Oh how we boomers have seen words change. It’s absolutely sick!

Language changes. A new, “cooler” sounding lexicon comes along. But how much change can our boomer generation take?!? Writer and speaker Katherine Giovanni is wondering the same thing, because it seems like every day now, she’s wondering, Can I Still Say That?

Did you know that there are words you can’t say anymore? All of a sudden, after saying these words for dozens of years, they are now considered politically incorrect.

Katharine Giovanni

A client of mine recently reminded me of this. I was telling him a story about a “secretary” I knew years ago. When I finished, he gently reminded me that I couldn’t use that word anymore.

I can’t?

Nope. It’s now more politically correct to say “administrative assistant.”

Apparently, there’s a bunch of them that you can’t say…

  • As you now know, Secretary has become Administrative Assistant or PA
  • Janitor is now Custodian (and sometimes Building Engineer)
  • Maid is now Housekeeper (Or Home Engineer?)
  • Stewardess is now Flight Attendant (we all know that one, even if we still sometimes forget)
  • Waiter is now Server
  • Salesperson is now Sales Associate
  • Garbage Man is now Sanitation Engineer
  • Icebox is now refrigerator
  • Emergency brakes are now called parking brakes
  • Supper is now called dinner!
  • Old and aged have been replaced with senior citizen or elderly
  • Bald is now folically-challenged

Seriously? Come on!!! So, you are telling me that a dishwasher would now be a utensil engineer?
It seems that these words have all gone to the same place the telephone booth went. Do you even remember those any more? You surely haven’t seen one in a long time.

And let’s not forget the new words that the millennials have added …

“My bad” means my fault

Just “bad” can mean “good”

“Sick” means great, cool, awesome

They’re even abbreviating words …

  • OMG
  • BFF
  • BTW
  • LOL

How about words that now mean something else? Words such as Tweet, Feed, Tag, Status, and Viral, all have completely different meanings now. Don’t get me started on the word “junk,” which these days means neither the stuff you don’t need nor a big boat from China.

I have no doubt that there are dozens more out there that I’m not allowed to say anymore, and even more that mean something else. Hard to keep up with it. I guess I need an interpreter.

It’s all semantics, really. Words are just that … words. The meaning behind the words is what matters.

Remember, people might not remember what you say, and some might not even understand it … but they’ll never ever forget how you made them feel.


  1. I knew a fellow who always lumped specifics of what he was trying to talk about into the word, “stuff.” For example, “it’s this or that and stuff.” Once in a radio interview, he was asked what “stuff” meant. He stammered and struggled to understand the question.

  2. As a kid growing up in the 50’s and 60’s the meaning of words seemed to change daily. Bad, Boss, Far Out, Rigt on……and on and on. The we had to elevate job titles to make them appear important. It isn’t the title that makes the person important, it is what they do on their job (oops, career). I will take a good auto repair man (Automotive Technician) or secretary (Administrative Assistant) over a bad boss (not so good Chief Operations Officer) any day. FYI —- My office spent half a day recently trying to decide if my title should be Director or Advisor. They decided on Director and I feel so much better about myself now (LOLOLOLOLOLOL).

  3. The one on your list that makes sense to me is is calling it a refrigerator, instead of ice box. My Grandparents had an ice box and I remember well going with my Grandpa to the ice house to get a block of ice to put into this un-electrified “box” where they kept the perishable food. Later, when they got electricity and one of those “new fangled electric ice boxes,” it sure didn’t seem like it should be called an ice box any more.

  4. So true! The young students at the community college where I teach are constantly making me stop them for clarification. I probably say “sorry…what?” more often than I say good morning.

  5. I feel ‘ya Dude. Seriously we all have had to learn new ways to describe the world and it can be frustrating. That said, I believe if the speaker is coming from a place of kindness the vocabulary carries less weight than the meaning behind it. My father is 100 and he often uses vocabulary that makes us wince. He referred to every woman who attended him during a recent hospital stay as a girl and every male as a doctor. Every Asian is Chinese. But, he was courtly to the “girls” and friendly to the others.

  6. Nothing stays the same and progress is usually for the better, although change is difficult, but I am afraid what we are experiencing with the PC police, even if well intentioned, is not going to end well. Ya feel me?

  7. Language has evolved since its beginning and will continue ad infinitum, as it should. But let’s acknowledge that there is meaning and there are values behind words. My blood boiled every time my father referred to any woman who worked in his office as a “girl,” be she a CPA or a sales executive. Labels can lift us up or let us down. I have no problem with changing language so that it helps how people feel.

  8. At the age of 71, I have started using ‘My bad’, when I make a mistake. Why? Because I like it. I also refer to relaxing, as ‘chillin’, or I’m just going to chill!

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