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Don’t Take It Literally

By Hannah Reich Berman

As I see it, nobody offers to protect anyone these days. I can’t remember the last time I heard anyone say, “I will protect you.” But I have heard alternative phrases that are offers of the same thing—protection. But now, people say it differently. They say, “Don’t worry, I have your back!” This expression has been on the scene for a while now. If anybody ever says that to me, however, my first reaction is likely to be, “Are you sure you want it?” My back is nothing to write home about. It aches most of the time, and some days it’s only with a major effort that I am able to stand straight. Anyone who wants my back is welcome to it!

Upon further reflection, however, I simply hope I will remember that this is only a figure of speech and not to be taken literally. Nobody who knows me wants my back, but I know that my friends will offer protection should they feel that I need it. It took some getting used to, but I confess that I like the new expression.

There’s another new phrase, one that replaces familiar old complaints such as “He ratted on me,” “He squealed,” or “He gave me away.” People don’t talk like that anymore. It takes me time to catch on to new things, but even I would no longer use words such as squealed or ratted. If I ever feel that someone has betrayed me, I plan to say what everyone else says: “You threw me under the bus.” Betrayal is nasty, but it doesn’t compare to throwing someone under a bus. Still, I like this expression as well.

Once upon a time we would refer to a person who showed little or no emotion as being devoid of expression or as having no personality. We don’t say things like that anymore. Now we say that such a person has a flat affect. That’s my all-time favorite! I love that expression, possibly because the words indicate that the speaker has a degree of knowledge in the field of psychology. Of course I have no such knowledge, but why should I let that hold me back?

While changes in speech are interesting, what is really interesting are the names used for new technological equipment. The one that I most disagree with is referring to a cell phone as a smart phone. Smart doesn’t do it justice. It would more be appropriate to call it an everything phone. If that name (“everything”) is good enough for a bagel, it should be good enough for a phone. The fact is that it does do everything. So few people use it strictly for calls these days that there’s no reason to call it a phone. The little instrument has so many uses that it’s hard to know which one is primary. Some people (dinosaurs like me) still use it for calls. But we are few. Most people use it to send text messages or e‑mails.

This is totally understandable, because after all, G‑d-forbid an hour should pass without e‑mail! Additionally, just about everyone uses it as a camera so they can take a picture that they can then immediately show to someone and then, just as quickly, delete it so the image is never to be seen again.

Still, others have a far more important use for these smart phones. These are the people who spend every waking hour playing games with total strangers. Will someone please explain to me what that is about? Don’t these people have enough family and friends? Why play games with people they never knew before and will, in all likelihood, never meet? Of course some games have nothing to do with a second party. People also play games by themselves. I think of it as electronic solitaire.

Leaving all of the above uses behind, what I think of as the main function of a smart phone is that its owner can use it to look up some vital piece of information that he simply cannot live another minute without knowing. And the information is always something that has to be forthcoming immediately. Things such as What time does this movie start on Sunday? Who won the U.S. Open in 2007? What was the name of the actress who portrayed the maid in “Gone with the Wind”? What is the cost of gasoline in New Jersey? Who can deny that these are important questions that need immediate answers?

There is no smart phone in my future. Still, one may reach me by calling or texting, and that should be good enough. Anybody who wants to send an e‑mail to me should be advised that I won’t be seeing it until I get home in the evening. Nevertheless, I am not totally without resources. As regards those vital pieces of information, why do I need a smart phone when everyone else in the world has one? All I have to do is ask the person standing next to me. I don’t even have to know that person, and he or she doesn’t have to know me. Owners of smart phones are overjoyed when they get the chance to provide information to anyone who wants it. This seems to be the thrill of a lifetime for them. It leads me to conclude that the smart phone is a toy. It’s the most popular new toy since the hula-hoop, and it fits in a pocket! What could be better?

As I intend to remain without a smart phone, I will remain unable to provide anyone with such vital information as was itemized above. But there are some things I can do. I am proud to say that, in addition to making calls, I have finally mastered the art of sending text messages. I mastered it—but I still don’t like it. It takes me too long to do it. My thumbs are the problem. They don’t move fast. Then again, no part of me moves fast, so why should my thumbs be any different?

Unfortunately, speedy texting can be important. I learned this the hard way. I was in the middle of typing out a text message, when suddenly I was receiving an incoming call. My screen went blank and it appeared that everything I had so painstakingly written was lost. So, when I was finished with the call, I had to begin my text all over again. Chances are that the text was not lost. If I had more know-how, I probably could have retrieved it and continued where I had left off. But, as I didn’t know how to do that, I started from scratch. The pressure was on! And I worked at it as fast as my stubby thumbs would allow and hoped to finish and send it before I was interrupted again.

The bottom line is that some changes appeal to me and others do not. But life doesn’t always offer options. If I want my grandchildren to think I’m cool, I need to speak the new language and to communicate via text. In short, I have to get with the program—at least some of the programs. That’s the way it is. v

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at or


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Posted by on July 27, 2013. Filed under In This Week's Edition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.