Saturday, November 7, 2015

From Skedaddle to Selfie: Words of the Generations


Rating: 4 Stars


Thank you NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

It's no surprise that I love words. I love learning about how words came to be, different definitions and how they've changed over generations, and so on.

That's exactly what this book then presents. Starting in the mid 1700s with the Republican Generation, the author takes us on a wonderful journey up through what has apparently been coined the 'Homeland' Generation, which is the kiddos from 2005-on (in fact, half of this generation has not even been born yet).

The author provides multiple sources of information, something I found most valuable. Included here is ample evidence of the word uses from their specific generations - stories, newspaper articles, and quotes. As the book moves through to more recent generations, there are references naturally also to how these words have invaded our lexicon through Facebook and Twitter.

The book is naturally told in chronological order, beginning with the generation that brought us words like unalienable and gerrymander. Prior to introducing the key words themselves, the author introduces the generation itself, the years it encompasses, and what made this generation unique from those who came before. I found this historical aspect especially interesting, as I learned a few new things about said generations, not just the words they made famous. I always knew why the Baby Boomers were referred to as such, but had no idea how large the numbers actually were - the book states that 80 million Americans comprise the Baby Boomer generation, born between 1946 and 1964. 80 MILLION!

While I was familiar with all the words in the book, I was certainly not familiar with many of their origins, and so many words are much older than I realized. I also found that it was not until the GI/Greatest Generation that I became most familiar with those words in the context as we know them today. In prior generations, word meanings have changed, or are not nearly as common. I mean seriously, how often do you use gerrymander in daily conversation?

Upon arriving at Gen X, I was happy to not only see some favorites words, but specific references to Nirvana and lyrics to 'Lithium' in the 'grunge' description. Here the author relays a quote from a member of that generation, saying Kurt's death (I refuse to call it a suicide. You know what you did, Courtney Love) was his generation's JFK moment. I feel like this really does capture Generation X; though I was born one year into Generation Y (as I prefer to call it, because Millennial is STUPID), even I recall seeing the report from Kurt Loder on MTV announcing that Cobain's body had been discovered. For so many, it really was a generation-defining moment.

I began the section on my own generation with some trepidation - and with good reason. My generation has come up with some really stupid words and phrases. In fact, I am almost embarrassed. As I mentioned above, I prefer Generation Y to Millennial. Perhaps my generation as coined so many dumb phrases because we are saddled with such a dumb label. I skipped over the section devoted to selfie, easily my least favorite of the group. Additionally, YOLO, abbrevs, hipster, and flash mob are terrible things. However, while it is the words 'YOLO' and abbrevs' that annoy me, is is the thing 'hipster' and 'flashmob' actually represent that bug me also. Gavin DeGraw said it best in 'Best I Ever Had': "Take me home, I can't stand this place/'Cause there's too many hipsters and I just can't relate". Perfect, thanks Gavin. One thing I can and do enjoy about the language of my generation though, is 'awkward'. The author states, "Whatever the reason, Millennials are the generation that actually says "awkward" when a situation is awkward." This is so hilariously and wonderfully true. I have done it. Multiple times. It is something I can not explain.

Really, there is not a whole lot to find fault with here. This is a fun pop-culture look at the words of generations. My one major glaring complaint was the discussion of the word 'gay'. Definitely lost points for using the phrase "the gay lifestyle". Sorry I'm not sorry, but there is no 'lifestyle' about it, being gay is just part of being for some. Aside from that, I can recommend this one as a fun, easy read.

Here are a few of my favorites:

The word 'dude' goes all the way back to 1883. Who knew it's not just for stoners?

'Fan' began as a shortened version of fanatic, and referred specifically to baseball fans. Thank goodness it is much more generic now, because if it only applied to baseball, I could never be called a fan. Snooooooze.

The use of the word sexy goes back to the early 1900s! Had no idea. It seems so racy in that context, on account of the phrase 'have sex' didn't even become a thing until the mid 1800s.

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