Thursday 22 March 2018

These word-thieves don't meet with my approval

Aine O'Connor

NUMBER One was in sixth class when the "Ew, Mooooooms" began. Not about flashes of maternal flesh ("Oh motheeeeer, put some clothes on." Eh ... I'm in the shower.) No, instead it was about meeting people. I'd say I was going to meet a friend and the invariable response from the then 11-year-old Boychild was "Ew, Moooooooom."

He wouldn't tell me what his disgust was about for a while, say 10 minutes, then said: "Meet means what you call snogging."

I had great resistance to this word-theft. For a time, I felt vaguely like one of those old farts who could be overheard spluttering outrage, "Gay used to be a perfectly good word until it was hijacked." Except "gay" had lots of nice synonyms: you could be happy, joyful, joyous, lively, merry – there were options.

Meet, though? Not so great for the synonyms. "I'm off to join Julie at an agreed or designated place." "I came into the presence of Barbara in Tesco." "I became acquainted with your friend's mother in school."

To add insult to injury, apparently this word-theft had been going on for years before I heard of it. Children of the Nineties were meeting and I had had no idea; I felt old and robbed of a word.

In truth, when we were that age we didn't say "snogging", we said "getting off with". "Shifting" was an outside-the-capital activity that seemed to bear distinct similarities to getting off with. Or maybe it was just an outside my very small part of the capital's suburbs: we didn't travel much in those days – it was pre-Luas.

The Girlchild is now at that same phase, but whether by virtue of gender or second childliness or personality, she has bypassed the Ew Mom phase and gone straight to the shocking sharing phase. She dangles pieces of new info before us, waiting for us to bite.

Beloved is not coping well at all. They could be annoyingly close at times, that pair, but she has morphed and he is bereft, vaguely terrified of this new creature that his little girl has become.

Perhaps I feel less spurned, perhaps I just understand better what's going on with her. But still, occasionally the shocking sharing gets me, too.

Like when she said, "Bingo and Bongo [not their real names] are going to meet on Friday." I was shocked. Not because two 12-year-olds were going to be doing a bit of kissing, but because she told me this on Tuesday. "You mean it's been planned?"

"Pff, yeah. What do you expect? That people just launch themselves at each other?" Eh, YEAH.

When we got home she instantly reported this ridiculous spontaneous smooching concept to her brother, who was gazing into the fridge, no doubt getting ready to tell me, "There's never any nice food in this house ... "

Instead he nodded knowingly; he'd heard tell of this ancient courtship ritual.

They exchanged a look before each gazing upon me, member of the Ancient Tribe of Spontaneous Snoggers, with baffled pity. Our mother, the poor savage.

For their generation, virtually all romantic activities are pre-arranged via some form of technology. I think it's outrageous. Forget infidelity, THAT is cheating. Where is the sport, the hunt, the challenge? On an APP? Pff, I snort in the face of their lily- livered mating rituals.

Though it is handy if you're trying to decide whether to have garlic sauce on your chips before you go out.

Irish Independent

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