Phone booth, bookworm, crowbait, goose as a verb, horse-trading, horse-faced, cowpies or emotionally cowed, and other farm-based figures of speech like kicking the bucket are disappearing as anachronisms. Technology may shelve bookshelves, like radio and TV displaced the proverbial piano from respectable parlors, and reading the paper is not what people commonly do over coffee or on a park bench. Boys who try to neck or get to first base are not commonly called fresh, nor are their girlfriends expected to be modest as a rule; just sensible.

Buying the farm used to be another metaphor for death, like kicking over a (milk) bucket in hardscrabble days when being saddled with one could be a recipe for long-term misery.

Skyscraper affectionately described a momentously tall building back when the Midwest was considered America’s heartland, not fly-over country looked down at from 36,000 feet. Children digging a hole in the yard would be told if they dig deep enough they could reach China, not whiz there overnight on a credit card.

I once drove across the country in a Model A Ford manufactured some while before Pearl Harbor. So yes, my shelf life has almost expired. But I miss elm trees, box turtles, Joe DiMaggio and other commonplaces. Not Franco Spain, but greasy spoons. Not beanballs but Boston’s Splendid Splinter. We saw the sky’s menagerie of clouds and knew a ring around the moon presaged a trailing rain storm. The stars depicted a menagerie as well, and gas stations advertised a tiger in the tank. A bull in a china shop, a fox in a hen house, a wolf in sheep’s clothing described men not to be trusted, but on the other hand — looking at a child — great oaks from little acorns grew.

We were anchored by first-hand realities. Many of us had even handled anchors and knew the grip of running water. Our march on Washington in 1963 genuinely accomplished something, and service in the Army as a draftee a decade earlier had seemed for me to be a civic duty.

Ostriches didn’t actually hide their heads in the sand, but kids who procrastinated were told they did. A big fish was an important person, but if he got in trouble he clammed up. A man could be a shark or a mouse. Nature provided templates galore, from a shooting star to the fragrance of a basswood tree, Thoreau’s favorite and the sweetest in the woods. My grandmother, who saw electricity inaugurated in her town in Washington, always preferred daylight if it would serve, as I do. Electricity extends our activities, but does it improve them?

As we flood our planet, will we finish with as representative a complement of Earth’s other life as Noah did? Clip-clop, then full steam ahead with the choo-choo. Now flying machines hither and yon, unless, God forbid, somebody ran off the rails.

We still knew figures of speech like a fish out of water, cock of the roost, snake in the grass, a rat’s ass, weasely, eely, rabbity, chicken-livered, cat’s meow, birds of a feather and verbs like hawking or beavering. Camel’s humps, elephants trunks and crocodile tears enriched children’s books, plus eagle eyes and lions’ manes. But as technology upends mechanisms of delivery, must nature dwindle as an anchor in our culture too?

Footballs were called pigskins, remember, and baseballs were horsehide; not to mention the animal components in violins and pianos. Sky-blue contrasted with herringbone sky, striped with cirrus clouds, and at night the Big Dipper helped us locate the North Star; rather important to a traveler.

Homes used to have a barometer and thermometer outside to tell the weather by, and often a weather vane, even a rain gauge. Stepping out, you might lick a finger to see if the breeze was cold, from the north, or warm, from the south, or just the prevailing westerly gusts. Birds twittered, surf was surf and a mouse was a mouse.

I don’t mind new definitions if we don’t needlessly kneecap ourselves by chopping off nature. Will pollywogs survive, and do we care? In the last century, 1916 presaged an epoch of wars, as 2016 may be skidding us toward an era of climate catastrophes.

I love hippos, orangutans, goshawks and so on. But have they been displaced by fantasy characters? And will we thrive?

Lick your finger and hold it up.