I’m here today to talk about a new kind of abuse. The victims of this abuse can say nothing, despite literally being the very essence of ‘speaking up’. Suffering in silence, they find themselves mis-represented and used as the tools of the unscrupulous – out to make a fast buck off the back of these innocent collections of characters. Their very existence becomes meaningless… Ironic, as their only purpose is to ‘mean something’ in the first place! I’m talking about words themselves… Yes… Word abuse!
The word ‘vintage’ is the victim of a massacre of meaning… the cops wouldn’t be able to outline it’s prostrate form in chalk; it’s been spattered up the walls and dismembered. It’s remains, once collected, would be buried under a tombstone that read;
Here lies ‘vintage’ – once a proud, honest description for a hard year’s toil in the earth and air of a vineyard… relegated to the king of a dusty cellar; gradually only brought into daylight for those with vast wealth, then stretched across the title of every worn out item on eBay – until he finally meant nothing. R.I.P.
It’s true. ‘Vintage’ originally meant the year long process of creating wine. What with weather being the uncompromising S.O.a.B. force of nature that it is, some years it was kinder to the grape farmers than others, giving better yield of more sugary little yeast-covered berries for a better tasting wine… or quicker to get you red nosed and insulting people… whatever makes a ‘good year’ better!
A curious thing began to happen, and these ‘good’ years began to be saved for the very best occasions, or highest paying customers, and along the way the very amount of time they had been stored for began to add value. Thus ‘vintage’ evolved to mean ‘older’ and became a term that hit you square in the wallet… if you wanted it, you paid for it.
The word (or is it a term…? I never listened at school…) became used for similar objects of desire that were considered to be made in a particularly ‘good’ era. Cars, for instance… ‘built’ by humans, back when profit margins didn’t dictate that steel bodywork be wafer thin and ‘assembled’ by robots. Guitars, made of tone-inspiring and beautiful woods, back before we used it all for paper… erm…
Vintage began to mean quality. As quality became rarer (and ‘rare’ is another abused word in much the same way), ‘vintage’ began to mean ‘reminding one of quality’.
As quality slowly died of the fatal disease of capitalism – finally euthanized by the invisible hand of the market (please google that), ‘vintage’ began it’s own descent into oblivion… ironically looking back to it’s former self as a proud marker of all things built to last.
Briefly, fashion did what it does, and resurrected ‘vintage’ like the proverbial Messiah, putting it back on the throne as sexy, desirable and worthy of adoration. But fashion is fickle, and before long ‘vintage’ had returned to the bottom of the pile, to wait for a new generation to decide it applies to something they think is suitably retrospective – and make the last lot feel old!
Along came the internet, and we all began to sell by auction literally everything we didn’t want anymore at the ubiquitous ‘bay of evil’. The words ‘vintage’ and ‘rare’ – still thought by the less observant seller to imply a sense of value and create a desire for their old tat – began to be used so often that the sensible shopper hit the [back] button every time either word came into view
Thus ‘vintage’ was abused until it had no meaning. Left to wander the netherworld, a whisper in the ethereal cloud of ancestral utterances. A terrible end for a terminology terminated by the time it came to imply.
But don’t worry vintage… like all things inherently good, there will always be a few who remember you for what you are; the rich sonorous tone of a 1950’s Gibson guitar! The unique pitch and wide frequency spread of a vinyl record grooved with real music! real 1970s Levis thick enough to get actually better with time and wear! The roar of an engine built when things were really built – and not neutered to comply with a million regulations of the nanny state!
So we’ll take back your meaning, and make it new… from now on vintage shall come to mean ‘too good to forget!’