Thursday, May 16, 2013


And now it’s time to play. . .


Ye-e-es, it’s that goofy game in which we discover words that no one uses any more. Words that are retired. And a few once-popular phrases, which means they’re more than one word that isn't used any more!

I was going to put these in alphabetical order, but to hell with that. I sort of grouped them into categories.


Sociological terms:

Problem child (today called ADD, PTSD, QRST, evolving queer, or whatever the combination du jour is. Back then, they were just plain bad and had to go out behind the woodshed to be taught a lesson.)

Broken home: “He comes from a broken home.”  (Knowing looks, nodding heads. Ahhhh, that explains it.)

“Put him away” (as in “have him committed”, but it sounds more like closet clutter).

Sexual terms:

Nymphomaniac: I always thought this sounded like a long-winged insect, a dragonfly or something. Anyway, there aren’t any left, though people do go to Sex Anonymous and talk about how awful they are.

Frigid: Like a frigidaire. No hope of sex here.

Impotent: Always purely psychological. Now, purely physiological. Ain’t science grand?

Hymen: Does anyone have one of these any more?

Disease terms:

Grippe: Sort of like a flu, I think.

Lumbago: I love this word! It’s some sort of arthritic condition in your back.

Chilblains: An inflammation followed by itchy irritation on the hands, feet, or ears, resulting  from exposure to moist cold. Usually treated by rubbing snow on the afffected area. Ow.

Consumption: No, this has nothing to do with eating.

Ague: Jesus, I don’t know.

Psychiatric terms

Oedipus complex: Loves Mommy, kills Daddy, etc. Only in the Ozarks.

Penis envy: This was supposed to be universal among women, until science realized it afflicts mainly men.

Nerves: Nerves could mean anything, but it generally worked to get you out of gym class.

High-strung: We didn’t say bipolar then.

Candy terms:

Humbug: Hard boiled sweet, normally peppermint-flavoured, cushion-shaped. (And awful.)

Horehound: 1. an Old World bitter perennial mint (Marrubium vulgare) with downy leaves 2: an extract or confection made from the dried leaves and flowering tops of this plant 3: any of several mints resembling the horehound


Pepsin:   a digestive enzyme in the gastric juice of stomach secretions that catalyzes the splitting of proteins into smaller, more absorptive peptides; an extract of pepsin from the stomachs of calves, pigs, etc., formerly used as a digestive aid.  A popular flavoring used in chewing gum, Lifesavers, etc. (Yum!)

These must be holdovers from the days of patent medicines.

Drunk words:




Not very flattering.


Gay: this meant festive, flamboyant, even gaudy, and definitely happy. No one knows when the other meaning came into play.

Dandy: Not as in “just dandy,” but referring to a young man who was always just ahead of fashion and a bit of a poppinjay. Now mostly replaced by "metrosexual".

Hoary: Snowy or beardy or otherwise old and obsolete.

Self-pollution: This had nothing to do with going green, believe me!

Hankie (a related term): A piece of linen cloth that you blew your nose into (or worse), then stuck back into your pocket. You can see how Typhoid Mary got her start.


  1. Some of those words can get you inna heapa trouble if you use them these days.