Unpack This Why Don’t You? | JIM FURLONG

Big movie musicals aren’t what they used to be. I have fond memories though of some of them from the past. I always loved South Pacific and The Sound of Music and even Oklahoma. A musical I really took to was The Music Man with Robert Preston and specifically the big production number You’ve Got Trouble. Remember? “You’ve got trouble my friends’ right here in River City.” I still know the words to the song. You will know the lyrics are a warning to a small rural town named River City. It is the message to the towns folk to be ever vigilant about unfamiliar words creeping into our language. In The Music Man it is words like “swell” and “So’s your old man” that are the examples used.

It is in the spirit of that warning that I bring you today a few lines on the latest intruder into our world of language. It is a warning about the downfall of civilization as we know it. I have waved the red flag in the past when people in chic bookstores started mumbling about something or other being a good “read.” The word became a five-letter noun expression for the act of opening and reading a book. War and Peace became a good “read.” The entire works of Shakespeare could be called, in an act of complete language laziness, a good “read.”

There were also expressions that became popular in our language in recent years. They are expressions like “don’t go there” and the once popular “thinking outside the box.” They both had their moments in the linguistic sun but quickly ran out of steam. To my mind it was not quickly enough.

In recent years, a particularly annoying word was introduced. It was a Facebook phenomenon although I’m not sure. I don’t know anyone that speaks to me in conversation who would use the unfamiliar word. The word is “bestie” as in ‘she is my “bestie.” It means best friend in on-line speak although I think the words “best friend” do just fine for me.

That bring us now to the latest entrant into this world of new English silliness. The word is “unpacked.” It has nothing to do with suitcases or those now faded into the mists of time travel items known as steamer trunks. “Unpack” has come to mean explaining something that is complex and looking at it as in; “Let us unpack this for a few minutes.” I heard this in church at a sermon a few months ago where the man of the cloth on a Sunday morning was explaining something from the Holy Bible and promising to “unpack” it. I overcame the impulse to jump to my feet and yell at the preacher-man to “knock it off!”

To continue in that religious idiom, we are ever grateful to the Creator for “His tender mercies.” (Psalms 145.9 King James Bible). Our gratitude stems from the fact the phrase about unpacking didn’t last long as a popular phrase either inside the church or outside it. It went out of vogue and the world moved on quickly to somewhere else.

What is next? Who knows what lies ahead just round the next language bend. Well, don’t go there. Sit with your bestie ready to think outside the box and roll with whatever punches are thrown your way. Please don’t ask me about “unpacking” anything.

You can contact Jim Furlong at [email protected]