My addicted brain demanded caffeine so I swung by the local coffee shop. I was not surprised to see a rusty old Studebaker pick-up truck in the parking lot and looked for its owner once inside.
Sure enough, there in a back corner sitting all by himself was my irascible old buddy, Eberneezer Griper.
“Good morning, Eb!” I said cheerfully as I slid into the café booth opposite him.
“Go away,” Eb muttered dolefully.
` I hadn’t seen Eb this gloomy for a long time. “What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Our country… that’s what’s wrong,” he snapped. “I’m sick and tired of what’s going on in my country.”
“You mean the situation in Washington?” I asked.
“No, the situation right here in town,” Eb exclaimed. “I can’t believe it.”
“You can’t believe what?”
“I can’t believe that my Mother Tongue is going out of style,” Eb said with a hint of hurt in his voice.
“Ebeneezer Griper,” I demanded, “what in heaven’s name are you talking about?”
Eb took a long sip of coffee and then began his woeful tale. “Last night I visited my brother-in-law. His great-grandkids were there and I barely understood a word they were saying. Kids today don’t speak English anymore.”
“I’m not following you…”
“So this teenage girl tells her younger sister, ‘You stay away from Ethan. He’s so bad and he’s my bae.’”
Before I could respond, Eb continued, “Then the other girl says, ‘Girl, I have no interest in that busted savage. I’m not that thirsty.”
“Eb,” I snickered, “those two kids were just speaking teen slang.
“Well, whatever the heck it was I didn’t understand it and it ought to be outlawed. This is America and we speak American here.”
“Let me guess, Eb; you must have graduated from high school in… what… the early ’50s?”
“Close enough,” he muttered.
“Okay, what did you call money when you were in high school?”
Eb thought for a few seconds. “Bread, I think.”
“And what did you call it when someone sped off quickly in their car?”
“Burn rubber,” Eb said.
“If you were angry, you were…”
“And a D.A. is not the district attorney, it’s a…”
Eb didn’t hesitate, “A D.A. is a hair style for when we had a lot of hair!”
I could see the light go on in Eb’s head. “I get it,” he said, working up the faintest grin. “They were speaking their own brand of English.”
“That’s right. Every generation does it. So are you still angry?”
“Well,” Eb said, “I wish I had known what they were talking about.”
“Eb, I don’t speak 2017 teen slang but from what I’ve read I think the first girl was warning her sister to stay away from her guy. ‘Bad’ means ‘hot’ and ‘bae’ means ‘babe’ or ‘baby’ or even ‘before anyone else.”
“That’s stupid,” Eb interjected.
“The little sister replied that she has no interest in that ugly trouble-maker, Ethan, and claims she’s not that desperate,” I explained.
Eb looked at me disbelievingly. “Do you speak that language, too?” he asked.
“Of course not,” I replied. “I’ve seen some of it on Facebook and I read a lot. My friends and I had our own language in the ’60s. Something that was really nice or agreeable was ‘groovy’ or ‘salty.’”
An uncharacteristically silly grin spread across Eb’s face.
“What are you thinking?” I asked cautiously.
Eb snickered. “I just remembered a ’50s term: backseat bingo.”
“I’ve heard that phrase before; what does it mean?”
“Necking in the car,” Eb said sheepishly.
“Far out, man!” I kidded.
“What?” Eb asked.