My chiropractor called me an old coot recently. At the time, I was lying on his table on my stomach while he used a snappy tool to somewhat painfully but successfully loosen my upper back, so I didn't say anything. Out loud.
To myself, I said something along the lines of, "Who the hell is he talking about?" Only it was a bit more vulgar.
For the record, I am not an old coot. Nor am I an old codger. At 79, yes, I guess I am chronologically old. And I have in the past been called a curmudgeon. You can't be a young curmudgeon.
You can, however, be a young whippersnapper, Doc.
Some definitions are in order before I talk about ageism.
An old coot, according to Oxford Languages, is "a foolish or eccentric person, typically an old man".
The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English goes further: "An old man who you think is strange or unpleasant."
Not exactly complimentary.
The term "old codger", which some think is the same as old coot, is not. According to the Free Dictionary, "old codger" is "used affectionately to refer to an eccentric but amusing old man. codger. graybeard, greybeard, old man, Methuselah - a man who is very old."
It sounds a bit less insulting. But it's not.
Curmudgeon, according to Merriam-Webster, is "a crusty, ill-tempered, and usually old man". Dictionary.com defines it this way: "A bad-tempered, difficult, cantankerous person." No age is mentioned. However, other dictionaries pretty much define it as a stubborn, cranky old man. Your pain-in-the-butt, "Get off my lawn!" neighbor.
I plead not guilty to all three.
Back to the chiropractor. The label was applied to me with a slight chuckle in his voice, suggestive of the foolish or eccentric-person category. The conversation that prompted it revolved around me not doing something or other, which others felt would be in my best interests. The term is presumably meant to be affectionate, but it's dismissive. It suggests that the older person in question is incapable of making rational decisions for himself and for his own benefit, or that he simply cannot occasionally make an unwise decision on his own. That sometimes he's just a dumb ass. No, the term suggests that he does what he does because he's a foolish or eccentric old man. An old coot.
This assumption was further borne out when the chiropractor asked my partner to make sure I filled out my Medicare form before the next visit even though I was seated a mere 8 feet away from him and within hearing distance. Again, dismissive. By the way, I have excellent hearing.
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