Idioms Lost to Tech

10. "Nothing to write home about"

Status: Extinct

Hold on. I'm still laughing at the thought of anyone actually sitting down to write a letter these days, never mind taking the time to mail it home. I guess we could change this idiom to "nothing to text home about" or, better yet, "N/M".

11. "Drop a dime"

Status: Extinct

The phrase "drop a dime" has a couple of different meanings. It can be used as a way of saying "get in touch," but it also can be used to describe betraying someone, or turning them in to the cops. However you use the phrase, though, know this: It originated from a time when you had to drop a dime into a pay phone in order to make a phone call. If you don't know what a pay phone is, well, I can't talk to you.

12. "Ringing off the hook"

Status: Extinct

A long time ago, everybody had landlines in their houses. These phones had bells that rang when a call came in, and if the phone was ringing a lot, the handset could actually be jarred right off the hook. (The hook is the part that held the receiver, just FYI.) Today's phones, of course, don't have hooks or bells, and when you don't want to accept a call, you can just send it to voicemail. So, yeah, you can see where this one is going.

13. "The boob tube"

Status: At Risk

When I think of hot summer days back in the 1980s, I think of lying on the couch, listening to the deafening roar of what was, at that time, a state-of-the-art air conditioning unit, and watching whatever was the best that the three TV stations were offering. Back in those days, we called the TV "the boob tube"--"boob" meant "stupid person" (because TV supposedly makes you stupid), and "tube" referred to the old vacuum tubes that TVs used to have inside them. Now that there are no more vacuum-tube TVs--and mostly just flat-screen HDTVs--I guess we'll have to come up with a new name. Idiot box it is, then.

14. "The check is in the mail"

Status: At Risk

It used to be so easy to put off paying someone. Hey, the check is in the mail...blame it on the USPS if you haven't received it yet. After all, you know how slow snail mail can be. But today, more often than not, we don't even see paper checks. We get electronic transfers of funds, direct from one account to another. Unless you're a struggling freelance writer, of course. I still have to listen to my editor tell me the check is "in the mail," but next time I might not be so quick to believe him.

15. "Carbon copy"

Status: Endangered

I tried to tell my son that he was a carbon copy of his father, and he just stared at me. Then I tried to explain how we used to use carbon paper to make exact copies of written words or drawings. He just looked at me like I was crazy. I get it: Carbon paper is going the way of the ditto machine that my first-grade teacher used to make copies of worksheets for the class. Making exact copies is much easier these days, but telling my son that he's a real Xerox of his father just doesn't sound right.

16. "Back to the drawing board"

Status: Endangered

With the rise of computer-aided design and programs such as AutoCAD, who needs a drawing board anymore--especially when you have to redo a project? Perhaps whoever thought up the phrase "back to the drawing board" ought to head back...to their computer-aided design program.

17. "Hold the line"

Status: At Risk

Whenever I'm on the phone with my mom, she inevitably says "hold the line," as a way of telling me to wait just a second. But since I'm calling her from a cell phone and she's using a cordless phone, actual telephone lines in our phone call are few and far between. But that's never going to stop her from using her favorite phrase. Ever.

18. "Balance the books"

Status: Extinct

Come on, no one uses an actual book to balance their budget anymore. Everything is done online or through accounting software these days. So, how soon until we can officially change this saying to something like, "Make sure your Quicken is in the black"?

19. "Phone it in"

Status: At Risk

We've all phoned it in at one time or another--that is, made a generally shoddy effort in an attempt to just barely meet the minimum requirements. This phrase originated from a kinder, gentler time, when we could simply call into a meeting, rather than showing up in person. But today, everyone is all about telecommuting and webcams and WebEx-ing, making it a whole lot harder to nap through a presentation. But it's still possible--take my word for it.

20. "Push my buttons"

Status: At Risk

You know what really pushes my buttons? Buttons being phased out in favor of touchscreens. The new phrase: "You know what really tickles my touchscreen?"

Which brings up the question, what new phrases will tickle our touchscreens tomorrow?

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