Wouldn’t you like to expose your newer readers to some of you earlier posts that they might never have seen? Or remind your long term followers of posts that they might not remember?
Each Friday I will publish a post I wrote on this exact date in a previous year.
How about you? Why don’t you reach back into your own archives and highlight a post that you wrote on this very date in a previous year? You can repost your Friday Flashback post on your blog and pingback to this post. Or you can just write a comment below with a link to the post you selected.
If you’ve been blogging for less than a year, go ahead and choose a post that you previously published on this day (the 23rd) of any month within the past year and link to that post in a comment.
This was originally posted on a now defunct blog of mine on August 23, 2011.
Lost in Translation
“Home, James,” my wife said to me a few nights ago as we started our brief drive home from the restaurant.
Our son and daughter were sitting in the back seat of the car and our daughter asked my wife, “Why did you call him James?”
My wife and I looked at each other in disbelief. “Haven’t you heard that expression before?” I asked.
“Well, it’s an old expression, and apparently a very dated one,” my wife said, “where ‘James’ is a chauffeur to some very wealthy person, who, sitting in the back seat of the carriage or limo, instructs her driver, ‘James,’ to take her home. It’s sort of a cliché, a reference to having someone do your bidding.”
“I still don’t get it,” our daughter said.
“I guess there’s a certain lost-in-translation factor when it comes to generational references,” I said. “Things that may have been relevant to an older generation have no meaning or context to a younger generation.”
This whole exchange got me thinking about cross-generational missed references, and not just within a family, but even in the workplace. After all, I’m an older guy and most of the people I work with are anywhere from 10 to 30 years younger than me.
How many times have I attempted to be witty or insightful by making a reference to something that no one else “got” because only those of my generation (i.e., early Baby Boomers) would recognize?
Why the awkward silence, I wondered, when I referred to someone who I thought acted like a mercenary gun for hire as “Paladin”? Didn’t these people ever watch “Have Gun Will Travel” back in the 50s?
I’ll never forget the time when I was talking about the film comedy team of Martin and Lewis and one of the thirty-somethings in the room said, “Oh, you mean the guys who explored the Louisiana Purchase, right?” Um, no, not even close.
Or when I mentioned “Ma Bell” and someone asked me whose mother I was referring to.
How about the blank stares when I commented, as our team was preparing for a finalist presentation for a prospective client, that we needed to make sure we were well rehearsed so that we didn’t come across like the Keystone Kops? “Huh? Who? What?”
The other day someone asked me about an account I had worked on a few years ago and I said, “Hmm, that was quite a while ago. I think I’ll have to get into Mr. Peabody’s Wayback machine to refresh my memory.”
“Yeah,” I said. “You know, Sherman and Mr. Peabody from Rocky and Bullwinkle.”
“Rocky and Bullwinkle?”
“Forget it. I’ll check the client file in my archived folders and get back to you.”
What once were relevant references from my generation too often fall flat on today’s Gen Xers and Millenials: TV test patterns, movie newsreels, 45s, 8-tracks, party-lines, rotary phones, Sputnik, Dr. Strangelove, Mr. Whipple, Bucky Beaver, Hi-Ho Silver, Kimosabe, Happy Trails, jump the shark.
Once, when something weird was going on, I sang the theme to the old TV show, “The Twilight Zone.” You know, “Nee-nee, nee-nee, nee-nee, nee-nee….” Nothing. No recognition. The only weird things at that point were the looks I got from the others in the room.
Not that long ago, in the pre-mobile age, the term “landline” had no relevance and phones were never described as “smart.” Same with the word “download.” It had no applicable meaning. Neither did “emoji.”
Back then, being “online” meant queuing up in some long line, perhaps waiting to buy tickets to see the latest movie filmed in Todd-AO or CinemaScope. (Google it.)
A web browser could have been a phrase to describe someone who studied spider webs. A laptop was something a grandparent or parent might invite a child to climb up upon. Your desktop was merely the top surface of your desk. A mouse was an unwelcomed rodent…or a famous Disney character named Mickey.
Times change, technology changes, and, it seems, the language continually reinvents itself. Older references fade from consciousness and fresher, more contemporarily relevant ones emerge.
Maybe the post-Baby Boomer’s can’t relate to some of the expressions from my youth, just as I had trouble doing so to the expressions from an even earlier time (example: “23 Skidoo”; what the hell does that mean?).
But that’s okay. I’m down with that, which I think means it’s “groovy.”