News & Features » Miscellany

Farewell to old friends

Rosie Right

We have said goodbye to the century. Now, maybe it's time to take note of a few words we are leaving behind.

We certainly have enough new words to learn, but these old soldiers have been useful in their day. Here is a sampling of those Rosie has thought of and a few kindly contributed by Laurie Ongley, an editor for the U.S. Dictionaries Office of Oxford University Press. It would be good if you, our readers, would remind us of some more:

central — we still use central for many things such as "in, at, or near the center." But Webster's New World Collegiate Dictionary, Fourth Edition still lists this disappearing meaning: "a telephone exchange, esp. the main one, or a telephone operator: an early term."

cheaters (eyeglasses)

dance card (once used at formal dances)

ice box — When Rosie used this term for a refrigerator, her grandchild asked, "What's an ice box?"

jitney —this word is still in our "Official Dictionary of the Associated Press," but when is the last time you have heard it in conversation? It means: "a small bus or car, esp. one traveling a regular route that carries passengers for a small fare, originally five cents." An editor of dictionaries reminded Rosie that because a word is in the dictionary it isn't necessarily in general use. Dictionaries must list somewhat archaic words for the benefit of those who are doing research or reading books published in previous years.

penny postcard (because they used to cost a penny to mail)

receipt — in its meaning as "a listing of materials and directions for preparing a dish or drink," (Webster's) it is now described in the dictionary as "old-fashioned."

record player — perhaps you have a stereo but few of us have record players anymore, and if we have one, it's a daunting task to get a needle for it. A friend pointed out that interestingly enough, we still talk about recordings as albums.

shan't — this is a wonderfully euphonious word that seems to have completely disappeared from conversation.

unwed mother — this term has become single mother which, apparently does not carry the emotional disapproval that accompanied the term years ago.

Let Rosie hear from you by telephone (358-0825), letter (1118 W. Main St., Richmond, Va. 23220), fax (355-9089) or email (

Add a comment