I have become my mother: I’ve started to use idioms that young people do not understand.
When my parents moved into an assisted-living facility, my mother and some of her tablemates played an ongoing game with the teenaged servers in the dining room. It started innocently enough with the inadvertent use of an idiom that the servers had never heard, and then the old people got right into it, trying to stump the kids. With a sixty-year gap, it wasn’t hard.
This week, someone somewhere-south-of-forty encountered my advice on selecting team members. I had been aiming for “memorable but concise”; instead I hit “obscure.”
“Huh?” she said. “What’s a reluctant dragon?”
Your Dictionary says it this way:
noun: A reluctant person; someone unwilling to get involved.
In context, I’d say it this way:
noun: A person assigned unwillingly to a team or a task. The chance they will exert the effort required is somewhere between slim and nil, and Slim just left town.
I might have let it go, but I had just finished reading an article on artificial intelligence (AI), which identified the roots of the current unease thusly:
For my entire life, and a bit more, there have been two essential features of the basic landscape:
1. American hegemony over much of the world, and relative physical safety for Americans.
2. An absence of truly radical technological change. Unless you are very old, old enough to have taken in some of WWII, or were drafted into Korea or Vietnam, probably those features describe your entire life as well.
In other words, virtually all of us have been living in a bubble “outside of history.”
Just a minute. Never mind about the possible existential threat from AI: When did “very old” come to mean “old enough to have been drafted into Vietnam”? I, ahem, turned 18 in 1970, when American males of that age were still being drafted into Vietnam or were dodging across the border to avoid/evade that draft.
So here I am: doing things that I remember my mother doing when she was old–though not yet very old, thank you very much–and encountering snippy and unfounded comments about the age of my cohort in an otherwise sensible article.
While we’re on the topic of the challenge of living in “moving history,” as the author puts it, let me just note these examples:
- My grandmother was born in 1890 and died in 1975 at age 85. She went from horse-&-buggy transport as the norm, to watching men land on the Moon, without a complaint.
- My parents were both born in 1922; Dad died in 2010 (age 88) and Mom died in 2017 (age 95). In the last decades of their life they embraced computers and the internet: email, genealogical programs, word processing, and spreadsheets. Mom started publishing a blog when she was 89.
Are you finding it hard to adapt to “truly radical technological change”? Tough. Get on with it, just as folks before you have done. I’d say, “Suck it up, Buttercup” but I expect that phrase is archaic now, too. What can you expect when you’re dealing with the very old?