There are often articles in the newspapers regarding the ever changing use of language, every year they add and remove words from the dictionary. I would like to nominate the word ‘skint’ as a word whose definition has changed substantially over the generations. Like some sort of wordy inflation the word had moved from its original definition as people become more materially needy.
When my parents were ‘skint’ they had no money, it was that simple. They weren’t a little poor, they didn’t have less than they needed, they had nothing. For their generation ‘skint’ was a transient condition that was endured by increasing the layers of clothing and coming up with ingenious recipes to use the food in the store cupboard. Short term loans were a terrifying prospect that would only be considered if you couldn’t pay your bills. That last bit is particularly interesting, it wast food, heat or warmth that triggered a move to borrowing but the ability to pay your bills.
The aspirations of my generation meant that we had higher basic standards. We considered ourselves to be ‘skint’ when we couldn’t put fuel in the car or go to the pub. We borrowed more often and for less important reasons but not, in the main, recklessly. We were a generation born into the dream of ever growing prosperity and so debt was always considered to be something that would be inconsequential when measured against future earnings. More of us lived on overdrafts and friendly loans than the previous generation but we paid our bills and our debts.
The dream of ever growing prosperity ended in my generation, it’s ok it wasn’t our fault, but seemed to mutate into absurdity in the next. In the next generation the dream remains although there is absolutely no justification for it, it is as fantastical as Santa. Their aspirations are higher and their effort lower, ‘skint’ is not going clubbing, buying clothes or eating takeaway. Bills have become an option as the state and utilities struggle to cope with the PC brigade, after all cutting off somebody’s water supply is inhuman but not paying a bill is not. When they are ‘skint’ they message the fact from £500 smart phones which, in their skewed world, have become a basic essential of life. This is a generation that borrows to fund takeaway and vodka and then doesn’t pay the debt.
When you question this generation over how they will pay their debts or lift themselves from what they believe is poverty they have no real answer. Sure they say that they will get a job but there is no plan, they train for careers that are not available or simply scan the job pages on their smartphone but they don’t know how they will get there. Our parents were born knowing that life would always be hard work. My generation was born knowing that if we worked hard we would be rewarded. The next generation was born knowing that they deserved all that they could see and that is the least sustainable of all.
please note that references to generations do not refer to all people of an age they are simple generalisations