I'm reading a novel that was published in 1892. It's a good one, written by Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne – The Wrecker. And I came across a word I barely knew.
It's not used today in conversation. It doesn't come trippingly off the tongue. It wasn't even in the dictionary I most always use each day. But, according to Webster's New World Dictionary, it means "something carried about by a person for constant use."
The only remembrance I have of the word was a Swedish mouthwash with that name that I liked in the 1950s. Five drops on your tongue and your sore throat was gone.
That's like a lot of things today. They barely exist. Smith Brothers Cough Drops, for example. My father liked them. Bitter drops that tasted like medicine. I always liked the ones that tasted like candy.
In the 1940s and even the '50s, women dressed carefully for going to the market. Long, white gloves, pleated dresses, matching shoes, a touch of lipstick, pinched cheeks. You had to look just right to buy peanut butter and pears.
We don't have the butter and egg stores anymore. They were small outfits devoted to fresh eggs, butter in tubs, wheels of cheese and, my favorite kid thing, peanut butter. They would take it from a barrel and spoon it into paper cups, smack a paper lid on it, put it in a brown paper bag, and, on the way home, the oil would wet the bag. I loved it.
We don't have the Tucker anymore. When I was in my teens, the Tucker automobile was introduced with the famous triple headlights, two regular headlights in their proper places, and a headlight-searchlight right in the middle. Our local tax service had one and grandly put the light on the front door for tipsy customers to find their way.
Some people might be familiar with the car because of director Francis Ford Coppola. The story of the Tucker and the car company's founder, Preston Tucker, was told in Coppola's 1988 movie Tucker: The Man and His Dream.
Another memorable car was the Hudson. It was "the car you step down into" and marked the end of running boards. Rumble seats rumble no more.
The lady in the bank with the pen and ink and the green visor is no more. Machinery has replaced her. Banks that give away toasters are now strictly from the past. Today, banks give away debit cards and then fine you for using them.
The past has been replaced by the present and it's not necessarily better. Handwritten notes have been replaced by tweets. Phone calls have been replaced by e-mails. If not for junk mail, most of us would get no mail at all.
In the old days, people used to retire. Now they retire and then go back to work.
Years ago, women who made a living typing in an office were called "type-writers" and Royal typing machines came complete with glass sides. I had one of them. Today, if you use a typewriter, as I do, you're considered hopeless and crotchety. So be it.
Yes, nobody uses the word ''vademecum'' today. And only novelists use the word ''verisimilitude.'' That means the appearance of being true or real. That would make a good category on Jeopardy! – "Words beginning with V that nobody uses anymore."
I think I need a strong cup of Postum.
Yes, they still make it.
Jim Aylward lives in west Pasco.