I just stubbed my toe on a linguistic thread on reddit (as one does): what sentence can you come up with that would be completely incomprehensible (without a detailed explanation) ten years ago?
Some examples, culled from reddit, to get you started:
hang2er: "I can't get a 4G signal here, I'll skype you on my droid as soon as I hit a hotspot, I need a coffee anyway."
Retinence: "The headline, 'Galaxy Nexus: Android Ice Cream Sandwich guinea pig.'"
(But tech is easy ...)
YesRocketScience: "She started out pure Kate Middleton but then she went all Amanda Bynes on me."
Anon: "Check your cis privilege!"
(That would probably be comprehensible, but only to a much narrower audience -- certainly not mainstream in places like reddit)
My reason for being interested in this phenomenon should be obvious: flip it upside-down and you've got incomprehensible phrases to decode from ten years into the future. Or leave it where it was and stretch the horizon out and you've got incomprehensible phrases from twenty or thirty years ago. ("Hello, I'm on the train!" -- how much sense would that make in 1983? Much less "FAA proposes to relax ban on tablets, laptops, and smartphones during takeoff and landing"?)
Most of the ten-year sentences focus on the ephemera of technology and, to a lesser extent of pop culture (Beeeeeeber!). (Yes, pop culture is more durable today than tech.) Politics probably cuts in as an agent of temporal disorientation somewhere in the 10-20 year range: feed someone in 1993 a line like "Department of Homeland Security proposes relaxing ban on toenail clippers" and they'd surely have grounds to worry about their future. Cultural drift is ... well, the state of play of gay marriage today, wrt. the gay rights situation 20 years ago, is close to unrecognizable. The major political and social shift over the recognition and suppression of rape culture seems to be going the same way (and a good thing too). But SF authors have been using finely-crafted soundbites from the future to alienate their readers from their assumptions for a long time: "the Pope realized it was going to be one of those days when she realized she'd forgotten to take her Pill the night before."
But, anyway: can you come up with some examples of sentences that would be incomprehensible (without explanation) to a denizen of 2003 that don't revolve around ephemeral tech or pop culture churn? And can you provide and deconstruct some sentences from 2023 that, if we had sufficient foresight, we ought to be able to understand and interpolate a context for?
TECHNICAL NOTE: Following Monday's system crash, the comments some of you posted on Monday can't be restored. Turns out that my save of them wasn't as HTML, which might be salvageable, but as some Cthulhu-esque horror of half-assed UTF-8 with hard line breaks and random bits of MarkDown. It was a royal pain in the arse just extracting the text of the blog entry itself: I'm not up to doing the same to 84 comments. Sorry, folks, but this thread is therefore rebooted from scratch.