No Longer “Swell”


I sometimes deal with today’s global turnmoil by watching “Perry Mason” shows from 50 years ago.  Today’s show featured an elderly woman who says “swell” when agreeing to a suggestion from Perry. You don’t hear “swell” anymore and if you do, it is usally doesn’t mean what it did in the 1950s.

Today people  say “sure,” a lazier, if not unfriendlier version of “swell” but at least it is a step above “whatever.”  In the good old days “swell” was actually considered slang for a perky positive, but over time with reduced usage, it  became a sarcastic version of “yes,” meaning: “what you are asking me to do stinks, but I have no choice but to do it.”  

The metamorphis of our language is important because new social medai shortcuts to meaning are accelerating the evolution of the written and spoken word. And like the effect of fast foods on our health, quick talk cheapens our intellectual digestion which leads to misunderstandings between people.

The downgrading of our vocabulary started in the 1950s when “swell” was popular. Today’s replacement words are appearing in rapid fashion. Inhale and try “certainly” next time.  

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