October 19, 2012
Let's start with the M&M's.
I wrote recently about a younger colleague who told me that M&M's, which are my favorite deadline food, are an old-fashioned candy that no one eats anymore. Her remark incited so much dismay and outrage among Tribune readers that it seems only fair to let them be heard here today.
M&M's, these protesters of all ages assured me, are not in a league with the outmoded likes of Sugar Babies, Necco Wafers and Boston Baked Beans.
"M&M's don't date you," emailed a reader in her 30s. "Baby Ruths do."
M&M's, the protesters insisted, remain plenty hip, though, as one respondent noted, anyone who says "hip" is not likely to be.
"M&M's are a classic," insisted John Jacob, meaning old but still in style. "But the real bee's knees, the cat's pajamas, are Chuckles, which, so far as I can tell, are available around here only at a liquor store in River Forest, and for some reason at the gift shop at West Suburban Hospital."
In the column on M&M's, I also talked about other things that can date a person, most notably words. (See "cat's pajamas" above.)
"Today's column was really bitchin'," wrote Bob Johnson, reminding me of an outdated word I'm going to pretend I never used.
"It was a trip to read your right-on and far-out article, man," wrote Doug Iverson, reminding me of words I hope I never used.
"My dad," wrote Jennifer Frankel, "uses the term 'broad' as in, 'This old broad cut me off in traffic.' I instantly think to myself: 'Who on earth uses that word anymore?' By the way, my 7-year-old loves M&M's and I think he is a pretty cool kid."
Some readers wrote to say their children whip them into language shape.
"Yesterday," wrote Pam Kovacs, "I told my college-age son to save his money so he had a good nest egg for when he graduated in May. He wrote back, 'Thanks for using the phrase 'nest egg,' it cracked me up.'"
"P.S." she wrote, "M&M's are my favorite snack."
Suzie Kiddoo was also taken to language school recently:
"I used the word 'blouse' in a conversation with my daughter. She burst out laughing and said, 'Blouse?' in a very derogatory way and went on to tell me that was out of date. As a matter of fact, I was wearing a very cute Chico's blouse at the time."
Kiddoo also recalled how she used to roll her eyes when her grandmother referred to a blouse as a "waist."
This linguistic caution came from Lisa Coe: "When my daughter got her first job this summer at a local restaurant, my husband and I both foolishly asked her — unknowingly, at different times — if she had to 'punch a clock.' Oops. It's touch screen."
Some readers mentioned words so outdated I'd never heard them.
"My dad was born in 1896," wrote Frank Brady. "He was in his 40s when I was born. When he saw or talked about a car that he thought was 'cool,' he referred to it as 'doggy.' It took me years to realize he liked the car and was not making fun of it. And BTW, pass me the M&M's."
Finally, a couple of readers objected to my list of things besides words and candy that can make a person look old, a list that included AOL accounts and mustaches. No one disputed AOL accounts.
But, sniffed one objector, "Mustaches? You obviously haven't been to Wicker Park lately."
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