Thursday, June 4, 2015
A Tale of Two Words
Some things are newfangled, but nothing is ‘oldfangled.’ It is one of many words whose imagined opposite does not exist. The most ironic thing about the word ‘newfangled’ is that in spite of what it means, it is itself an old-fashioned word. Tangentially, the word ‘old-fashioned’ is like ‘newfangled’ in that its imagined opposite, ‘new-fashioned,’ likewise doesn’t exist. And poor old ‘newfangled.’ It seems to have been relegated to usage that mocks unsophisticated persons presented with modern ideas and technology; a dramatist might stuff a line into the mouth of an actor portraying some hayseed rube that goes something like, “Golly Cletus, what’s that newfangled contraption?” And poor old ‘old-fashioned’ as well. Whereas once upon a time, it was used reverentially, it is now as commonly said with an implicit sneer and roll of the eyes or at best a fond patience. Two tangentially related words, each of whose imagined opposites do not exist, and both of which are sometimes used with a certain amount of patronizing condescension. Some words have it rough, and ‘newfangled’ and ‘old-fashioned’ are two of them.