By Robin Garrison Leach
Shakespeare said it didn’t matter what you called a rose. Its sweet smell was the same, he explained, whatever its name. In that sentimental moment of literary romanticism, our favorite bard unknowingly sparked a flint-eyed approach to merchandising that grabs the names of familiar products and throttles them into more pleasing and marketable words.
Sometimes the names of things change to reflect advancements in technology. And that’s okay. The appliance in your kitchen that keeps food cold changed from ICEBOX to REFRIGERATOR in the 30s. Our moms called it an icebox, though, even decades later.
If you still call it an icebox, try saying it to anybody under 30. Their eyes will turn cold and uncomprehending.
Other changes in names were socially motivated. As genders blurred in the workforce, STEWARDESSES became FLIGHT ATTENDANTS. Your mailman became frustrated with his/her limiting title—we acquiesced and started using the more appropriate/less friendly term POSTAL WORKER.
The entertainment industry stripped its actresses of their feminine suffix, for reasons we may never understand, hopping onto the bandwagon (ORCHESTRA TRANSPORTATION VEHICLE?) of the more neutral moniker ACTOR.
Thanks to a variety of old adages that rattle around in my head (Life goes on, Change is inevitable, Get with the times) I try to take these new terms in stride. I know my refrigerator isn’t an icebox and haven’t called it that for years. And I don’t mind helping out actresses and mailmen with their identity crises. My brain hops aboard the hamster wheel of change, creaks and whirs, flings out the latest words.
For the complete column see this week’s edition of the Centralia Fireside Guard.
Contact robin at email@example.com