THINKing Outside the Box

The other day, I was preparing dinner for a group of Saddleback students on a field trip. The menu was simple- tacos and the trimmings- and I got some very nice compliments, at least until one of the younger students said, “Hey Bill, those tacos were ill, I mean really ill!”

Naturally, I was distressed. He didn’t like my cooking? It was making him sick to his stomach? Then, with the help of someone whose age bridged ours and saw my discomfiture explained that he had actually given me high praise. You see, “ill” means “good”, “really ill” means “very good” and, if someone calls your food “sick”, they are basically saying, “you can feed me anytime, brother!”

At that moment, I realized that I have finally crossed the threshold of understanding; that I am standing on the other side of the generation gap. I don’t get it anymore. I don’t know how “ill” came to mean “great” or how “sick” describes a good thing. Presumably then, “No” will soon mean “Yes”, “right” “left” and “up” “down”. I remember that back in the day (and for that matter what day? THE day? Judgment Day? A day last week? A holiday?)

In other words, I remember a time when a new vocabulary was created to express our youth. Words like, “groovy”, “cool”, “sucks” or “bummer”. Many of these stalwarts have spanned generations, but I fear for my descriptive friends. Are they to be replaced by a reversal or meaning? Are our progeny so unimaginative that they won’t be able to assert their independence from the geezers by coming up with something never heard before? Please, I hope not. Back in the day- MY days of youth- is what I am referring to, coming up with words that irritated our elders was the form. Now it seems we are settling for confusion. I suppose it’s alright until you start to ask for directions, or you really don’t like the food. You may have a tough time convincing your server that you’re not just trying to be cool.

There’s another thing that I don’t get . . texting. What is the point? What’s wrong with just picking up the phone and calling someone? When I want to get hold of someone, I punch speed dial and use the voice mail. One-handed! Texting takes two hands and total focus, so you can’t multitask.

Forget about the argument that it’s discreet and can surreptitiously read a message without interrupting the meeting, class or movie. You’re supposed to have turned all that stuff off so there are NO distractions. And this new thing called “Textspeak”. Hasn’t anyone read Orwell’s “1984”? Are we going to lose the beauty, indeed the art of conversation because we are so pressed for time that we can’t even take a moment to properly articulate our thoughts? I ask you, for example, what is more romantic, being asked to dinner the “old fashioned” way, with a telephone call or getting this: “R U FRE 4 DNR?”

OK, I’m a dinosaur, I admit it. But I still think courtliness is better than cool and conversation is necessary whether face to face, over the phone, e-mail, or (ugghh), text messaging.

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