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Lex maniac

Investigating changes in American English vocabulary over the last 50 years

the science

(2000’s? | “the (scientific) consensus,” “(the best) scientific evidence,” “the latest studies”)

Trust the science. Follow the science. Believe in the science. Government policy will be determined by the science. (“Data” gets the same treatment; you must do what the data tell you. The article is less obtrusive in front of “data” than “science.”) The prescription has drawbacks, most notably that science can’t make up its mind right away and will issue conflicting decisions and rules as the evidence continues to roll in. This lack of certitude does create problems, which scientists themselves may exacerbate by showing certainty before it is warranted or just by talking down to the rest of us. Such problems are not permanent, however; one indication of good medical research is that it gets both more accurate and more sure of itself over time, leading to more effective diagnosis and treatment. Besides, given the complex and uncertain world we live in, the power to adapt to new information ought to inspire confidence rather than undermine it.

One trick of the definite article is that it suggests that science says only one thing, so that it can be counted on for unambiguous guidance. We have all encountered exceptions, but in the case of the coronavirus that has been largely true, I think. Dissension does arise within the scientific ranks; for the most part it is resolved as more tests are run and more results produced.

Of course it has always been possible to plop down a definite article before “science.” But it was almost always followed by something further — the science center, the science headlines, the science of . . . . But science solus has been lumbered constantly with the article during the pandemic, as doctors and public officials implore us to heed infectious-disease specialists. “The science” has become a mantra of sorts, asking us to accept medical research as a reliable source of knowledge that offers maximum protection from a weird and frightening virus. Not everyone wants to listen, of course, and COVID has confounded the experts from time to time, eroding their claim to be the most trustworthy voice.

The plea to “trust the science” is a quasi-religious gesture; we are enjoined to hope that scientists have our best interests at heart and will perform competently. That’s a watered-down version of what Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe about God. Most of us do not understand how the scientists arrive at their results any more than we understand the Lord’s mysterious ways, so our level of helplessness is about the same, for all that scientists can adduce a much longer list of verified empirical results than priests can. Science has what I think is a built-in problem: the more advanced it gets the more it looks like magic, which resembles religion in that it wins loyalty by producing wonders that defy comprehension. Contemporary physics is almost perversely counterintuitive, producing theories that flout what we thought were fundamental principles. Western medicine, whatever its shortcomings, continues to produce cures unthinkable a few generations ago. We can look up almost anything instantly on a cheap handheld device. What comes with these advances? An abandonment of earthbound common sense, and a profession of faith in a select group of mandarins who alone understand how the universe works. That’s not what Paine and Voltaire had in mind.

Ah, the humble definite article — let us not overlook its semantic power. (And prosodic: articles make the iambic a characteristic English meter, even though most of our words are accented on the first syllable.) In English, unlike many European languages, “the” transforms nouns from general to particular. (E.g., “keys” vs. “the keys.” Note that this rule holds in the case of “the science,” if you hear it as a reference to work in epidemiology or another specific branch of medicine.) Sometimes definite articles are indispensable — “make bed,” “walk dog,” or “rock boat” all sound ridiculous — yet other languages get along happily without them. (And their misuse is a quick way to recognize a non-native speaker.) We scatter them thoughtlessly and pay them no mind. We would do better to reckon with the power of “the.”

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plant-based

(1980’s | scientese | “plant,” “vegetable,” “vegetarian”)

Confirmed carnivore that I am, I’m always a little bemused by this expression — I concede that it makes sense, though “plant-rooted” might be more poetic. At its broadest, it means “made from things that grow out of the earth.” A plant-based diet means you eat predominantly, but not exclusively, fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, fungi, and things made from them. (Lovely Liz from Queens likes to quote Michael Pollan’s dictum, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”) The emphasis is more on avoiding animal products than on supplementing them. So it’s veganism with room for backsliding, but the foundation is clearly vegetarian. That would seem to warrant the firmness and solidity of “based.”

“Plant-based” existed in the seventies, but no one used it to talk about food. That was true as late as 2000. The first citation I found (1979) modified ethanol, intended to distinguish it from petroleum-based gasoline back when we started talking about using it as an additive. (No one was thinking about climate change in those days, just the fact that fossil fuels had gotten expensive and corn prices kept going down.) It might also be used for pharmaceuticals or vaccines, and it frequently modified “product.” It still does all that, and it may have an abstract use as well, as in “plant-based business” or “plant-based lifestyle.”

