While it can be fascinating to see all the new words and expressions that are added to dictionaries on an ongoing basis, sometimes it’s even more intriguing to have a look at formerly common words that are rarely or even never used nowadays. Here’s a look at seven words you may have heard all the time a few decades ago but are unlikely to hear today.
The Walkman was a clunky, portable audio cassette player that was as popular in the 1980s as mp3 media players are today. The original designer called it a Stereobelt but Sony decided to release it in Japan under the name Walkman. The name became popular internationally even though Sony released the same device in other countries using different names. However, the invention of portable CD players and media players has made the Walkman totally obsolete.
The word gallivant may sound like the word gallant but the two have nothing in common. Gallant means to be brave, heroic and chivalrous; gallivant, on the other hand, means to travel for pleasure or to roam town indiscreetly with one or more members of the opposite sex.
Dungarees refer to work clothes made from denim. In today’s vernacular, they are known as jeans. However, the original definition meant not only denim clothing but clothing that was specifically made for people doing hard, manual labor. While many construction workers, welders, carpenters and other hard-working individuals often wear jeans in today’s world, they can also be expensive clothing items worn to informal business functions or fashion events.
Icebox is an outdated term used to refer to the device that we now call the refrigerator. However, the word dates back to centuries before refrigerators were even invented. The word’s first known use dates back to the 1700s, at which time nobles used chunks of ice to keep food and drinks cool during the hot summer months. In the 1900s, the first refrigerators also used ice to keep food cool; however, the invention of electronic refrigerators doomed the icebox to eventual oblivion.
The term yuppie came from the phrase “young urban professionals”. It was commonly used to describe young people who worked in or near a large city and who earned a lot of money in their jobs. However, yuppies cannot be accurately defined as only being young, well-off people from a bygone era. As at least one author has accurately noted, yuppies were considered to be young people who were so entrenched in city life that they could no longer connect with or even understand rural Americans. Yuppies were considered to be self-absorbed, fashion conscious and elite in both education and attitude. While yuppies are certainly around in today’s world, they are no longer young and the name has all but fallen out of use.
6. Floppy Disk
The floppy disk was the primitive precursor of CDs. As the name implies, they were floppy on the inside and had to be kept in plastic cases to prevent damage. They couldn’t hold much information so most people had large cases of them to store important information, personal documents, games and music. CDs made these devices pretty much obsolete. External hard drives and SD cards finished the job. In today’s world, you are unlikely to ever hear the words “floppy disk” spoken unless you happen to work in the United States Department of Defense. Surprisingly, it was recently revealed that Department of Defense computer systems that coordinate intercontinental missiles and nuclear bombers still use floppy disks.
While most people under 30 years old have probably never ever heard this word, it was at one point quite popular. Technically, a hootenanny is a gathering where folk singers provide entertainment with the audience joining in. However the word did have other definitions over the years. It came from a Scottish word meaning party so it is not surprising that it was often used to refer to a party or celebration in general. Some used the word to replace the name of something they couldn’t remember; i.e. “Pass me that hootenanny, would you?” At one point, a political club in the 1930s even used the word hootenanny to describe a musical political fundraiser held on a monthly basis.
It is amazing to realize that words which were once common in times past are literally never or almost never used today. It gives a bit of perspective as we release that the world around is changing all the time. Chances are some words that are used all the time today will be unheard of in another few decades. In fact, our grandkids may one day give us the same strange look when we use today’s vocabulary as we give our grandparents when they pull out words that we no longer remember or consider useful.