Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about slang and I’ve come to a conclusion about this generation’s use of language: YOLO is the absolute worst motto in our nation’s history. I don’t say this because it sounds like some store-brand version of Rolos or because it encourages teenage baby-making but rather, because it lacks creativity. Compared to catch phrases of the past, YOLO is the most simplistic declaration and the least amount of fun to say in conversation. Sometimes, I wish we could bring back popular phrases that have faded from use and resurrect their greatness in order to overshadow YOLO altogether.
Every year, when my brother tells my uncle what he wants for his birthday, my uncle endearingly responds with, “Really? That’s funny, because I heard you wanted A KNUCKLE SANDWICH!” and proceeds to give my brother 50 birthday punches too many. At times like these, I’ll often lean back in my chair and laugh, silently appreciating the outdated threat that I only get to hear once annually. Imagine if “knuckle sandwich” came back into popular use? Imagine the sweeping changes that would be made to popular culture? Take movies, for example. In a film about the Italian mafia, a mobster, instead of threatening his victim with a knife or the prospect of “sleeping with the fishes,” might simply hold up his clenched fist and whisper, “Tell me where you hid the goods or you’ll get a helping of one of these babies.” Videos games like Grand Theft Auto that once involved pistols and flamethrowers would change entirely. No longer would you have to hold a man up at gunpoint to hijack his car; all you would have to do is crack your knuckles and he’d be handing over his keys and dignity in no time.
Out of all the wonderful (and not so wonderful…) trends to come out of the Roaring ’20s, this is perhaps one of the best. The Bee’s Knees, which means “the highest quality,” originates from, shockingly, the process of pollination. Unbeknownst to me, bees carry pollen in pockets that are located on the middle of their legs. They then bring that pollen to other flowers and plants, which eventually swell up to the size of beanstalks and make the front of houses look beautiful for about a week until allergy season kicks in and we begin to wish for everything to die. Moving on, “the bee’s knees” is a unique phrase that I think should be used more often, if only to give bees one redeeming quality in their lifetime.
H-E-Double Hockey Sticks
In the hierarchy of offensive words and phrases, hell lingers somewhere at the bottom between “poopface” and “liar liar pants on fire.” However, to an elementary school child, saying “hell” in public is the ultimate sin. It will put you straight on the naughty list and forever doom your chances of getting that yodeling, dancing koala bear you asked for for Christmas. Therefore, back in the day, kids had to come up with alternatives like this gem. H-E-Double Hockey Sticks is the best almost-swear any child could come up with. I never understood, though, what made that specific term catch on. H-E-L-L could just as easily be H-E-Double Upside Down Candy Cane or H-E-Pointy Feet and yet neither of those phrases ever gained popularity. Regardless, H-E-Double Hockey Sticks is not only more fun to say but is significantly less offensive than the original word, though it is the least offensive to begin with. The popularity of this term (and Sugar Honey Iced Tea among the particularly rebellious children) illustrates the creativity of language that I wish we still practiced.
Why Don’t You Marry It?
I don’t miss this phrase as much as I miss the thought process behind it. “Well, Susie, if you like N’Sync so much, why don’t you marry them?” (As if marriage was as simple as just asking.) A step below “I know you are but what am I” in annoyingness, “Why don’t you marry it?” provided some source of entertainment, especially when it came to inanimate objects. Obnoxious boy number one might say, “Oh yeah Lillian, if you like that snap-bracelet so much, why don’t you marry it??” To which Lillian might respond, “Maybe I will,” and proceed to plan her dream wedding involving a gown made entirely out of snap-bracelets and a snap-wedding-ring. The key to this phrase was to contort your entire face and scream it at an octave only dogs can hear while stomping your feet on the concrete.
I don’t know who invented YOLO or how many poor decisions have been made as a result but I do know that we as a generation can do much better than a four-letter excuse to ignore the angel on our shoulder. Not to mention it is unreliable: who says we only live once? Reincarnation might be a thing. And what about cats? They have 7 lives. That’s slang discrimination. Call me nostalgic but I’d much rather tell someone that their ugly Christmas sweater is the bee’s knees and have them tell me that I should marry it than read one more meme with this acronym pasted on top. That being said, I will probably still scream YOLO when I send a potentially embarrassing text or put in a scary movie when I’m home alone because, while it may not be conducive to the best life choices, sometimes the worst decisions make the best stories.