''Sweet,'' has entered the colloquial language with a new meaning, a synonym for ''nice.'' I still speak ''Geezerisms,'' so I say things like ''That's nice.'' Grandchildren drop the ''That's,'' and just say ''Sweet,'' sometimes drawing it out for emphasis, e.g. ''Swe-e-e-et!''
This happens with language. Who, today, would risk the raised eyebrows that might follow a statement like ''I had a gay old time!'' In the context of a Barbershop Harmony tune, people accept it. But in everyday speech, ever since ''gay'' became a synonym for ''homosexual,'' the sex-linked meaning has driven into disuse such meanings as ''lighthearted,'' ''carefree,'' or ''brightly colored'' or even ''stupid,'' as in ''That was a gay thing to do.''
But happily, ''sweet'' still also means ''the pleasant taste associated with sugar or honey.''
I have adopted it as a Christmas-gift staple, brought on by the fecundity of my progeny.
What's that? You want a translation? Sure. My kids are having kids, galore.
Grandchildren ought to get Christmas gifts from grandparents. I have believed that ever since my mother's mother solemnly gave each of us a few cardboard-packaged Torrone nougat bars, swaddled in thin foil, their white wafer edge-coatings evocative of the hosts used at Communion. Beaming, she would urge us to eat one immediately, abruptly shushing my grandfather or my parents if they objected that candy ought not to be consumed before Christmas dinner.
The Good Life
I don't give Torrone candy as a Christmas gift, but I have devised my own Americanized substitute: Those large Hershey bars that not long ago were deemed ''dollar bars,'' though increases in chocolate prices have made them half again as expensive.
I own no stock in Hershey Chocolates, and if Cadbury or Godiva are your preferences, I do not quibble. But for me, ''Hershey'' says ''America'' just as much as ''sweet'' invokes the memory of my grandmother and says ''Christmas.''
So I plan to give one large Hershey bar to everyone who celebrates Christmas at our house.
Those who can't make it, don't get it.
Unfair? Of course. But if life were fair, I would be younger, handsomer and definitely richer. As it is, I am, in a word, goofy.
That is reflected in the gifts that I give.
My wife, a sensible sort, gives sensible and conventional gifts: Clothing, jewelry, some homemade things.
I give gifts that have charitably been described as ''memorable.''
Some of them are well-received. Last year, a brother-in-law received a basket of gloves. They were ordinary gloves: Mittens, work gloves, rubber gloves, latex gloves, etc. He tells me that now he has multiple pairs of the same types of gloves, so one set can be in his garden supplies, another with his lawn tractor, etc.
Others, however ... see, this is where the Hershey bars come in handy.
When I get one of those looks that says, ''What is this, and why me?'' I cheerily point out that, ''Hey, you got a Hershey bar, too!''
I grumble that one of these years, my six children are going to receive only a Hershey bar apiece at Christmas, because their fecundity (Yes, it is a great word!) has pushed the number of grandchildren perilously close to the two-dozen category. Of course, there are grandchildren and there are grandchildren. Some folks use terms like ''step-'' or ''wife's.'' For me, if I have to feed them when they visit, they're grandchildren. Some of those grandchildren are now of an age where they bring along boyfriends or girlfriends; for the day, they too are grandchildren, deserving of a Hershey bar.
This year, I'm giggling because I got all of the grandchildren ... well, almost all of them ... different versions of the same thing. Now, some will have immediate practical use for their version, while others will echo my children: ''What IS this, and why me?''
I shall quickly extol the virtues of the Hershey bar: No quibbles about size or color, no feeling that another got something better, just Hershey bars galore.
Last year, one son was a tad testy in his ''We arrived at home'' telephone call, claiming that a ''sugar high'' had made the trip back from our house seem like a 45 rpm record played at 78 rpm - and if you understand that reference, you are old enough to also smile upon hearing someone say ''Number, please.''
Hey, I didn't start the tradition of eating the candy right away. For that, blame those packaged, imported Torrones, and Maria Critelli, God rest her soul.
Buon (munch) Natale!
Denny Bonavita is the editor and publisher of McLean Publishing Co. in west-central Pennsylvania, including the Courier-Express in DuBois.