Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Endangered Species

In the course of a conversation I had with a much younger man, I had the opportunity to use the phrase, “Encumbered garret.” Polite silence followed. The man did not know what I meant but did not have the time or inclination to ask me. After a single beat, the conversation resumed. But the seconds of silence intrigued me, which led me to write a tanka and post it on Linkedin. One of my fellow poets on that network subsequently asked what the phrase meant. I began to feel really, really old when I answered, “It is a metaphor for a cluttered mind. I read it long, long ago when I was young and pterodactyls flew in the sky.” The literal translation of the phrase would be, “an attic loaded to excess.” I encountered the phrase in my Eight Grade English class with Mr. Ford; I admit I cannot find it now, and do not know who said it. This got me to thinking. The phrase seems clever and relevant to me, but am I clever and relevant myself? Or, like those two words, am I an endangered species? Language grows and changes. The dictionary adds an average of 5000 words a year to keep it unabridged. 4000 is a larger vocabulary than most of us possess, or at least utilize. Yet even human expression has changed, modified, abridged. In an era of LOL and BFF and the occasional ginormous addition, other words and phrases face extinction. They still exist, like all the junk shoved into Fibber McGee’s closet, but are no longer part of common usage. I lament their passing. I am not a Luddite (definition: someone who is opposed to or slow to embrace technology), but sometimes I sympathize. Maybe I could call myself a Ledite, someone who objects to smart phones and LED lighting. I am beyond incandescence, but my phone is very, very dumb.

No comments:

Post a Comment