Recently I mentioned to a sharp, gifted journalism student that the embattled governor of Illinois should, “exorcise the demons,” from within. They looked puzzled and said, “Why would you ‘exercise’ demons?” I believe they were stumped by the visualization of little devils running on a treadmill or huffing and puffing on an elliptical machine.
OK, so much for using some outdated language that does not resonate with a young person.
Maybe I should have said, “Like, he needs to chill and think about what he’s doing.”
Well, to me, that doesn’t sound nearly as interesting. However, let’s be frank — you must gear your language to the audience so it makes sense.
I have used, ineffectively, Shakespeare, gotten students confused with references to Richard Nixon (like, “I’m not a crook”), and generally realized that pop culture and current word usage is something that I must take into account when writing or speaking.
While I want to blame students, their parents and their high school teachers for limiting my use of Greek mythology, World War II and Tim Leary, I must understand that “The times they are a changing,” to quote another outdated legend.