Retirement Life


9 words that will immediately make you sound old

9 words that will immediately make you sound old

Want to close the generational gap? You’ll need to strike some of these out-of-date words from your lexicon.

1. Pocketbook

This European word dates way back to the 1600s, when it was used to describe a small bag used to carry coins.

The name comes from – you guessed it – a small book that used to be carried in one’s pocket, and also held bank notes and money.

While your grandmother might still use the term, younger women tend to call their bags “purses” or “handbags”.

You are more likely to hear the term pocketbook these days when it refers to an app or a handheld touchscreen computer. Seem confusing? Bone up on today's computing terms.

2. Whippersnapper

This word, which is an alteration of the term “snippersnapper,” first appeared in the 1700s, making it abundantly clear that even our earliest ancestors were easily annoyed by petulant children.

In its more modern form, the term relates to an overconfident child or young person who acts more important than he or she actually is: “That clueless whippersnapper doesn’t know a darn thing about life!”

Let's face it – kids can be a challenge sometimes. Here's 7 ways they can really get your goat and how to manage them

3. Tape

If you came of age in the 1980s, chances are you still use the word “tape” when it comes to recording your favourite music or TV shows, as in, “I’m not going to be home tonight to watch ‘Knight Rider.’ Could you tape it for me?”

With the advent of digital media, there’s obviously no longer a need to record anything on magnetic tape, but still, old linguistic habits die hard.

Speaking of old habits dying hard, is the convenience offered by technology making us lazy, forgetful and unable to solve basic problems?

4. Xerox

Xerox launched its first commercially available copy machine in the 1960s.

Due to its rapid success, the brand name Xerox soon became interchangeable with the word “copy,” much like the brand Kleenex has become synonymous with “tissue”.

Today, there are many new printing companies on the market, and most workers refer to making copies as … making copies.

Therefore, if you ask a younger co-worker to “Xerox” a document for you, you might be met with a blank stare. 

You may need to school up on how to deal with the onslaught of tech in the home and workplace by reading this survival guide to the digital age.

5. Floppy disk

If you used a computer in the 1980s and ’90s, chances are, you used a square floppy disk for file storage.

As CDs became more ubiquitous, the need for floppy disks faded away, so much so that computers stopped manufacturing computers with built-in floppy disk drives.

Asking a colleague to save something on a disk will certainly make you sound old, as tiny “thumb” or “flash” drives have since replaced bulkier storage media … for now.

Perhaps you just need to embrace technology.

6. Stewardess

In the early days of air travel, a woman who attended to her passengers’ needs was called a stewardess.

As years went on, the term took on a negative connotation, because of the restrictive emphasis put on the way women looked.

As more men entered the profession, and as women fought back against gender bias in the 1960s and 1970s, the term was replaced with the more gender-neutral title of “flight attendant”.

Travelling is stressful as it is so look after yourself if taking a long-haul flight and take note of the 10 things you should never do on an airplane.

7. Icebox

Before people had refrigerators, they used to keep food cold by placing them in iceboxes, which, quite literally, were insulated metal or wood boxes that held large blocks of ice.

Once home refrigerators became more commonplace in the 1930s and ‘40s, iceboxes were no longer necessary.

For those older folks who grew up without mechanical refrigeration, however, the word “icebox” is forever etched in their vernacular.

Does anyone still use the term icebox today? It's certainly not the most misused word in the English language

8. Dungarees

Today, we call them “jeans,” but people once referred to pants made out of heavy denim as “dungarees”.

The name comes from a cheap coarse type of cloth imported from Dongari Kilda, India.

The word “dungaree” eventually transformed into “jeans” when clothing manufacturers began importing the cloth from Genoa in Italy, which is referred to as “Genes” in French.

Despite its antiquated terminology, you still might periodically hear old-timers referring to heavy work pants as dungarees.

Got some old dungarees or other vintage clothes you can't bring yourself to throw out? Here are 4 steps to keep treasured vintage clothing looking it's best.

9. Groovy

The origins of this word date back to the jazz age of the 1920s, when it started as a slang term for good music – found “in the grooves” of a vinyl record.

It gained widespread prominence during the 1960s and ’70s, when it was used as a synonym for “excellent” or “cool.”

By the 1980s, the word was pretty much out of fashion.

Today, if you refer to someone or something as “groovy” (without a hint of sarcasm, that is), you’ll sound anything but hip.

Fancy yourself a bit of a wordsmith? Never at a loss to find the right word? See if our quiz can stump you.

Written by Jennifer Brozak. This article first appeared in Reader’s Digest. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, here’s our best subscription offer.