The beauty of the phrase is its sheer reach; just about anything can be plant-based. We tend to think of it first with reference to food, and it continues to have a strong bias toward products with animal counterparts — fake meat, fake leather, etc. After all, most plant-based products make no attempt to impersonate flesh or hide. “Plant-based” is also widely employed to imply that the product so described is safer and/or healthier to use and less harmful to the environment, and, if food, minimally processed — is a vegetable “plant-based,” or simply “plant”? — even if the details are not spelled out.

Much is made in some circles over the resources required to produce meat, and the point is well taken. Growing animals in order to slaughter and eat them is wasteful, shockingly so in some cases. Plants are more efficient, but they too are born of the earth; exploiting plants means exploiting the planet. Maybe we’ll wear our old earth out a little slower if we switch to plant-based diets, but we will still wear it out. The earth’s carrying capacity cannot be made infinite, no matter how good we get at extending it.

What will happen to this expression and its relatives if we, as a species, consume less and less of our fellow animals? It will last as long as we find it necessary to distinguish alternatives to animal flesh from the real thing, and such distinctions seem likely to be needed for at least a few more decades. If veganism becomes the norm, we may have to go the other way and start saying “animal-based” instead. Presumably, “veggie burger” will go extinct at that time as well. Anything that eases the ubiquity of the vastly irritating “veggie” is all right with me.

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old-school

(1980’s | “from OR of the old school” “classic,” “old-time(y),” “traditional”)

It’s a nice way to say “old-fashioned.” The point is it’s nice; “old-school” is a compliment. It’s not just the old-fashioned way; it’s the right way. It may be used to mean blinkered or backward-looking, but that is unusual; one encounters it much more often in an admiring tone. Some expressions turn sour over time and develop a harsher side (examples: aspirational, comfort zone, game the system, lone wolf), and this one might, but not so far.

Almost certainly a Briticism, the adjective phrase developed from things like the old school tie, where it means something a little different. In that phrase, the main unit is the compound noun “school tie.” (We should also remember the older adjective-noun combination, which usually had a sentimental cast but might also be uttered with regret or mockery.) Now the link lies between “old” and “school,” a compound adjective with or without hyphen. During the eighties it started appearing regularly in the American press in that form, in political and art journalism and no doubt elsewhere as well. Sportswriters and music critics took to it readily to talk about athletes or musicians who emulated performers of previous generations. But it has never settled in one neighborhood of the language; “old-school” can come at you from any side.

Smith Barney commercials from the 1980’s featured John Houseman intoning, “They make money the old-fashioned way. They earn it.” The commercial demonstrates why we needed the phrase, even though “old-school” doesn’t actually appear in it. There was no one more old-school than John Houseman. (Though he might be scouted by other old-school types for using a plural pronoun to refer to a singular entity. Then again, if you hear it as “Smith [and] Barney,” it’s plural after all.)

While Americans regularly show a preference for forgetting the past, there is a countervailing tendency to respect achievements and personalities that came before — because they paved the way or had an auspicious effect on later work. It arises from a yearning for a time when we were wiser and more sensible; we look to the past to provide standards and guidance, not just a way to measure our own accomplishments. When it comes to moral superiority, our past has a spotty record at best; some old ways have passed on and cannot be revived. If old-school exemplars want to be successful in today’s world, they have to choose the right practices, customs, and forms of address to hang onto. If you do it well, it still pays off.

Lex Maniac has covered a few other expressions that evoke old times: artisanal, back in the day, epic, retro. They all have the same admiring quality as “old-school,” or at least they did when they started out. I’ll have to come up with some that look back in anger.

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dope

(2000’s | African-American | “cool,” “nice,” “great,” “excellent”)

A rich old word, at least two centuries old. Descended from the Dutch word for “sauce” and related to “dip,” it generally meant gravy or another thick liquid (lubricants, etc.) in the nineteenth century. (That sense, now rare, survives in the practice of calling sundae toppings “dopes.”) I doubt anyone says it any more, but in the South it long denoted Coca-Cola (or other fountain sodas), from the rumor that it contained cocaine. Somewhere around 1900, in a puzzling development, “dope” came to mean information or gossip (as in “latest dope”). Somewhat more understandably, also around 1900, “dope” took on medical uses, as it became popular to refer to drugs licit and illicit (the distinction was less rigid then). The homey term made the exotic and dangerous seem more familiar and acceptable. During the twentieth century, it became an all-purpose word for any illegal drug, most often marijuana or an opiate. From there “dope” merged with another meaning: slow or stupid person; “dopey” still means “stupid” or “out of it.”

