Where’s the Beef?

When I grew up, I either had to get up off the couch to change the channel or watch the commercial. Often I had a book nearby so I’d just crack open the book while the commercial played on. Nowadays it slightly amuses me that as many people watch the Super Bowl for the ads as watch the game itself. Nevertheless, I remember hearing the catchy slogans as I turned the page of a Trixie Belden novel. Where’s the beef? Silly, rabbit, Trix are for Kids. Tastes great; less filling. Those are three slogans I can recite off the top of my head. Even today when three of my kids look at me and say “not me” to the question of who left the towel on the bathroom floor, I often want to burst into the jingle from Oscar Mayer where my bologna has a first name and it’s O-S-C-A-R. All of these slogans, though, show my age. Nowadays, slogans are even shorter and to the point: Just Do It. Think Differently. Coffee Inspires Everything. While some slogans stand the test of time (such as M&M’s Melt in your mouth, not in your hands), advertising executives come up with new slogans for new products and new companies. As a writer, however, I have to be careful that my twenty-five-year-old heroine doesn’t spout a slogan that probably stayed in the eighties or nineties. The same applies to certain words that apply to fads or past products. Memorex? Album? Floppy Disk? Those were all part of my vocabulary a while back. Now? Not so much. Our vocabulary changes and adjusts to the times. If you’re a writer, you need to adjust and know what your character would and wouldn’t say. In the same regard, if you’re writing a book set in 1985 or earlier, your character would look at you with a blank stare if you brought up an emoji or claimed you were hangry or refer to the web as anything other than something a spider weaves. Even phrases that refer to a person’s type changes with the times. When I was a teenager, a boy might be asked if he was a Ginger or Mary Ann type of guy. A while back, I’d heard this had changed to Betty or Veronica. I just googled it. Thanks to Riverdale, the question of Betty or Veronica is still in common usage.

Popular slang words or phrases or slogans change with the times, but they can just as easily reveal a person’s age. What word or phrase or slogan do you catch yourself saying (let’s keep it clean, please) where your child or teenager looks at you as if you’re from another planet? If you’re a writer, let me know what phrase your character said that you had to delete during revisions because you realized someone younger than yourself wouldn’t say that?

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