Has my vocabulary started going gray?

I don’t know why I said it. Where it came from. What possessed me to utter such a strange and utterly absurd greeting to a co-worker.

“How you doing, sport?” I said.

Sport?!? Who says “sport?” I wondered.

I wasn’t the only one. Amused faces popped out of holes everywhere to ponder the same thing.

“Did you just say ‘sport?’” they asked. “Seriously?”


Yes, I’m afraid I did.

And it wasn’t the only one that day. In class later that morning I was talking to my college students about something and then blurted out for some unexplained reason, “Well, damnation!”

The class burst into laughter.

“Damnation?!?” they howled. “Is that like ‘tarnation?’ ‘Well, fiddlesticks, pa. You best take junior down to the well and fetch a pale for the vittles. Grab the pig while you’re down there.”


Oh, they had a good time with it. After class I could hear them heading down the hall still hootin’ and hollerin’.

Wait a minute … “hootin’ and hollerin’?” What is happening to me?!?

Where are these words coming from? Twice in one day! I’m known to say some pretty dumb stuff. It’s kind of my thing. But this was different. These strange, uncharacteristic, even archaic utterances were something new for me.

Was this because … GULP! … I’m getting older?

Later this month, I’m turning an age that shall not be named. It’s not that old to some, and I’m not even sure it is to me. I don’t feel “advanced.” When put together, these two numbers won’t add up to a membership in AARP. I don’t have much in the way of gray hair, and what I do might actually be paint. I’m still in fairly good shape, and people often remark on the very nice “elasticity of my cheeks.” (I take this as a compliment about my fitness, although I think it’s a nice way of saying I talk too much.)

But do you hit an age where your vocabulary goes gray? When it heads for retirement, or starts to adopt what I will describe as an “advanced wardrobe?” The verbal equivalent of black socks with white sandals.

Was I experiencing that? It worried me. Don’t get me wrong: My use of the English language has never been what you might call “hip to the jive.” In fact, if you use the term “hip to the jive,” it’s pretty clear you’re just a walking caricature of a 1950s movie, and lucky if girls talked to you in your late-1980s high school.

But was aging making it worse?

I’m finding getting older is getting complicated. I’m into years that need some kind of handbook to explain it all — how to act, how to talk and how to just be. To make sense of it all and give me some clarity, or direction.

Or maybe it’s all in my head. Which is exactly where I’m going to try to keep all these “sports” and “damnations” and other uncharacteristic utterances I blurt out … like “fiddlesticks!” Goodness me, the college students would love that one.

Also published on Medium.

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