Now, for some reason, the culture has adopted from African-American youth the practice of calling anything really awesome “dope.” (See many examples on Urban Dictionary.) Major’s dictionary of African-American slang reports that the usage was current in the eighties among young people; it does not seem to have entered white mainstream print or consciousness until after 2000. Today it is still characteristic mainly of the younger set, but it is creeping into middle-aged mouths and will continue to do so. Already it has shown more staying power than most youth slang, which is usually pretty ephemeral, and it may yet make the roster of long-term vocabulary. Today I saw a t-shirt that said, “God is dope.” At least it didn’t say “Dope is God.”

I wonder why “dope” has held onto the new meaning. (For starters, why an adjective?) The normal purpose of kids’ slang is to confuse adults. The normal way to do that is to take a relatively harmless word and substitute it for whatever you’re trying to conceal. It goes right over the grown-ups’ heads, at least for a while, and then another misleading word comes along. But as late as 2000, “dope” would have had negative associations for many older people — so why turn to it? It does meet the standard of causing confusion, which helps account for its success. Didn’t most of us have to have it explained the first time we heard it? Eighties slogans like “no hope in dope” still ring in my ears, and I would never have guessed “dope” meant “the greatest” unless it was unmistakable from context. The only connection I can imagine runs through potheads admiring a new variety, raving about how good the dope is. “That’s real dope, man” might become “That’s really dope, dude” without too much effort.

My old buddy Charles supplied this week’s expression. It is slangier than the usual subjects, but it’s such a fun word that I couldn’t pass it up. Charles hasn’t steered me wrong yet.

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emotional journey

(1980’s | therapese | “what one is going through,” “going through changes,” “progress(ion)”)

Wouldn’t “Emotional Journey” be a great name for a band? I know, “Journey” has been used, but that name hits all the right notes somehow.

“Emotional journey” comes up often in arts writing, and it can mean the sequence of feelings that a song, story, poem, frieze, etc. puts the viewer, etc. through, or simply the progressions of people’s feelings that occur within the narrative. (It is something that only individuals or small groups that function as a unit can undergo, but there is no reason an entire nation, or the whole world, couldn’t participate.) In other words, it may be what the character or performer goes through, or it may be what you go through — and there’s no reason they need be the same. Before 1980 or thereabouts, the phrase normally denoted travel of some kind that had a strong cathartic effect on the voyager, as a return to a childhood home, a religious pilgrimage, etc. The therapese usage turns that around; the emotions are the driving force, and the journey tags along as metaphor, a shadow of its former self. Once a comfortable adjective-noun combo, now it’s closer to a compound noun.

“Journey” is the word to watch, because it has grown into many phrases, such as “adoption journey,” “cancer treatment journey,” “mental health journey,” “weight-loss journey.” The use of “journey” is apt, implying progress through sequential stages toward a long-range goal, usually some form of healing, reconciliation, or self-improvement. We used to say “come to terms with” (accept or acknowledge), and often “emotional journey” refers to that process. It appeals to a long literary tradition that includes The Odyssey, the Divine Comedy, and Pilgrim’s Progress, and it has affinities with diaries (“journals”) and the epistolary as well, fictional or otherwise. In its modern uses, it also generally connotes a difficult, grueling time (sometimes it’s simply a euphemism for “prolonged trauma”); it is often used to talk about survivors of serious accidents or illness. That, too, is at least somewhat in accord with the literal meaning. A journey is a long trip (as in “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”) that might very easily include an epic adventure or two, but even if it doesn’t, it will take some time and take something out of you. A literal journey has a destination, and figurative ones do as well, always with the understanding that you may never actually get there — but it remains a reason to keep striving. For all that “emotional journey” suggests pain and sorrow, it retains an optimistic sound; as long as you stay on it, you have a chance to get where you’re going.

