Keep It On The Chain

The longer you spend on this earth, the more the things we say have different meaning.

For example, dope. In my youngest years, it was a word you weren’t supposed to call your sister.  Then it became a word bound for Cheech ‘n Chong albums. Today, it means that it’s something cool.  And, of course, cool started out as being temperature-based, then it became a response when someone was talking and you weren’t really listening.  Plus, you get tired of just saying, “O.K..”

Phrases and slang words come and go. Some are owned by a generation, so that when someone outside the common-use demographic speaks the word or phrase, it just feels wrong. Giving grandma some fresh-cut flowers out of your garden and having her respond, “Wow, that’s dope!” just doesn’t work.

Also, don’t try to create your own catch phrase or slogan. You may think it’s a great idea that whenever you like what someone said, instead of acknowledging it with a, “That’s right!” you shorten your response to “Jerk”!  No one knows that you’re actually complimenting the person and you could get your clock cleaned just trying to establish a new hip word.

I’m sure I have my catch phrases. You might hear a “Hey now” out of me every now and then. I don’t say something is “Boss” or “Groovy” anymore, although there was a time.  However, there is one phrase that seems to pop up a lot out there that bothers me.

“That’s off the chain!”

I know how it’s used. When Mel B was impressed with one of the singers in America’s Got Talent this summer, that was her go-to phrase. Randy Jackson had “Dog!” on American Idol, Mel B wore out this phrase. And apparently, you have to deliver it with almost a windup. You know like, “That was…off the…CHAIN!”

I know what she meant.  She really enjoyed the act.  Here’s my issue–every time I hear that phrase, I don’t think about it being a compliment. Maybe it’s because I’ve got several decades behind me of being a homeowner. I do my best to keep the water bill down, but when I hear a toilet running that didn’t shut off, I know exactly what the problem is–the little bar inside, that lifts the plunger when you push down on the handle: it has become disconnected.

Oh, sure, at first you try and jiggle the handle.  But the water in the toilet keeps running. So, you remove the Kleenex box and whatever else is on the lid, lift that up, put it down on the seat and then look inside the tank. Sure enough, there’s the problem–that plastic bar that’s supposed to be connected? “That was off the chain!!!”

And so, I’m left  with a high sensitivity to one pop culture phrase that is probably close to dying away and becoming part of a Trivial Pursuit/Millennial Edition.  But until its gone, I live in constant fear of those five words triggering a flashback of the last time I had to go into the guts of my toilet and put it all back together.

But I’ll be fine. Really. For the record, writing this was my alternative to watching the Vice-Presidential debate. I think my time was better spent on this self-therapy.

Oh-oh…I think I hear water running.

Tim Hunter


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