Legacy: Formerly Regal Word Turned Euphemism for Aged Leftovers

How "legacy" became our era's most over-the-top euphemism for a something between a bingo room and the grave (and landmines).

How "legacy" became our era's most over-the-top euphemism for something between a bingo room and the grave (and landmines).

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the legacy of the word “legacy” has taken a B.S.-soaked turn.

The Tron sequel isn’t Tron 2, but Tron: Legacy. The latest version of The Pretenders has been described as “a so-called legacy act—one that relies almost entirely on decades-old hits.” “Legacy airlines” are really, really old airlines, while our dying newspapers can take comfort in having “legacy newsrooms,” and fossil-fuel-caused damage to the environment is sometimes known as “legacy effects.” Quietly, “legacy” has become one of our most pretentious, preposterous, and euphemistic words.

“Legacy” smells most fishy when used as an adjective, though some examples are fairly tame, like the “Legacy Mode” of a boxing video game, or a reference in the Chicago Tribune to “legacy wine.” In the omnipresent, annoying world of branding, there are issues such as “Maximizing the Potential of Multi-Drug Portfolios Without Cannibalizing from a Legacy Brand.” In these cases, “legacy” is mainly a way of not saying “long in the tooth,” an avoidance made explicit in a comment by Dennis Howlett that refers to “the old, legacy way of the world.”

If these were the only uses, I would hardly have thought “legacy” worth a column. But the B.S. gets piled deeper and weirder. Look at this reference to the omnipresent Conan O’Brien by Scott Collins in the Los Angeles Times: “...O'Brien's switch from legacy broadcaster to basic-cable outpost represents a hugely symbolic moment in the evolution of late-night TV, as the audience tilts away from aging franchises such as ‘Tonight’ to younger competitors.” My decoder ring exploded trying to figure out that one, but another use of “legacy broadcaster” (about ABC) supports my theory that “legacy” almost always conveys a status somewhere between the bingo hall and the grave: “If we are to survive as anything more than a shell—a legacy broadcaster, an empire in decline—this is what we must do.”

Still, “legacy broadcaster” seems positively transparent and straightforward next to a term used by Eric Johnson in Metro Spirit: “They call it legacy waste. It’s the radioactive leftovers from the Cold War and, ever since the Cold War ended, the Savannah River Site has been making sure those leftovers will never be warmed up and used for weapons again.” Then there’s this example I spied in a 2009 article by Eric Patterson: “Sadly, legacy landmines—some of which have been in the ground for decades—do not discriminate between warriors and innocents, making them an additional passive, yet deadly, disruptor of prosperity.” Legacy waste? Legacy landmines? If the expression “lipstick on a pig” didn’t exist, you’d have to invent it to describe these ridiculous terms.

So how did “legacy” get besmirched? The spread of “legacy assets”—a transparent rebranding of toxic assets—was influential a couple years ago, but the history goes deeper. The primary parent of this horsecrap seems to be a computer-related sense, which the OED traces to 1989 and defines as “Designating software or hardware which, although outdated or limiting, is an integral part of a computer system and difficult to replace.” This meaning can be found in recent examples of legacy applications, platforms, interfaces, devices, networks, servers and the absurdly named “legacy customer relationship management tools.” One OED example (from 1993) suggests how extended and distended this word would become: “Too many IT people ossify with the IT they are comfortable with—they become legacy people, and that's dangerous.”

Other legacy silliness may be related to the sense of a “legacy” as someone who applies to a college or frat that a family member attended, thereby greasing the wheels of admission. This meaning goes all the way back to 1930, and a 1974 quote shows how these lucky few are regarded: “Legacies, the sons of members who've done a lot for the Club who get in ... are disappointments.” You can see how this meaning may have led to “legacy” being applied to all sorts of undesirable stuff that history dumped in our collective lap.

It’s a bummer to see the watering down of a word should feel weighty. Recent articles about the legacy of John Lennon and Elizabeth Edwards are a reminder that “legacy” can still pack a punch and have solid, substantial meaning. When I hear “legacy,” I don’t want to think about toxic waste, landmines, or piece-of-crap computer equipment. You can’t stop word evolution, but in this case, I wish I could.

Then again, as I get older, maybe this all-purpose word could serve my own crass needs. By the time I’m old enough for senior moments in the nursing home, I bet rebranding will allow me to say I’m having legacy lapses in a luxurious legacy land. And I’m sure I’ll never need an adult diaper—not when I’m swaddled in the tight embrace of my legacy loincloth.

via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

If you are totally ready to move on from Donald Trump, you're not alone. According to a report last April from the Wason Center National Survey of 2020 Voters, "President Trump will be the least popular president to run for reelection in the history of polling."

Yes, you read that right, "history of polling."

Keep Reading Show less
via Around the NFL / Twitter

After three years on the sidelines, Colin Kapernick will be working out for multiple NFL teams on Saturday, November 16 at the Atlanta Falcons facility.

The former 49er quarterback who inflamed the culture wars by peacefully protesting against social injustice during the national anthem made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday.

Kaepernick is scheduled for a 15-minute on-field workout and an interview that will be recorded and sent to all 32 teams. The Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, and Detroit Lions are expected to have representatives in attendance.

RELATED: Joe Namath Says Colin Kaepernick And Eric Reid Should Be Playing In The NFL

"We like our quarterback situation right now," Miami head coach, Brian Flores said. "We're going to do our due diligence."

NFL Insider Steve Wyche believes that the workout is the NFL's response to multiple teams inquiring about the 32-year-old quarterback. A league-wide workout would help to mitigate any potential political backlash that any one team may face for making an overture to the controversial figure.

Kapernick is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) so any team could have reached out to him. But it's believed that the interested teams are considering him for next season.

RELATED: Video of an Oakland train employee saving a man's life is so insane, it looks like CGI

Earlier this year, Kaepernick and Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid reached a financial settlement with the league in a joint collusion complaint. The players alleged that the league conspired to keep them out after they began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

Before the 2019 season, Kaepernick posted a video of himself working out on twitter to show he was in great physical condition and ready to play.

Kaepnick took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012 and the NFC Championship game in 2013.

He has the 23rd-highest career passer rating in NFL history, the second-best interception rate, and the ninth-most rushing yards per game of any quarterback ever. In 2016, his career to a sharp dive and he won only of 11 games as a starter.


In the category of "claims to fame nobody wants," the United States can now add "exporter of white supremacist ideology" to its repertoire. Super.

Russell Travers, acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center, made this claim in a briefing at The Washington Institute in Washington, D.C. "For almost two decades, the United States has pointed abroad at countries who are exporters of extreme Islamist ideology," Travers said. "We are now being seen as the exporter of white supremacist ideology. That's a reality with which we are going to have to deal."

Keep Reading Show less

Between Alexa, Siri, and Google, artificial intelligence is quickly changing us and the way we live. We no longer have to get up to turn on the lights or set the thermostat, we can find the fastest route to work with a click, and, most importantly, tag our friends in pictures. But interacting with the world isn't the only thing AI is making easier – now we can use it save the world, too.

Keep Reading Show less
Good News