Simon Kelner: Lost for words? It's probably an age thing

Kelner's view

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Like everything else in the modern world, our language is changing with breathtaking rapidity. Every time a new edition of a dictionary or thesaurus is brought out, there's a whole collection of new words and phrases that reflect contemporary life. The latest Chambers Thesaurus contains what they call a "Word Lover's Gallimaufry", a reassuringly old-fashioned title for a hotchpotch (the literal meaning of gallimaufry) of the cutting-edge vernacular of today.

An overwhelming majority of the additions to our daily language relate to new technology, and seem to me to be only used in common discourse by the young. Among the phrases invented by those who spend too much time attached to electronic gadgetry are "social notworking" (spending office time on Facebook) and "ringxiety" (the panic induced by hearing someone with the same ring tone as yours). I began to feel a little resentful that our language was now pandering to the young: what about words to describe the particular habits, tastes and anxieties of older people?

So here is my first stab at a lexicon for the middle-aged (i.e. anyone too old to shout "TMI" when someone's oversharing):

Specsasperation (noun): The condition endured by those who can't find their glasses. They've looked downstairs for them and then gone upstairs and, after finally remembering why they've gone upstairs in the first place, still can't find them. Only relieved when said spectacles are found on the top of the head.

Odeophobia (noun): The fear of booking cinema tickets using a voice-prompt system. It may be a perfectly efficient way of getting your seats at the Odeon, but the act of shouting "YES", "NO", "TWO", "EIGHT THIRTY" and "I SHOULD COCO" (try it for a laugh) down the phone at a disembodied female voice makes many people over 40 feel hideously self-conscious.

Tie anxiety (noun): Time was when a gentleman knew where he was, sartorially speaking. He wore a tie to the office, and at any formal or even semi-formal event. Now, there are no rules, and even Prime Ministers appear open-necked in public. This makes the act of pitching it right fraught with danger. A tie used to be a completely neutral piece of apparel: now it sends a message – buttoned up, or approachable? – that it was never meant to.

Trite Fright (noun): Aversion to the use of cliché, usually by politicians, and most especially by Justine Greening, the transport secretary, who used "going forward" twice in a short interview yesterday, and insists on calling problems, catastrophes and cock-ups "challenges".

Davrophilia (noun): Arriving at an age when you find yourself amused by those you never previously thought funny, most commonly a liking for the comedian Bobby Davro. "They treated me like royalty at my hotel," he says. "They took pictures of me stark naked." That's comedy we can relate to.

More to come in the near future.

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