While I’m here, I’ll posit “notional journey” to refer to any fictional voyage in the tradition of Gulliver’s Travels or The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, “promotional journey” for a traveling salesman’s memoir, and “demotional journey” for dealing with lost status at the office.

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it’s all good

(1990’s | African-American? | “everything’s fine OR cool,” “it’s o.k.,” “all better now”)

Sometimes it seems that the vocabulary of satisfaction has turned over completely since I was young. It hasn’t, of course, but it has added some heavy hitters to the lineup, and this is one. (“I know, right?” is another). I assign it as a synonym to “everything’s fine,” and that comes close, but “it’s all good” brings a bit more enthusiasm to bear.

The phrase barreled into American language during the nineties; some sources suggest an African-American origin. In 2000, it made the Banished Words List of overused new expressions. Here are a couple of examples from the previous decade that are precursors if not early sightings:

-in a 1988 review of a war memoir: “It’s all good, but the infantry assault and the glasshouse [military detention barracks] inhumanities are the high spots.” Here the writer means, pretty clearly, that the novel as a whole is good.

-from a Sierra Club critique of Republican environmental policy (1988): “It’s all good, but they didn’t say how they are going to achieve the goals.” They are saying the right things but making no provision for accomplishing any of them. (Now it’s hard to imagine a Sierra Club official reacting to Republican policy with anything other than horror.)

Neither seems clear-cut to me. I suspect “it’s all good” results from a shortening of phrases like “it’s all good fun/stuff/news” or, less likely, from “it’s all good for the cause/country/planet.” In these instances, the antecedent would be clear, established in recent statements. Without the extra words after “good,” “it” loses specificity and becomes vague and (if you’re lucky) universal: I’m in a good frame of mind and there’s nothing to complain about. “It’s all good” often acts as a response to a question or apology indicating that the speaker harbors no ill will, analogous to the Australian “no worries,” now popular in the U.S. (Cf. “you’re good” — which kids use to mean “I accept your apology” or “no need to apologize” — and “I’m good,” which is pretty close to “it’s all good.”)

The expression is trotted out now in many different contexts; it has made its mark firmly on our language. Its primary quality is reassurance, even nonchalance, though it has an ironic side that implies that assent to the situation is coerced and all is not well. Still, we are to understand that the speaker, if not entirely pleased, is on board and will not make trouble down the road. Sometimes, like “in a good place,” it is a way to say a celebrity has survived detox. And sometimes it is used almost as a benediction, an “amen.” And why not? This simple sentence packs a lot of benignity in its short span.

There are many examples of this week’s entry in popular art and culture. I’ll cite only one, Bob Dylan’s song “It’s All Good” (2009), a sustained example of the ironic use mentioned above. Each stanza relates more and more serious misdeeds and injustices, then closes with the title phrase, brutally papering over the suffering and loss of the victims. “It’s all good” may be misused to obscure abuses of power, whether between two people or across whole societies.

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forever (adj.)

(1990’s | “permanent,” “interminable,” “endless,” “unstoppable”)

“Forever” has long done time as a noun, an adverb (“forever young”), even an interjection (forever and ever, amen). What was left? Adjective. And it is coming to pass, led by three expressions detailed below. We shall see whether we can make a verb of it.

“Forever war,” familiar to anyone who has been following the news lately, apparently got its start as the title of Joe Haldeman’s science fiction novel (1978). According to LexisNexis, it took more than twenty years for the expression to gain currency in political commentary; it started appearing in the aughts, the decade in which we launched two prolonged, costly, unsuccessful wars in the name of a third, the war on terrorism. Its recent popularity, owed largely to Joe Biden, is spawning spinoffs; Eric Alterman gave us “forever warriors” and “forever nonsense” in the title of a recent column.

“Forever family” is first spotted in LexisNexis in the late eighties, attributed to foster children hoping to land in a stable environment. Here it has a wistful, aspirational sound, softened further by its connection with children in difficult straits. “Forever home,” which seems to have trailed it by a few years, is very similar, used for both children and pets who would benefit from adoption. Recently it has taken on another meaning, analogous to the old expression “dream house” — where a family intends to settle down. In the early seventies, Lady Bird Johnson used “forever home” to mean “childhood home,” not a particular dwelling so much as the place or region one can always go back to, a perfectly logical interpretation that has not stood the test of time.

