“Mo-om,” says Clementine, stretching that one syllable out into two or three (all the better to fit the amused disdain in), “nobody calls it a bookbag anymore.”
Well, I thought, there goes my sense of accomplishment. And I had just been feeling so proud of myself for managing to string together the sentence “Clementine, please put this bookbag in your room,” when usually what escaped my lips during one of these semiannual house organizing tirades was something more along the lines of “You over there–yeah, you–Clem-Cly-Clem–the taller one–put that thing–that thing that holds other things–in that place–the one with the bed. Oh, you know what I’m talking about: just do it.”
At which point my husband will make some comment like, “Gee, it’s so nice to have a writer in the house,” to which I will respond with some brilliant comeback like: “Oh, shut up…you.”
But this time I had been able to reach deep into my vocabulary and withdraw just the word that I had been looking for: bookbag. A bag that holds books. What could be wrong with that word? How could such a simple, perfectly descriptive word be classified as unhip? And yet, according to the look of eye-rolling disdain that had accompanied Clementine’s retort, that was exactly what it was: unhip. Worse than unhip, it was somehow archaic. How had that happened? Had I, myself, been unhip for so long now that the words I used were no longer merely unhip themselves, but were actually dangerously anachronistic?
I mean, c’mon: it wasn’t as if I had dredged the word up out of the 19th century or something; it’s not like I had told her to “tote that there satchel into the parlor, young lady–and while you’re at it, tell yer Pa to get his brogans off’n the davenport.” And yet, according to Clementine’s sneering reaction, it was.
Yes, according to Clementine’s reaction I had now become so completely out of touch that if I wanted to get something picked up off of the floor I would need to learn an entirely new vocabulary. Somehow, I’m not buying it.
Yes, I realize that every generation has its new version of “cool.” (Except, oddly enough, for the word “cool” itself–that word has proven to be rather uniquely timeless.) I know that “sick” becomes “sweet” and that “totally” becomes “way,” but unless we’re in the middle of a cockney rhyming slang renaissance, I sincerely doubt that, like Clementine says, there are completely different words for absolutely everything these days. In fact, I rather suspect that she is trying to pull a fast one here–do a number on me, give it some spin (whatever they’re saying now). And while I can’t help but resent it, I also have to admit that I do rather admire her for the attempt.
When you think about it, it’s really a brilliant plan; after all, what better way to avoid complying with my draconian (at least according to her) cleanliness rules than by pretending not to understand what I’m talking about? Here’s how it works: I ask her to “make her bed,” and she says “um, alright.” I tell her to put away her shoes and she says “oh-kay…” Later, when I ask her why those chores still aren’t done, she says something like: “Oh, did you mean you wanted me to fix my flop and stow my kicks? Why didn’t you just say so?” (Even better, if I am so foolish as to try and use those exact same terms back to her the next day she can always pretend that they are already obsolete, and respond with “Shot who?”)
Brilliant. So brilliant, in fact, that it’s no wonder that I am now reduced to cave language. Word. True dat. And, let’s not forget, fo shizzle.