Saturday, July 24, 2010

What is a Bedspread?

A guest blog by Jean Lorrah

Reminders of age  occur in the most unlikely situations!

Yesterday I was doing my weekly shopping at Wal-Mart. I had just remodeled my guest room, but realized that the naked bed didn't look complete. So I put "bedspread" on my shopping list, my only concern being whether I could find one that would not clash with the antique quilt I have hung on the wall. I headed to the bedding department.

There were sheets. There were blankets. There were "beds in bags" (sheets, pillowcases, and a comfort). There were quilts. There were comforts. But I could not find the bedspreads.

So, I asked a Wal-Mart Associate for help. She was not exceptionally young, maybe early 30's, so we should have been able to communicate. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Can you please tell me where the bedspreads are?
Associate: The what?
Me: The bedspreads.
Associate: You mean sheets?
Me: No, bedspreads. Something to go over the sheets.
Associate: Oh--over here.
(She shows me the quilts and comforters.)
Me: No, I just want a bedspread.
Associate: Oh--you mean a blanket.
(She shows me the blankets.)
Me: You really don't know what a bedspread is? It goes on top of the sheets and blankets to cover the bed.
Associate: (Stares at me as if I were speaking Greek.)

Well, a thorough search of the bedding department turned up no bedspreads. Apparently this bedroom staple has disappeared from American culture, replaced by comforts and comfort covers. That I can believe.

What I find hard to believe is that the word "bedspread" has disappeared as well! Here was a thirty-something woman who had clearly never heard the word before. She was young enough to be my daughter, but not my granddaughter. How could such a common household word  disappear in a single generation?

I'll put a comfort on the bed in the guest room and not worry about decor--but I do worry about communication between generations when not  only do manufacturers stop making something, but even its name is forgotten within a single generation. Language is not supposed to change that fast--words are always being added, but the old words have always lingered in the past. When I was a kid we had a refrigerator, but I knew what an icebox was. We had a record player, but I knew what a victrola was.

Will today's kids not remember what videotape is? At age 30 will they pause to wonder where the phrase "caught on tape" could possibly come from, when video is actually caught on memory chips (or something generations newer by that time)?

When I was thirty-something, we talked  about the "generation gap," complaining that parents and children did not understand one another socially or culturally. Have we actually reached the point at which they speak different languages?

Jean Lorrah's own blog is http://www.houseofkeon.blogspot.com/ , and she provides daily tips on writing at http://twitter.com/tipsonwriting .

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