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Generational translations of common words and phrases

Updated on July 29, 2010

Generational doublespeak: How to understand your parents language

For you younger people out there, you may hear your parents, teachers or older people occasionally use words that may sound misplaced or confusing. "What did he mean by that?" You may wonder.

Well, here's a brief sample of then-and-now word translations....

Then: Bum (Also known as Hobo or Vagrant)

Now: Homeless person

Then: Drug addict

Now: A person with a chemical dependency (Also called a substance abuser)

Then: slum

Now: Low Income Housing

Then: Prejudice

Now: racism or biasness

Then:used car

Now: pre-owned vehicle

Then: secretary

Now: personal assistant

Then: Janitor

Now: maintenance engineer

Then: Window washer

Now: Transparant wall maintainer

Then: Spanish people

Now: Latinos

Then: Red Indian

Now: Native Americans

Then: Mutt

Now: mixed breed

Then: pollution

Now: environmental health concerns

Then: The information super highway

Now: the Internet

Then: Poor people

Now: People living below the national poverty level

Then: Prisons

Now: correctional institutions

Then: Blind people

Now: The visually impaired

(The same goes for Deaf people=the hearing impaired)

Then: Pornography

Now: Adult entertainment

Then: strip clubs

Now: gentleman's clubs

Then: liquor stores

Now: Wine and spirit emporiums

Then: garbage dump

Now: landfills

Then: Toilet Paper

Now: Bathroom tissue

Then: Suing

Now: taking legal action

Then: fat

Now: plus sized (Also known as people suffering from obesity)

Then: Old people

Now: the elderly (or senior citizens)

Then: Job lay-offs

Now: corporate downsizing

Then: Stewardess

Now: flight attendant

Then: Mailman (Later to become postal worker)

Now: mail carrier

: mobile phone

Now: cel phone

Then: rapist-

Now: sexual offender

Then: ESP

Now: psychic

Then: Oriental

Now: Asian

Then: Handicapped

Later to become...disable; differently able; physicaly challenged

Now: handi-capable

Then: shell shock

Later to become...battle fatigue; post traumatic stress

Now: Gulf War syndrome

Those are just a few examples. I'll have more in future


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    • Robwrite profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Oviedo, FL

      Hi M.T.; It's an interesting phenomenon, the way words and phrases get updated, like software.

      Thanks for reading,


    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 

      6 years ago from USA

      I hadn't thought about how younger people wouldn't necessarily know the phrases we used regularly.

    • Robwrite profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Oviedo, FL

      I don't know the quote, Dahoglund, but if I find out I'll get back to you. Thanks for reading.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      8 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      How I am hating euphemisms and political correctness.Eugen McCarthy the late Minnesota Senator quoted someone to the effect that a step in correcting the world would be to call things by there right names.If you know the original source and quote, let me know.

    • Robwrite profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Oviedo, FL

      Thanks, HH. It's an interesting cultural phenomenon.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      I never thought about but you pointing it out it amazing how language changes. Thank you. Very interesting.


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