Monday, August 30, 2010
The meaning of words is often well outside what you will find in a dictionary. For instance I once asked Jill about her very kind regular visits to her severely disabled and demented elderly ex-husband. I asked her did she take him up snakes and milk-bottles. She replied, No, but she did take him up snowballs.
That could have sounded like all three of us were pretty demented but in fact it was a perfectly sane enquiry on my part and Jill understood it immediately. Snakes, milk-bottles and snowballs are types of children's candy and we both knew that Brian liked them.
So I wonder a little what people meant when during my childhood adults regularly described me as "old fashioned". I always took it to mean that I seemed old beyond my years but I wonder now did they mean it literally? Were my ideas during my childhood even then of a past era? It's possible because I was a great reader of old books almost from the time that I first learned to read.
I will have to find someone in their late 80s or early 90s to tell me what they might have meant if they had in their younger years described some kid as "old-fashioned"
Update, 3 Sept. 2010
Another culture specific reference which would, I think, boggle non-Australian users of English is the word "vanity". I said to Geoff, my handyman, today: "I'll get you to pick up a new vanity from Bunnings for me" -- where Bunnings is a hardware store. What could I possibly have meant? Any Australian could tell you. A "vanity" is a cupboard and sink for a bathroom. The full usage is "vanity unit" and must have been a bit of marketing puff from way back when.