love how disconnected we are from all the modern conveniences of technology at my aunt’s house. We have to drive 20 minutes to even hit a McDonald’s.

  5. Ann May 15, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

    Very entertaining read! That is cute about you MIL!

    Been thinking about this stuff recently too. Things seem to become obsolete so quickly these days.

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