Those three are established in everyday language. So far, “forever” hasn’t adopted many other nouns. The term “forever chemicals” (in polluted groundwater) seems to be spreading slowly, like the chemicals themselves. I’ve seen “forever prisoners” and “forever commitment.” The Forever Project in New Zealand devotes itself to mitigating the effects of climate change. The Forever Purge, a film about a white supremacist uprising, has done well at the box office this year. The adjective seems poised for greater things as we tremble on the verge of a forever pandemic.

“Forever” has a strong religious echo, yet earnest teenagers use it all the time, too (as in “BFF”). The word may at times denote the full span of eternity, but more often we use it to mean “as long as you or I live.” In “forever war,” it doesn’t even mean that — more like “taking an unreasonably long time to end.”

Lex Maniac has worked a whimsical vein lately, so here are more things “forever” could modify beyond death and taxes: beta version (I’m looking at you, Google), interim coach or other official (sometimes they hang around for a while), speech, movie, line, or wait (it works better in front of one word than in front of several). Then there are more serious possibilities: friend, pension, budget deficit, shortage. Some things do last forever, or come so close they might as well.

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baked in

(2000’s | financese? | “built in”)

In a literal sense, we use “baked in” to refer to an ingredient incorporated before cooking, meaning that it is inseparable from the other ingredients and inextricable from the dish as a whole (as “baked-in flavor”). When we use it figuratively, it means something more like “inevitable.” It seems to have originated among financial types in the seventies and eighties (LexisNexis records the great banker Walter Wriston dropping it in 1979), generally in the form “(already) baked in the cake,” i.e., predetermined because macroeconomic conditions now in place (not necessarily because we planned it that way) must result in certain consequences no matter what we do.

Nowadays “baked in” retains that air of inevitability, but an alternate connotation has arisen: there from the start (also inherent in the literal). It is unreasonable to expect to get rid of it because it was always there, and everything around it has changed to reflect its presence. Any strongly held tenet of a political stance, a social movement, a scientific process, or a hunch can be baked in — and the phrase is still used often to talk about markets and marketing. Take a sentence like “In America, racism is baked in,” a proposition obvious to anyone with a glancing knowledge of our history. It was there from the beginning, it’s impossible (so far) to get rid of, and it continues to loom over contemporary politics and events.

“Baked in” doesn’t have to refer to a flaw, but it usually does. Here are two in the same ballpark: “hard-wired” and “overdetermined.” They are all generally used to explain after the fact why something happened and to tell us we should have seen it coming. The relation to the older “built in” — which “baked in” has not to date displaced — is obvious; the connection to “half-baked” is more subtle. “Steeped in” is another old culinary metaphor that works the same crowd.

Even now, “baked in” usually comes after the (linking) verb and spends little time acting as verb itself. (You do see it occasionally, especially among techie writers.) It doesn’t act as adjective often before a noun, either, but it could. It seems noteworthy that it is much more common in a passive mood than an active, a significant trait that may change over time. Poetic justice favors its use in discussions of climate change, but that turn does not seem to have been fully taken.

The descent from “baked in the cake” to “baked in” reminds us how many new expressions arrive at their final form simply by having pieces lopped off, usually at the end. An elaboration deemed necessary when an expression sounds new and daring grows tiresome over time, and we retreat gratefully to the shortened version. As with “lean in” and others, the process has yielded a new phrasal verb, or rather made an old one more common, operating over a much wider field.

Lovely Liz from Queens has ventured “baked in” more than once, which means she considers it a good candidate for the blog. Dead-on as usual, ba-bee! I know you will set me right if I have erred.

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compassion fatigue

(1980’s | journalese?)

One way to sum up compassion fatigue is “from empathy to apathy.” That is, it results from exerting so much effort to care for others that one gets worn out and no longer has strength or patience to help. Some writers, in fact, prefer “empathy fatigue.” Another way is to think of it as a special case of burnout, although some would distinguish the two. And another: a stress disorder that you get from other people’s traumas rather than your own; “secondary traumatic stress” is another synonym.

