Old Age is Greedy
Old People, Fraud and the 2020 Census

A TGB READER STORY: What Have They Done to the Dictionary?

By Elizabeth Megyesi

I used to think I had a fairly good understanding of the English language. After all, English is the language I spoke as a child, adding words and their meanings steadily as I grew, first at home, then at school.

Throughout the years the words got longer and meanings more complex, but I kept adding them to my vocabulary. Upon hearing a new word, there was always the dictionary to look up the meaning and probably the definition made sense.

But all of a sudden, as if overnight, someone added dozens of new pages to the dictionary with hundreds of brand new words. When you start looking up their meanings, most of the definitions consist of other brand new words.

OK, It didn’t really happen overnight and I should have paid more attention at the beginning of the computer age. At first I learned enough to get by but apparently that wasn’t enough. Sort of like knowing how to drive a car but without understanding how it works. When something goes wrong you are in big trouble.

So now I am at the bottom of the class when it comes to my technical vocabulary words. Not just computers but phones, TV’s, and even cars are becoming a puzzle.

Calling a help desk only works when you know enough to ask the right questions to get your answer. You are advised to click this button or open that file. At some point you have to admit you haven’t got a clue.

Thank goodness for grandkids who seem to have been born with electronic devices in their hands and these words in their vocabulary.

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


We are split into groups who have spoken tech as their native tongue, those who have learned the language, however imperfectly, as adults and many to whom it might as well be the language of visitors from another planet! I suppose it happens in every age but ours has been a time of explosive invention and change. Remember the old curse, May you live in interesting times?

I feel incredibly lucky to have a son who is an IT programmer and knows the new tech stuff inside and out. And what he doesn't know, one of his friends will. And of course my granddaughter can explain anything related to social media and my grandson keeps me squared away on my video games. I have my own personal geek squad!

(But those dictionaries ... I grew up thinking they were immutable, carved in stone, the ultimate law. Sure enough, change is the only constant.)

My aunt, who worked in an office, gulped, faced her fears and learned how to use "the computer" in late middle age. By the time she’d died, she had digitized all her photos. My mother, in her eighties, learned to text, berating me that I wasn’t yet texting ("It’s as easy as sending a telegram, Claudia"). When I came home from Egypt this October, she took great joy (sitting up in her hospital bed ) in swiping through the hundreds of pix on my iPad.
There is always something we don’t know how to do in our lives: tie shoes, drive a car, make a phone call, bake a cake or pie or roast a turkey, write a heart felt thank you or sympathy letter. And, always, there is someone who can show us how to do what we want to learn about. Often, we are the helper.
I’m 71, and I say, "Turn and face the strange."

No way am I going to spend my valuable time learning all kinds of techno things that I don't care about, just to "stay in step." I love and want to learn lots more about: aging in place, painting, gardening, what I can do about the human caused earth changes, cooking, communication between humans and other beings, music, meditation, enough politics to do my bit, and other stuff. Technology is wonderful, and also, a lot of it is fiddling while Rome burns. There's a lot of that going on.

A useful technical word to know is "thingie."

In the mid-1980s I went back to college, got my degree in Information Technology. Learned lots of computer jargon, stuff like RAM & GIGO (garbage in, garbage out). Spent the next 30 years in the IT field as a programmer/analyst, keeping up with things as best I could before retiring in 2015.

I thought I was done, but now I’m learning all kinds of new terminology—stuff like NSAIDS, ureteral stents, gallstones, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, hypertension, bursitis. I didn’t know what any of this stuff was until the last couple years—and I wish I still didn’t!

We always considered "thingie" a highly technical term ;)

So a definition of a thingie might be: something or anything about which you really know nothing about. Alternate spelling, thingy.
Example usage: What's that thing on your nose? Not sure, the thingie was just there when I woke up this morning.

And that’s the truth!


Quite the fascinating read! I definitely will be coming back for more! I would like to talk about a senior community I have recently discovered and they are truly amazing. Everything from 3 fresh-cooked meals a day, to daily exercise, and even weekly activities for us seniors to enjoy :) https://crossroadsadultcare.com/

I thought that I had aa pretty good handle on the English language until a few months ago when I got involved with tutoring English as a Second Language (ESL) for adults. After all, I have B.A. in English! Right?

At our first how-to-tutor class they started with a simple (?) lesson: prepositions of time. What? Did I learn that in elementary school decades ago? How could I teach what I couldn't remember learning?

Now that I have been assigned my first student, things have worked out. Her degree is in computer science, but luckily that is not what I need to teach her or what I need to understand.

We are both learning English. Marla Lewis, a friend from high School, wrote and released a song "We All Laugh in the Same Language" and that is what I need to remember.

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