What is an ope? It sounded like a question from the British Citizenship Test.
I’d not seen it spelled out like that before. It was on a marquee listing prices for haircuts.
It took me a minute but I soon figured out that an OAP is an “old age pensioner,” an honorary title for those who pass the 65 year mark and are consequently entitled to certain financial privileges in Scottish society. Like the beneficiaries of the handicapped parking spots, the OAPs in Scotland get stuff that the rest of us don’t.
I suppose they have earned it and I don’t begrudge them the privilege. After all a ₤1 savings on a haircut is not too much to ask of those of us still in our prime earning years.
There are however those who have difficulty with the words themselves and believe, with every good intention, that the words carry unwanted baggage and are in effect offensive to those who might be so described. I heard a radio discussion on the very issue.
“We need to come up with another way of referring to our elderly population.”
“Yes, I know, but the word ‘elderly’ is extremely uncouth. I would feel better if, for the purposes of our conversation, you referred to our subjects as ‘the age enhanced.’”
“Yes, or perhaps we could say, ‘the old and the bold,’ or ‘the owls’ because everyone knows that owls are the wisest of all animals in our evolved social order.
“Actually, elephants are well documented as the wisest critters around.”
“Yes, but the term ‘elephant’ suggests obesity which would lump our beloved elders into a whole other category of protected humans.”
Fortunately someone had the sense to invite an actual OAP to join the discussion. The woman had recently recovered from a terminal illness that had threatened to preclude not only her participation in the discussion, but every further opportunity to enjoy discount haircuts and free bus rides. She had apparently come close to expiring altogether, poor soul.
Her voice was gravelly, but she seemed to have sole possession of the wisdom needed for the subject matter.
“Look, we need to get away from the assumption that we can make things different just by changing the words we use. I honestly don’t care what someone calls me as long as they treat me with the same respect they would afford to anyone else.”
The do-gooders were oblivious and labored on in their efforts.
“Maybe we could use the term ‘youth challenged’”?
“Are you kidding me? That would make youth the defining paradigm of our culture and would send the message that a person’s worth is based on their youth or lack of it. No way on ‘youth challenged.’”
“OK, you got a better idea?”
“I’m thinking, ‘the Gray and the Glorious.’”
“GGs, not bad, except that not all of our age enhanced are gray. Some have retained the hair color of their youth, while others use hair coloring products. And, of course there are others who might describe themselves as ‘salt and pepper.’”
“I know! ‘Salt and Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club…’”
“STOP! Stop. Not that, definitely not that.
The OAP spoke again with growing impatience. “Look, you’re setting us up for failure here. We’re not different from the rest of you. We’ve just been around a little longer, that’s all.”
Had they been on the telly I’m sure I’d have seen them glaring at the poor old woman.
“Maybe we should call them ‘the Outspoken,’ or ‘The ones who no longer care enough to worry about what other people think, but are smart enough just to tell it like it is without pandering to the silly nonsense of those who want to feel good about themselves without really doing anything constructive for those they claim they are trying to help.’”
The OAP, “You people are weird, are we done yet?”
“Who asked you anyway, Granny?”
I guess we’re stuck with OAP for a little while longer. I can’t wait for the cheap haircuts.