If you Google “compassion fatigue,” you will get the impression that it is the sole province of health care workers — or more generally those whose job it is to help others — and properly considered at an individual level. That is, an exhausted and overworked nurse or caregiver is afflicted with it, and the patients bear the consequences. Originally, however, compassion fatigue occurred on a national level. The phrase appears first in LexisNexis in December 1980, thanks to Senator Alan Simpson, who was talking about allowing beleaguered foreigners to resettle in the U.S. Americans did not want to accommodate them, according to Simpson, because of “compassion fatigue.” As late as 2000, that was the primary connotation when the phrase occurred in the press. It is true that you don’t get national compassion fatigue without lots and lots of individuals with compassion fatigue. Yet the scale of the phenomenon is clearly different. In the first instance, you’re talking about, at most, direct effects on a few dozen people. In the second, it’s in the millions.

Senator Simpson may have given the phrase its final push into prominence, but it certainly predates his use of it. There is some on-line evidence that Norman Cousins, editor and leading light of the Saturday Review, invented the expression in the context of foreign aid. In medicine and psychology, Carla Joinson (1992) and C.R. Figley (1995) are often credited with steering the phrase into new fields. (Not only did Figley help popularize the term, he seems to have originated the idea of understanding it as a stress disorder.)

The treatment for personal compassion fatigue relies on two concepts that Lex Maniac has covered, self-care and me time. In order to refresh your empathy, it is necessary to take a break, meet your own needs, and do things because you want to do them, not because someone else is making you. Experts often advise that compassion fatigue results from an inadequate self-care regimen (yes, regimen), and me time is just one component of self-care. There is no cure for mass compassion fatigue, but when times are flush and we need lots of imported workers to keep things going, Americans may get more liberal about immigration.

I don’t think it’s gotten there yet, but “fatigue” is a suffix ripe for spreading. “Donor fatigue” is one example; it widens the field by linking fatigue with persons rather than qualities. Let’s widen it some more. Q. “Why were you late to the office?” A. “Commuting fatigue.” (A much larger problem now than a couple of years ago, or maybe it’s just more openly discussed.) Students might develop exam or term paper fatigue. Most of us have a bad case of politics fatigue these days. You name it, if you’re sick and tired of it, or have used it up, tack on “fatigue” et voilà! a fun new phrase is born.

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landline

(1990’s | “home phone”)

An old term in telephony, “landline” achieved its present status in the nineties, during the dawn of the cell phone era. Suddenly we needed a way to distinguish our home phone, which had up to then been known as a “phone,” from our portable phone, which has several different names (cellular, mobile, portable in French, Handy in German). That momentous shift forced this sleepy engineers’ term into prominence. It is used less often because fewer and fewer people have them now, but they haven’t disappeared, and the expression will remain in our vocabulary for another couple of generations, at least.

There is a corresponding shift in denotation, of course. Landline(s) used to refer to cables and wires, not the set connected to them that lives in our houses, or the ten-digit number that goes with it. The evolution is so natural as to seem inevitable, a classic metonymy. “Home phone” was already distinguished from “business (work) phone,” so it wasn’t well-suited to serve as an antonym for “cell phone” — never “cell line,” never “land phone.” The split is strange, but maybe it reflects how quickly and unquestioningly we adopted cell phones and the terminology that came with them. It is almost axiomatic that the change from the telephone as something that sits in one place to something you carry around with you and use whenever you want is fundamental, epoch-making. That’s true especially if you get stuck with a flat tire in a remote place, or break your leg on a wilderness hike, but in more general and comprehensive ways as well. The cell phone revolution, followed immediately by the smartphone revolution, has forced dramatic and relatively sudden changes in how we manage and conduct work, leisure, politics, social life, family relations — everything. Now that we are content to have smartphones run our lives, it’s hard to remember how different it all was.

“Landline” must carry cultural baggage, too, due to an ever-strengthening association with organizations and old people, representing stodginess or its friendlier cousin stability. Those under forty generally don’t have landlines because they are superfluous. I keep mine partly because it transmits sound more accurately than any cell phone I am likely to have, and my hearing isn’t getting any better. Also because I find the stationary telephone comforting, even natural; I still plan my communications sometimes as if landlines are all we have, though I know there are options in these latter days, and I have access to several of them. (When I was a kid, the only way you could carry the phone from one room to the next was if you had a really long cord; now people walk for miles pursuing animated conversations.) But I also know that some day my beloved landlines will disappear, as the fiber-optic cable ages and requires more trouble to maintain, and nevermore will we see the phone plugged into the wall — except when the battery is low.

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