Neuromarketing. Identity theft. Psychogeography. Friendly bacteria. Corporate bonding. Flash mobbing. Spam. Jumping the shark. The world has become over-particularised to an alarming degree. New words and concepts crowd into our dictionaries; fancy-sounding, polysyllabic coinages sprout like daffodils in March. They come mostly from the worlds of business, media and technology, but here's the funny thing - you and I and the couple at No 36 are expected to be familiar with them all. We might protest that we have no interest in Bluetooth because we fail to grasp its connection to both telephones and computers, and that, furthermore, we have no intention of finding out. But the chap at the party to whom you venture these Luddite cavils will shake his head sadly and say: "Sorry, mate, but you're going to need to know all about it sooner or later."
Around the time of decimalisation in 1971, when the whole country had to start checking its change in multiples of 10 rather than 12, the BBC broadcast a programme called Granny Gets the Point. This patronising title suggested that even feeble-minded seniors could be made to understand about decimal points if someone with a suit and clipboard explained to them, slowly. Today, when the words "Do keep up" are bandied humorously between friends, it's easy to feel like decimal granny - unable to grasp how or where one downloads or speed-dates or podcasts, condemned to listen to corporate apologies.
The Oldie magazine, a journal which once seemed merely a tirade of whingeing complaints interspersed with threadbare reminiscences about retired comedians, but which now seems increasingly wise (why is that, I wonder?), published "Bling, Blogs and Bluetooth: Modern Living for Oldies" last week, directly addressing these concerns. Its 97 short essays introduce its bewildered readers to what their children are talking about, from affluenza to tweenagers, trying to explain the rationale behind reality TV or chick lit, and why you're expected to want it, like it or care about it. Much of it is ingenious: Rohan Candappa explains the concept of identity theft as a scare tactic designed to drive the nation into a state of such paranoia that they'll embrace ID cards. Some of it is linguistic, like the emptying of meaning in the word innit. Some of it is hilarious, especially Michael Bywater's dilations on personal grooming, a scam designed to sell a dream image to the insecure.
But as you read this litany of abominations - hyper-parenting, nature-identical flavourings - you're aware how much has been left out. Take the word solutions in a company name. Every month another company that manufactures umbrellas decides to call itself Outdoor Wetness Solutions. Or the disappearance of the fine word hospital with its connotations of hospitality and care, to be replaced by NHS Trust. Or the unmusicality of modern argot: is there an uglier word in the history of language than blog? Then there's comfort zones, default positions, and a heads-up.
Then you realise that you've joined another modern syndrome. You've joined the ranks of grumpy old men and women, of grumbling sticklers like Lynne Truss, anti-philistines like Howard Jacobson, querulous nostalgics like Michael Bywater, who have become figures of fun in the world of call centres and life coaches. You wonder if the whole thing is being masterminded by some evil media mogul, inventing more high-concept nonsense to render us apoplectic, to feed our appetite for fury and entertain the clued-up chaps out there with their BlackBerrys and spreadsheets.
Yes, we muddled, puzzled, non-adopting, don't-want-it, don't-care-about-it, middle-aged whingers have become a name ourselves: the refuseniks? The complaints department? The pile of carp?Reuse content