Being someone who works with language everyday, it shames me to admit that I have a hard time knowing when slang phrases become trendy and then when they go out of style. I have a hard time knowing when clothes become trendy and when they go out of style, too, but that’s almost excusable, since I prefer to beÂ naked at every opportunity.
But words are a different story. I should know when a cool slang phrase goes out of style. I should, but I don’t. Hell, up until about a week ago, I was still saying “izzle” in every sentence, because I thoughtÂ it was still cool. Imagine my embarrassment when I found outÂ it wasn’t.
But I’m thinking we should retire the phrase “old school”. The other day, a friend of mine was telling a story about a playground hoops game he was in, and he referred to one of the playground regulars as an “old school basketball player”.
My initial thought was that the person to whom he was referring must possess an enormous afro and possibly some Converse All-Stars, but then I thought that’s not really old school any more. Big afros are actually new school. Actually, big afros are new old school, in that they are old school, but recent old school, since they saw a resurgence from the actual old school days a couple of years ago, but have since fallen out of style again, making them once more old school, but in a new frame of reference . . . . . . Or words to that effect.
But my second thought was a little different. I became convinced that the phrase “old school” was . . . well, old school. I think that saying “old school” has been played out, and now it no longer belongs in the general lexicon.
I mean, consider the meaning of “old school”. It refers simply to an earlier time in a specific history. Which, if there is not much total time in the overall history, it’s easy to at least get a ballpark idea about what “old school” means. But suppose an enormous block of time constitutes that earlier time or that history. The term “old school” becomes even less specific, and therefore it’s meaning becomes more vague and perhaps even completely obscured.
For example, if someone says, “She’s an old school skateboarder”, you’d know her style and skill level are probably similar to that perfected by the Dog Town boys and even Tony Hawk in the 1970s and 80s. The history of skateboarding innovation is not that extensive, and one can find understanding in that context without too much trouble.
But suppose someone says, “She’s an old school prostitute”. What does that mean? What does it mean to be an old school prostitute? Does she have a red light over her cave? Does she service pharaohs at their bachelor parties? Did she give syphilis to the Knights Templar? Is she French and really smelly? The history of prostitution is too vast, and it’s difficult to derive any valuable meaning from the phrase in that context.
So why don’t we retire “old school”? Or at the very least, put a hundred year limit on the time frames we refer to when we use it, so that any ‘school’ we may be discussing can reach back no further than a hundred years. I don’t want to have to do research just to follow a conversation.
So . . . Â
“Old school” yes or no? What other trendy slang expressions should we eliminate? Do you have any slang expressions to introduce?
The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.