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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, November 29, 2002

Vintage, used or just da kine?

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Columnist

What's in a name? What's in a title? A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but in the contemporary culture, the proper title is everything.

There was a time when people who were being treated by medical, psychological or psychiatric professionals could be generally referred to as "patients." Not any more. While some can still be called "patients," others are "clients" or "participants" in their wellness programs.

Likewise, it's hard to find a hospital anymore. Now so many of them have had their names changed to "medical center." The Queen's Medical Center. Kapi'olani Medical Center. Castle Medical Center. Pretty soon, that old joke from "Airplane" won't work any more.

Rumack: This woman has to be gotten to a hospital.

Elaine: A hospital? What is it?

Rumack: It's a big building with patients, but that's not important right now.

Oh. You mean like a medical center?

In some cities, a landlord can ask for a higher rent by calling an apartment a "flat" because, after all, if it sounds Euro, it must be classy.

An old puka aloha shirt will fetch more interest on eBay than at Savers because on eBay, it's called "vintage" and at Savers, it's just "used."

And don't even get me started on the whole tourist/visitor/guest thing. The only people who call tourists tourists anymore are tourists, who don't seem to mind one bit.

Then there are job titles.

It used to be that when people had "executive" attached to their names, you could make some assumptions. Not anymore. Executive something-or-others are up and down the corporate ladder, from entry level positions to, well, executive offices.

A producer in television news is totally different from a producer of feature films. The main difference is that one makes a lot of money and the other dreams of working in film.

The term "czar" has resurfaced in recent years to describe a government official with fearsome profile. However, while a tech czar promotes technology, a drug czar doesn't promote drugs.

Flight attendants used to be stewards and stewardesses. Lately, they're Your Safety Crew.

A personal favorite surfaced recently, this from a Neighbor Island fire department: "Suppression Chief." Of course, it makes sense when you're talking about fire, but I suspect a "suppression chief" would be useful in a number of other settings:

  • Political campaigns
  • Kindergarten classes
  • UH football post-game interviews
  • Shock radio
  • Major shopping centers (particularly today)

But while what we title things has gotten more and more specific and euphemistic, what we call them is usually the same old thing: da kine.

Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at 535-8172 or lcataluna@honoluluadvertiser.com.