For children today, the word “pause” is such a natural part of language that they use it in things unrelated to devices. One day my 7-year-old son and I pretended to be Transformers while he got ready for bed. Naturally, Optimus Prime couldn’t very well tell Ironhide “I love you” and tuck him into his recharging chamber. “Hey, let’s pause the game for a minute,” my son said. I hugged him and kissed his cheek. “Okay, un-pause now,” he said, and again we were good-guy robots from another planet.
When I was my son’s age, we didn’t have Transformers, and we didn’t use the word “pause” in everyday conversation. Though it hasn’t risen as quickly as “delete,” thanks to technology it has become ubiquitous.
Most households in my childhood experience had a pause button on a cassette player, but I’m willing to bet that it was used only by those of us who actually made recordings. That strange double-vertical-dash symbol meant almost nothing to those outside that somewhat geeky circle. “Man, that deejay started talking before I could hit pause. Now Santana’s ‘I’m Winning’ will always have that guy’s voice on the end.”
When VCR’s became popular, the pause button saw more action across various demographics, and I suspect the word did, too. “Hey, ____, I’ll pause this for you while you go fetch me a ______.”
CD players brought their own pause button, with a unique spin. That is, the disc continued to spin but the laser stopped reading the grooves. It harkened back to the original pause “button” — gently lifting the needle from the record. “Why did you pause that?” “Because all you Fred Flintstone motherf—–” are jumping around making my disc skip. Now cut it out.” (Don’t hate the cursing, that’s an actual quote from a college party in an old house with wood floors on a raised foundation.) Other disc-based technologies carried on that same tradition.
Game consoles, PC games, and handheld gaming devices allowed the player to pause a game, often only after certain checkpoints were reached. “Dude, I totally paused our game, so you can go tell my mom to bring us some more beer to stock the basement ‘fridge.” Or, “Little Johnny, pause that game now or you will not get any food at this buffet.”
Then came the one that really changed it all — the Tivo. With it and the many similar recorders that came after, one could pause “live” television. “Hey, pause that, I think Janet Jackson’s boob just popped out.” “Don’t be preposterous, that was merely — oh, my, well I never!”
We can see, then, how pause — as a function and a word — has become such an integral part of lives touched by technology. Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, I couldn’t have predicted it.
What word will our children’s children use every day that we will rarely hear in our lifetime?