Friday, March 4, 2011

Skate Keys, Valises, and Things No Longer So

It seems odd that anyone growing up in the last four decades is so thoroughly unacquainted with many everyday items that were commonplace in my childhood. Or at least with the words that described them.

Ask someone below the age of 40 what a skate key is, and you'll be met with a bovine stare. Try as you might to describe it, they won't have a clue. You'll get much the same reaction to "valise," the word commonly used to refer to a small suitcase in my childhood during the 1950s. But--curiously--"skate key" and "valise" puzzle recent generations in different ways: skate keys no longer exist, while "valises" are merely called by another name.

An ongoing list of other items that no longer exist: rotary phones, hair nets, The New York Mirror and The Journal American newspapers, fountain pens with plunger, inkwells, blotting paper, bus passes, double feature movies, soapbox scooters, High Mass & Low Mass, draft cards, car running boards, rubber galoshes with metal clasps, the 5 & 10, Kodak Brownie Hawkeye cameras, black and white tv, glass Coke bottles, oilcloth,

An ongoing list of other items now called by a different name: counterpane/bedspread, dungarees/jeans, bedstead/bed frame,