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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

what once common phrase or sentence you used to hear will you never hear again?


This weekend’s Question comes from LaSargenta, who wants to know:

What once common phrase or sentence you used to hear will you never hear again?

And she continues:

I ask this because last night as I drifted off I recalled the common instruction to “Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for more information/cooking suggestions/our guarantee/our catalog/etc.”

One of the first that comes to mind for me: “Directory Assistance, what number, please?”


(If you have a suggestion for a Question, feel free to email me.)

  • Stephanie C.

    ‘How can I direct your call?’ I always seem to get a recording saying, “If you know the last name of your call, please enter it now. To hear our staff directory, please hit 2.”

    It also occurred to me the other day that ‘The call is coming from INSIDE THE HOUSE’ would also seem odd these days. I mean, why wouldn’t it be? I don’t usually phone my roommate who is on this floor, but the one that’s on the other floor, who often is asleep or not home, I frequently call or text when I have a question for him.

    and remember “Hang up the phone! Get Off the line Oooeeooo, I got to get through to my baby (talk about my baby)”. My phone can handle 4 incoming calls at a time. That noise indicates a system problem, not a busy signal anymore. Straight to voicemail.

  • Steve Gagen

    “The cheque’s in the mail”. What’s a cheque?

  • Stephanie C.

    Cheques are still really common for things like rent, actually. I am working as superintendent and I take a pile of them to the bank each month. And they’re handy to keep around so you can find your routing number readily…

  • Steve Gagen

    Thinking a little more, there are lots of other phrases that have gone the way of the dodo – “Move along the bus please” (no conductors any more), “Can you direct me to …” (who hasn’t got a smartphone with map app), “Would you please develop this film” (what’s film?), “The line’s engaged” (your call is important to us …), “Do you mind if I smoke/Have you got a light?” (they know the answer and will head for the street instead), “No children/Not Married? How come?” (people used to ask this – they wouldn’t dare now), “I’m just a housewife” (women used to say this, really), “May I take your hat and gloves” (nobody much wears either), “Time gentlemen please” (at closing time in pubs). A fascinating exercise!

  • Steve Gagen

    Not here in Australia – they are just about completely gone. The only time I’ve used a cheque in the past 20 years is for a house deposit – then it was a bank-cheque, bought from a bank. Nobody would take a cheque here for anything. It’s all EFT, or cash if you can’t cope with that – you can still pay utility bills and the like in the post-office with cash.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Not sure if this counts, but…

    I will likely spend the rest of my life thinking in terms of 60, 75 or 100 watt light bulbs to replace in some lamp, though I expect not to buy any light bulb with that kind of power rating ever again. I’ll be the old guy in the hardware store home improvement center, insisting the clerks find me a “75 watt equivalent”. >.<

  • bronxbee

    “Does Macy’s tell Gimbels’?” which was on its way out even when *i* was a kid…
    “touch typing”… always a sort of oddly named “skill,” now meaningless…

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    As someone who never learned to touch type (i.e. use all 10 fingers and look at the output, not the keyboard, while typing) I can assure you it is far from meaningless. If anything, while it used to be a strictly vocational skill, I’d argue it’s now a more important and useful writing skill than cursive script.

  • bronxbee

    but there is (or was) no other way to type except by “touching” the keyboard…. the QWERTY typing still doesn’t seem very necessary… i know a lot of people who type at least as fast as me with the old-fashioned method (110 wpm) and use either 4, 3 or 7 or 8 fingers… and i haven’t met one young attorney at my office who admits to having taken “keyboarding” (another non-melodic phrase).

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I’m fairly certain the “touch” in touch typing refers to the fact that you don’t look at the keyboard while you type. That is, you type by touch, rather than by sight. Doing so does make a significant statistical difference in error-catching.

    That’s not to say that the decades old, 10 finger, F/J home key, Mavis Beacon style is the end-all-beat-all of typing, any more than the QWERTY key layout is. With sufficient innate talent or dedicated practice, most people can learn to type with high speed using any number of fingers. However, I do think that typing proficiency is a highly (and increasingly) useful skill. Touch typing just a well known, effective system to teach to students. It gives them a foundation that works, from which they can develop their own tricks and shortcuts. As I often tell my students about a lot of different skills (solving projectile motion, balancing chemical equations, taking notes, etc.): “It hardly matters what system you use, as long as you have a system. one that works, and that you use every time. So here’s one that I know works. Learn it, and move on from there.”

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    All that being said, I can’t argue that the term “touch typing” is fading from the lexicon, replaced with the just as accurate term “typing”. :)

  • cinderkeys

    “Waiting by the phone.”

    I was thinking about using this in song lyrics — it’s cliched, but gets the meaning across quickly — and then remembered that nobody does this anymore. Even if you don’t carry a cell phone around, you probably have voice mail or an answering machine. It’s impossible to miss a call anymore.

  • RogerBW

    “I need to go, I want to catch (TV programme).” Except with people who want to talk on-line about a particular show as soon as it’s over.

    “I saw an advertisement for (product).” Who doesn’t skip through advertisements?

  • LaSargenta

    Hey! Cool!


    I also remember that line by X: Your phone’s off the hook, but you’re not! [ http://www.actionext.com/names_x/x_lyrics/your_phones_off_the_hook_but_youre_not.html ]

    No one under 30 28 knows what that means.

  • Beowulf

    I took it as a voluntary summer high school class, and it was–and is–the best thing ever. I wrote a lot more books more easily because my little fingers knew where to go without my actually having to look at the keyboard.

  • Beowulf

    “Here’s where we came in….”
    Movie theaters no longer have continuous walk-in/walk-out showings. You buy a ticket for a specific screening.

    (Thank PSYCHO and Hitch for that.)

  • Bluejay

    “Smoking or non-smoking?”

  • LaSargenta

    Jeeeze…I remember when that actually started! Minnesota was the first state to require public accomodation of smoking and no smoking sections in restaurants, so my father moved us there.

  • J.T. Dawgzone

    I had no idea that was a thing.

  • Beowulf

    “Floor 17, please” to the elevator operator.

  • LaSargenta

    Actually, my office building still uses elevator operators for the freight. I frequently go in the back door and one of the staff always insists on taking me up … my company is on 2 floors so he asks me which one. This very morning I said “6th Floor, please”!! To an elevator operator.

    Feel free to get in touch if in NYC and ask to witness this phenomenon. I’ll then give you a tour of my office. We have a lab.

  • Danielm80

    Y’know, I would totally do that if I didn’t work out in the boroughs. I can imagine my supervisor saying, “You need time off to go where?

  • LaSargenta

    I wonder if Forgotten New York has a list of buildings with elevator operators.

  • Danielm80

    The funny thing is, elevator operators and phone booths are disappearing, but I keep running into washroom attendants who want to hand me soap and towels. I hear they’re vanishing, but they still keep showing up and asking me for tips.

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