Tuesday, November 28, 2006

ageist semantics

On the train this morning a girl, sitting over to the right of me, dropped her ipod on the floor; I watched it skid accross the floor of the carriage and come to rest underneath a nearby seat, which was occupied by an elderly lady.

"Excuse me", I watched the girl say, springing up and leaning down, "I dropped my ipod under your seat, do you mind if I retrieve it?". The old lady looked at her and said, in the indulgent voice old people reserve for the young (this is opposed to the stern voice they also keep by), "you've dropped what, dear?".

"My ipod", the girl replied, "it's OK, I'll get it". She bent down and swept her arms under the chair, retrieving it. I watched the old lady peer down, interested. "Oh", she said, understanding. "Your walkman".

Your grandson or grand-daughter, I thought, is about twenty five years old. Ten, eleven, twelve years ago they asked you for a walkman for their Christmas parent. "What, dear?", you would have asked, "is a walkman?".

I suspect it's too late to come to terms with 'ipod' now, but probably that's shockingly ageist of me. I'm sad that the phrase 'walkman' has fallen out of usage.

1 comment:

Stephen Newton said...

It’s amusing that the old dear should wish to hold on to old language; she clearly knew an iPod is the contemporary equivalent of a Walkman. The brand lives on though. Sony’s MP3 players are still Walkmen (‘Walkmans’?) and Sony Ericson has a range of Walkman mobile phones far better than any iPhone.