I read an article that asked how much of English would I understand even as little as 300 years ago. I would struggle I admit. When I read Shakespeare (written around 400 years ago), it’s a little tough at first to read smoothly but with a little effort it starts to flow.
Even with a reprogramming of my reading comprehensive skills, however, I still run into words and expressions that cause me to rely on the foot notes on the bottom of the page for understanding. The story line I can follow, but unless I lived back then, there’s no way to fully understand the language without someone to explain it.
Today I watched the movie Smokey and the Bandit. Maybe not the most classic movie in cinematic history but it’s a favorite of mine. Only 40 years old, I wonder how anyone not alive and immersed in the 1970’s CB lingo could understand barely anything said.
Anyone could follow the simple story line- run from Atlanta to Texarkana, Texas and back, returning with 400 cases of illegal Coors beer at an outlaw’s pace- but the nuances of the conversations would be completely lost. The lunacy and frustration of the nationally mandated 55 mile speed limit has been blurred by time.
I loved and love that movie. It takes me back. As kids, we lived, spoke, and dreamed in the language of the trucks. We knew the difference between a Smokey, a County Mounty and a Local Yokel. We stopped and watched in awe at any Black Trans Am roaring down the road. We argued over which was better, Peterbilt or Kenworth? We 10-4ed, 10-20’d, and occasionally 10-100’d.
The Bandit was our Shakespeare, the CB radio was our language, and the movie is our history.