My friend, who is in his sixties, just had his hair re-styled. I think it looks fab but a much younger acquaintance of his used the word "awesome" when complimenting him on the new look. My friend and I are not inclined to use that word in that way - if at all. It's not that we are averse to embracing change, but we already have a vocabulary which, when we first adopted it, probably sounded just as outlandish to our grandparents.
But the fact that language moves inexorably onwards is cause for celebration: if it didn't move, it would be dead - and it gets hard to communicate subtleties of meaning with dead language. When younger generation speaks to older generation we are bound to see the asynchronism of change, but we are still able to interpret meaning because there is the context of human interaction: “awesome” = “fab”, obvs. And there is a funny side to the juxtaposition of old phrases still in use alongside new ones: yesterday I spotted the signs Funeral Parlour and Body Shop above adjoining premises - which is the sort of irony you are not as likely to notice when you are speeding along in a car as you are when walking by at a leisurely pace.
More leisurely still is the prospect of floating along a canal in a narrow-boat - or so I thought when we were invited by old friends to spend a day cruising with them. They had come over from Canada specifically to pootle around the canal system for a few weeks and, if you think that's unusual, the first people we met at the first lock we negotiated had come all the way from Brooklyn, NYC for exactly the same purpose. I had looked forward to a relaxing day: the weather was warm and fair and we were equipped with a picnic and a bottle of dusky pink Côtes de Provence. I'm still not sure whether it was by design or coincidence that the seven mile stretch of canal we travelled boasted 23 locks, but the experience certainly wasn't leisurely. It was hard work, involving winding gigantic gears, pushing heavy lock-gates and walking most of the way. It even included an altercation with another boat-person whom we had managed to upset by failing to follow some obscure but time-honoured procedure.
But, for those who don't like change, life on a narrow boat could be just the thing. On the canals change appears to be unwanted, which is just as well because the scope for it is severely limited: the shape and size of the boats will always be determined by the dimensions of the locks; the maximum speed at which they can go is determined by the mass of water they displace; the choice of destinations is unlikely ever to vary and, if you really don't want to adopt modern figures of speech, you can just float on by with a cheery smile and a nautical salute.
The paradox of the canal network is that it persists alongside the road, rail and airway networks, not because it is a useful addition to the infrastructure, but because it is a useless distraction from it. From time to time there may have been talk of incorporating it into the system for the purpose of carrying freight, but it has never happened because the system is un-modernisable and therefore un-economic.
And therein lies its attraction: this one-time marvel of modern engineering has become a refuge from progress, a place to go when you can't take any more change; a place where the phrase "go with the flow" will never sound dated.