A La Mode.

When I was a kid there were certain things about adults that I assumed I’d understand once I became one, like why they’d rather watch the evening news than Sesame Street, although this is one of those things I still don’t understand. Mostly, though, it was expressions adults used, like when they were going on a trip and they’d say they were “going out of town”. We lived in the suburbs which I already thought was outside of town, wherever town was—I’d been to downtown but never, as far as I knew, uptown, and what they really meant was that they were taking a vacation and going to another town and I just realized I was doing terrible observational comedy when I was five, albeit only in my head, but that’s another story.

One of those expressions I never hear anymore, one I even stopped hearing long before I came an adult, and that I kind of miss is “like it was goin’ out of style”. This always described someone doing something really aggressively. “I was so hungry I sat down and ate peanut butter and crackers like it was goin’ out of style,” I remember an adult saying, or “Vernon was raking up those leaves in his yard like it was goin’ out of style.” Based on our yard in late fall I think most people would guess that raking leaves really has gone out of style, and if eating peanut butter and crackers has gone out of style, well, I guess I’ll just be a fat fashion faux pas. It was a weird and kind of funny expression that even now doesn’t make a lot of sense. Why would someone start really plowing into something because it was going out of style? Did going out of style mean it was in danger of going away? And if so why not just let it go? I guess it all depended on why it was going out of style in the first place. Some things—bellbottoms, teased hair, and shoulder pads—went out of style because they were really bad ideas, and good riddance, although I realize sounding so makes me sound like a cranky old guy standing on my porch telling you damn kids to get off my leaves. And if I complain that we’ve lost some genuinely good things because we put too much stock in what supposed stylemakers tell us I’m going to sound like an even crankier old guy and you’d be justified in wondering what kind of leaves I’ve been smoking. While the society I live in still has a long way to go toward true egalitarianism there does seem to be a looser approach to style and a greater tolerance of individuality than there once was. Tattoos and hair dyed all the colors of the rainbow used to mark a person as an outsider, but now, well, it’s not just the Isley Brothers who say it’s your thing, do what you wanna do.

Maybe that’s why the expression “goin’ out of style” is no longer fashionable and why I don’t hear it anymore. I’d still like to bring it back, and I plan to start using it myself. I’m going to use it every chance I get. You might even say I’ll be using it like, well, like someone who says it a lot.

8 Comments

  1. Ann Koplow

    You know what will never go out of style, Chris? Your stylish writing.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I appreciate that your comments are always both fashionable and make perfect sense. For some of us making sense never goes out of style.

      Reply
  2. Arionis

    Until I read this I never realized how that expression has gone by the wayside. I do remembering hearing it a lot when I was younger. You know another one I don’t hear much any more? “Like a big dog.” As in it’s raining like a big dog. That hurt like a big dog. Fast as a big dog. You know, big dogs sure did know how to do a lot of stuff. I’ll keep reading your stuff like it’s going out of style. Which of course, as Ann has pointed out, will never happen.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      What really tickles me is how widespread the expression “goin’ out of style” seems to have been. I thought maybe it was local but it ranged like a big dog. Yes, “like a big dog” is another great expression that’s gone by the wayside (and incidentally “gone by the wayside” is an expression that seems to, er, not get much use these days), and one I used to use like it was goin’ out of style to describe things our dogs did. “He went after that squirrel like a big dog,” I’d say, fully aware that it would be weird if a 50-pound Dalmatian went after a squirrel like a little dog.

      Reply
  3. Jay

    You know, I never really unpacked the ‘going out of style’ expression before but I’m astonished to realize how right you are. It really never made sense, did it? If something was going out of style, I’d drop it like a hot potato, not gobble it down like a baked potato with sour cream and chives!

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It’s very funny to me how widespread the expression “going out of style” was. I thought it might be strictly a southernism and possibly even restricted to Tennessee, but at one time it was very fashionable. As were baked potatoes. Yeah, I really want a baked potato now.

      Reply
  4. Allison Everett

    My husband is fond of the old-timey expression of amazement,”Great day in the morning!” We have a friend in his 90s who uses it. It reminds Matt of the oldsters he grew up with.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That’s a hilarious expression and I’m going to try and start using “Great day in the morning!” to express amazement. It makes about as much sense as my usual “holy mackerel”, although I’ve never stopped to figure out why a fish is sacred in the first place.

      Reply

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