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Susan Miller

What telltale signs give away your age? Despite what skin cream manufacturers might want you to believe, a wrinkled brow, saggy jaw line or Golden Girls-style pocketbook, may not be as telling as the words you use.

That brings us back to that word pocketbook. A recent NPR “Talk of the Nation” program shared how an individuals’ choice of words may reveal their age even more than outward appearance.

Hmmmm ... As if someone’s words can reveal their generation. Like, that’s ridiculous. Totally! You know? Virtually every generation is characterized by its own slang terms. Words like rad, awesome and groaty are dead giveaways the speaker either grew up in the early 1980s or is a compulsive watcher of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”

More recently, phrases such as, it’s all good, and no worries, reflect the mentality of a laid back millennial generation. The problem is those of us with some mileage on our age-ometers, know that it is not all good and that there are legitimate worries (or as I like to call them, “concerns”).

At the risk of sounding like a fuddy duddy, perhaps the biggest concern is the way emerging phrases are usurping traditional terms for etiquette. Whatever happened to the reply “no, thank you”? You may be much more apt to hear the response, “I’m good” when a young person declines an offer.

Similarly, the reply, “you’re welcome,” might seem dated compared to today’s popular “no problem” response to a word of thanks.

What’s my “beef?” Simply that phrases such as “no problem” and “I’m good” are lazy substitutes for a multitude of words available for expression. It’s like having access to a gourmet buffet but sticking with the Twinkies.

Now, back to the “Talk of the Nation” segment: Beyond their annoyance factor, certain words convey a more mature age. Because initial communication in the business environment is often conducted via a phone conversation or written query, job applicants may want to carefully select the words they use in cover letters, phone interviews and even Linked-In profiles.

NPR listeners shared some words they consider antiquated in a lively online exchange. Words that may add years to your age include:

  • Pocketbook: This word will always be linked in my mind with Sylvia on “The Golden Girls” (of course, mentioning “The Golden Girls” dates me!)
  • Lollygag: I love this word and much prefer it to slacking off.
  • Thongs: Evidently, these are called flip-flops now and the word should never be uttered in the workplace unless you work in a Victoria’s Secret store.
  • Dungarees and blouses: Pants and tops are more contemporary words for attire.

Similarly, “down with that,” “legit” and “just sayin” will likely characterize you as less than experienced.

One slang word that has transcended generations is “cool” a word that allegedly received a bump in status thanks to 1960s icon Steve McQueen.

When meeting with a prospective employer, choose words that reflect your expertise, not your generation.

Susan Miller is owner of Ewing Miller Communications, an Anderson marketing and public relations consulting firm. Write to her at

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