I was hugely privileged this week to be given a tour of the Home for Obsolete and Outmoded Expressions, a sterling model for America's new breed of linguistic care facilities located in the Philadelphia suburb of Havertown. My tour guide was none other than the founder of the facility, eminent psychiatrist and powerful advocate for the past tense, Dr. Elizabeth Funt.
The building itself is nothing less than, well, awesome!, from the Cat's Pajamas Dining Hall to the Solid Ted, Enough Said Residences to the F*cking-A Auditorium. Dr. Funt explained to me how the inspiration for the facility first came to her several years ago.
"I was browsing in a dusty out-of-the-way bookstore, the kind of place that lowballs its trade-ins and has way too many books by Carlos Castaneda," said Dr. Funt, "when I came across 23 Skiddoo in a broken-down thesaurus, old and alone, huddled between twenty thousand leagues under the sea and twerp. I was heartbroken, especially when I saw the way twerp was cruelly pushing it around."
Dr. Funt knew she had to do something and do it 23 Skiddoo! She reached out for funding to former hipsters guilt-ridden over having sold out and unceremoniously dumped expressions like Daddy O, square, and hepcat and established the Home for Obsolete and Outmoded Expressions in 2007. True to form, hepcat, square, and the late 23 Skiddoo became its first residents.
"Yesterday's expressions are like fallen child stars,” Dr. Funt explained to me. "Think of nifty and jinkies as Macaulay Culkin and David Cassidy, except without the cute haircuts and chronic drug and sex addictions."
Strolling through the hallways in the Solid Ted, Enough Said Residences, Dr. Funt introduced me to residents Far Out and Right On!, who share a room in the Assisted Exclaiming Section. On the day of my tour, they were both enjoying a visit from a young volunteer sitting with them and pronouncing their names over and over in a well studied, semi-defiant tone of voice.
"Sure I miss my days in the mouths of every half-baked pseudo-revolutionary in the country," said Right On! "but the lasagna here is terrific." Far Out added that he does laps in the Olympic-sized pool every day, ironically enough "to keep my waistline from getting too far out!"
I was happy to learn that many currently popular words and expressions come by to volunteer their time. Cool especially enjoys dropping in, no mean feat considering its breakneck schedule in common usage throughout the world today. "Most of the other words love it when Cool blows in," said Dr. Funt, "usually in a fast car with a good-looking gerund on its l. Except for Groovy, in whom I sense a certain bitterness. I've also noticed Groovy steadfastly refuses to eat anything Awesome occasionally drops off, even the Yankee pot roast."
The day ended with an old fashioned hootenanny in the F*cking-A Auditorium. There they all were — fabled yet faded mainstays like tubular, Hot to Trot, funky, and Say What? — congregating and conjugating, mixing and modifying, and dancing and defining. As I left, Up Your Nose With A Rubber Hose! was leading everyone in the hokey pokey, looking for all the world like a young John Travolta.
It did my heart good to see this wonderful new facility and the fine work being done by Dr. Funt. And of course it was great to see all those senior expressions alert, happy, and copacetic to the max!
I bid Dr. Funt “see you later, alligator,” and she slipped me some skin.
How about that? Some of the residents are even beginning to moonlight!