Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Wonderful Words

Having used the word 'skedaddle' in the title of my last post, it got me to thinking about some of the wonderful words we just don't hear as often anymore. With text messaging and chat rooms clipping and simplifying language to an almost incomprehensible degree (well, to fogies (another great word) like me it does get annoying) it's a treat to think about some of the long and lazy words of yesteryear.

When I was young I used to walk to and from grade school. If I needed to be home on time for something, Mom would tell me either not to dawdle or to lollygag. To my kid's mind, these words obviously meant something very specific to her, and it was almost a game to figure out whether an activity was dawdling or lollygagging. After all, had I been told not to dawdle, then lollygagging was probably an acceptable activity, and vice versa.

It just came down to definitions, of course. For example, was stopping in front of a bunch of purple flowers and squeezing the air-filled buds until they popped with a satisfying sound – was that dawdling? To me it felt far more like lollygagging. However, if I saw a friend and stopped to sample a new Incredible Edible fresh from the mold, that seemed like dawdling.

Sometimes she'd throw in a ringer and tell me not to shilly shally. Now that was a puzzler. It has a lollygaggical feel to it and yet it was obviously something much rarer, since the instruction didn't occur as often. Perhaps only flibbertigibbets knew exactly what shilly shallying was. Regardless, I would make sure to avoid popping buds, eating Incredible Edibles, and skipping (in my mind, skipping was closely tied to shilly shallying). I felt that covered all the bases.

I suppose today's generation will someday wax nostalgic about the days of lol, bff, pos, and mmtmntloltlt (i.e. "My mom told me not to lollygag too long online today). Personally, I find it a little unsettling to look up the words of my youth in the dictionary and see "archaic" next to them. Perhaps the text generation will some day look up theirs and see a "huh?".


Nell said...

I always think of lollygagging as an Australian term - don't know why. Yet dawdle is very English and shilly shally is Irish. I'm sure someone more learned than me will be able to tell me the roots of these words and I'm probably totally wrong.

Joanna Sandsmark said...

Dawdle was Mom's favorite word, and that makes sense because her roots are English. I looked up lollygagging and it said "origin unknown". But you're right, shilly shally sounds very Irish.

Interesting observations, nell!

Madonna said...

How about this memorable chat room acronyms (courtesy of the Onion).

XIF Christ, I'm fat

IHTWBSA I have trouble with basic spelling and punctuation

WSTS Weeping silently to self

Somehow I don't think these have the same charm as your Mom's words to you.