Baby Boomers and a lost language


By Lee Scott

As a member of the Baby Boomers, I am part of the first generation brought up in front of a television set. Consequently, my vocabulary and other forms of communications include dialogue from old sitcoms. I am not particularly proud of this habit, and most of the time, I am not even aware that I am doing it. But the dialogue just slips out…like my response to ‘What time is it?’ ‘It’s Howdy Doody time!’  That show has been off the air for over fifty years. A friend of mine from England looked at me with a blank stare when I inadvertently mention ‘Vita-Vita Vegemen’ when she was preparing a Blended drink for us. “Now what ancient show are you quoting?” she asks. I love Lucy, I respond.

I must admit that it is nice to be around other people who understand the old references.  My husband and I went to a cocktail party recently and were introduced to a fellow named Will. Soon after we started to chat, one of his golfing buddies came up from behind, ‘Wilbur!’ he said in the best Mister Ed (the talking horse) voice ever. Those of us around had to laugh, although poor Will did not look pleased.

Unfortunately, I have also been known to break out into theme songs from obscure television shows.   Where does this come from?  Somewhere deep in my mind hide the lyrics to shows like The Patti Duke Show and The Brady Bunch.  And if I mention My Three Sons, don’t your crossed legs want to twitch.  How many of us haven’t hummed the Twilight Zone theme song when the lights go out during a thunder storm.

I do feel sorry for those people coming to this country and having to learn English. They appear lost in conversations when people reference ‘A really big Shoe!!’  (The Ed Sullivan Show)  You can’t teach fifty years of sitcom dialogue in one semester.  And as younger generations get introduced to new shows that I don’t watch, I find myself not following a conversation because I don’t recognize the reference.  I am then more sympathetic to my English friend.

Of course, there are television shows like Batman and Star Trek, which were made into movies, so saying ‘Quick to the Batmobile’ or ‘Beam me up Scottie’ crosses multiple generations.   But ultimately it does mean that much of our Baby Boomer sitcom lingo will disappear.  So for now, I will continue to whistle the tune to the Andy Griffith Show and smile when someone else joins me.

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