10 Words That Will Show Your Age

Learn to let go

We can date (or age) ourselves by using words we’ve grown up hearing and using. If a young person’s eyebrows shoot up when you say “VCR” or “How’s tricks?” you’ll know—a bit too late—that you’re now an old fuddy-duddy. But don’t say, “fuddy-duddy.” Are any of the words in this list staples in your (or your parents') vocabulary?


We had to do it. It seems wise to define this gem, for those who don’t know it, because the words are so funny when you repeat them several times...it could mean anything! A fuddy duddy is someone very old fashioned, out of touch and probably a bit stuffy. At any rate, it’s a term that might date you pretty quick, so be careful with it. Today, the word “dad” or “old fart” (still in use!) may do the job.

Web surfing

Oh, dear. Yes, this phrase was bandied about not so long ago at all. Back when the internet was new, clicking your way around (and waiting forever for the page to load in) was called web surfing. Since the internet isn’t quite so novel these days, it doesn’t require its own extreme sports reference.

“Dear John” letter

Coined by Americans in World War II, a Dear John letter was something every soldier dreaded; it was the letter from a sweetheart saying their romance was ending. John was the most popular name for boys 1880 through 1923, so whoever coined the phrase clearly gave it some thought. There are occasional nods to these let-down letters in pop songs and movies, but they’re rare. It might be time to coin a new phrase, something along the lines of a “Dear Josh text.” Or perhaps a simple heartbreak emoji would do the trick.

How’s tricks?

In the 1950s and ‘60s, it wasn’t uncommon to ask, “How’s tricks?” when you encountered a buddy on the street, meaning, “How are things?” Women didn’t say it; men said it. Perhaps the reason lies in the rumored root of the phrase, said to be related to the men who er, managed, ladies of the night back in the 1930s. (A customer is still referred to as a “trick.”) But there is another etymology, which goes back to the Latin root, tricae, meaning “trifles, toys.”

Davenport & Chesterfield

If you call your “sofa” or “couch,” a davenport or a chesterfield you’re clearly not a millennial or a Gen-X-er (and maybe not even a Baby Boomer). Both of these terms were popular in the early and mid-20th century, and both are
eponyms, chesterfield after the 19th century Earl of Chesterfield (the fourth), who commissioned the first leather sofa, and davenport after the late 19th century furniture maker Alfred H. Davenport of Boston.

Of course, you could use the words now, with a certain inflection and lift of the brow, which could just make you seem mysterious.

Long distance call

With cell phones, long distance call is a meaningless phrase. If you still have a landline, where long distance actually means something, you’ve already given away your age.

VCR and Videotape

It’s a tough habit to break, but using the word “tape” when discussing audio or video is clearly outdated these days. Video tape and VCR (from video cassette recorder) have been rendered obsolete in this digital world. It's time to break the habit.

Little black book

This one died when smartphones took over. A little black book is a small notebook with names and phone numbers of current and potential dating candidates (interpret how you will). Playboy magazine powerhouse Hugh Hefner kept a little black book—full of codes and secret phone numbers—which has since found its way into the Chicago History Museum.

Now, few people write their shopping list down, let alone a list of lovers.

Wet blanket

If someone calls you a wet blanket, they are a) probably older than, say, any Kardashian sibling, and, b) not very nice.

A wet blanket—named for the very thing that one might smother a flame with—is usually concerned with decorum or consequences when others are not, and may put a damper on the party. It was used frequently in the 1800s as a verb: “She would often wet-blanket her friend’s proposals to swim au naturel.” Not to be confused with a wet sock, which is even crueler, as it means someone who is pretty useless, and who may not even be invited to the party in the first place.

Making whoopee

As much fun as it may be to say it, making whoopee will likely raise the eyebrows of many a young person. Yes, it refers to romantic intimacy, and it was sprung in the 1920s by Eddie Cantor’s frisky tune, “Makin’ Whoopee!” Better to just say, “hook up” if you want to get your point across pronto.

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