Kids Don’t Know Anything

January 3, 2011

Another year is upon us, and I’m definately feeling a little older these days.

I still feel youthful, but my usage of words like “whippersnappers,” “scallywags,” and “dang teenagers” has undeniably increased lately.

I’m really feeling my age just because I’m realizing more and more how much stuff dang teenagers don’t know.  I’ve reached an age where I understand cultural references that are now outdated.  Each year, Beloit College compiles a list of new and obsolete cultural references, designed to help professors understand the mindset of an incoming freshman.

But this phenomenon was made more personal to me recently.  My sister-in-law confessed she did not recognize the lyrics or title of the song, “Leaning of the Everlasting Arms.”  I was incredulous.  I realized that it is now entirely possible to be a lifelong Christian adult with no reference to old school Christianity.  Then again, I became very excited to see “True Grit,” not realizing it was a re-adaptation of a John Wayne movie.  So now who’s a rube?

It got me thinking about all the other things that I’m on the inside loop about…which teenagers don’t even care about, and started wondering if my cultural references were starting to resemble a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

Things These Dang Teenagers Don’t Understand

What September 10th was like

Beloit college offers a one credit class on 9/11.  Each year, the students discuss where they were on that day.  This year’s students were nine years old.  Next year, they’ll be eight at the time.  They keep getting younger every year.  In a couple of years, it will be ancient, remote history to teenagers; what Veitnam or WWII is to me.

Beavis and Butt-Head

Nothing like following up the somlemnity of 9/11 with something like “Beavis and Butt-Head.”  Quality.  It is now entirely possible that an entire generation of slacker teenagers has never watched a single poorly animated episode of “Beavis and Butt-Head.”  That’s okay.  The slacker teenagers in my high school who were inspired to imitate the chuckling duo obviously didn’t get that the show was making fun of them.  Kids today probably don’t even know that there used to be a reason it was called “MTV.”

I was a pirate

Kids today do not know what it was like to go to “computers” class to learn how to use “Netscape” or a  “search engine” with a “teacher” who could barely double click a mouse.  For that matter, they don’t know the unparalled thrill of being a real live pirate that Napster provided.  Arrgh!  I be robbin’ Metallica!

How do you spot a drug dealer?

When I was a kid, adults believed that teenagers who owned pagers were dealing drugs.  Ha.  If our parents could’ve known the trouble kids would be able to get into with phones in just ten years…if we wanted to send provacative “texts” to our classmates, we handed them a calculater with “80085” typed in, and left the rest to imagination.

Family Guy

“Family Guy,” is not a children’s show.  I cannot understand parents that let their young’ins watch it.  But what burns me up isn’t kids repeating jokes about boobs.  It’s kids butchering jokes about cultural references that they couldn’t possibly understand.  Family Guy” isn’t a kids’ show because the kids don’t get half the jokes.  Heck, I’m not old enough to get half the jokes.  If I’m watching Family Guy, I’d better have Wikipedia close at hand.  Find me a thirteen-year-old who even knows who Adam West is.

Music brick

Steve Jobs unveiled the iPod ten years ago.  Wow, that thing looks like a joke now.  It’s like a brick…with a lot of extra buttons.  Kids today have far fewer buttons and keys in their lives, now that they’re encouraged to plaster their smudgy fingers all over every glowing rectangle they see.

Get off your butt and play a real game

They say that video games are mainstream now, making more money than movies.  The irony is that while every kid is blasting other long-haired fools and shouting homophobic epithets over their headsets, they’ve probably never played the classics that all modern games owe their existence to.  Mario is old enough to be their dad, and if he were, he’d turn them over his knee and wallop them until coins came out their butts.

Indiana Jones

Teenagers today are not old enough to know that aliens have no place in Indiana Jones, and for that, I just feel sorry for them.  They probably also don’t understand why Cate Blanchett was pretending to be Russian.

This all makes me wonder what life was like when the height of pop culture was Beethoven’s Fifth.  I’ve decided to raise my children as if it is 1985, just so they will have all the cultural references I do.  We’ll begin with “Back to the Future,” and VHS tapes of Sesame Street before Elmo ruled with an iron fist.

What obsolete cultural references do you hold dear that kids today just don’t get?  Hey, let’s play a little game.  Name some obsolete cultural reference from your youth, and see if anyone else knows them!  I’ll start…“Marshall, Will and Holly on a routine expedition…”

50 responses to Kids Don’t Know Anything

  1. Let’s see… cultural references from my obsolete youth???

    “Truth, Justice, And The American Way Of Life”

    “Who was that masked man”?

    Walley and Beaver


    Not a cough in a carload

    Trustworthy, Loyal… Brave, Clean and Reverent

    Like a brick outhouse


    In Like Flynn


    Just As I Am

    Sawdust Trail

    Be Still And Know

    Please, Thank You, Excuse Me…

    This is making me feel old… Maybe because I am.

  2. i just hope my daughter gets to one day enjoy slap bracelets. and somebody really ought to bring back “garbage pail kids” and “you can’t do that on television.”

    and what i would miss most of all if i were a kid these days is playing outside. classics like cupball and wall-ball are a lost art form.
    JamesBrett recently posted..doubt was going to be the new black

  3. Let me see…

    I feel I’ve done a fine job with my little sister (though she turned 20 the other day) in that I introduced her to important movies such as E.T. Ferris Bueller & Breakfast Club…and Clueless.

    Elastics (the joy of creating an outdoor game with stolen office supplies in form of many elastic bands nicked from your parent’s workplace!!).

    Creating a game with absolutely no props.

    The beauty of breathing on a t-shirt and it changing colour (Hypercolour!!!)

    Dawson’s Creek.

    Doing things like the YMCA, Saturday Night, Macarena and the Time Warp.


    Kids who don’t know what it is like to just walk into a school with unlocked doors before Dunblane Massacre.

    Bands and artists who got into the charts without appearing on some musical competition show run by Simon Cowell.

    Life before hair straighteners…
    Laura Anne recently posted..Here’s to 2011

    • At first I thought I must’ve been living in some kind of bizzar-o world (look that up if you don’t get the reference) and missed half your references, but you’re in the UK. We’re still living in the Stone Age with clothes that do not change color, no matter how much one breathes upon them (as far as I remember). But your movie list is pretty much a must watch list. My wife would add “16 Candles,” but I find that debatable. Why anyone liked Molly Ringwald so much, I’ll never know.

  4. Oh man – too many. There have been so many fads in the real and virtual worlds.

    – Beatle Haircuts
    – “Groovy”
    – Rosie the VJ (not the nut case)
    – $1.00 a gallon gas and odd-even rationing.
    – The Bamboo Curtain
    – The Iron Curtain
    – The Berlin Wall
    – The Constant Threat of Nuclear War
    – Cassette Tapes
    – 8-Track Tapes
    – Johnny Quest
    – “Twinkies, it’s like WASP soul food.” Mike from All in the Family

    And then the stuff from my kids youth.
    – Pogs
    – Beanie Babies
    – Bag Phones
    – AIM

    And some things are better left forgotten, like Disco.

    I am old – but I remember quite a few neighbors going off to Vietnam.
    David recently posted..5 1-2 Things Christians Cant Seem to Live Without

  5. One obsolete reference that I heard as a tall guy whenever I stood next to a short guy:

    “You look like Mutt and Jeff.”

    And one phrase that the dang teenagers don’t “get.”

    “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”
    seekingpastor recently posted..A Hard Truth for the New Year

  6. Music videos on MTV

  7. Well, I remember exactly what class I was in when the Challenger blew up. This was before TV’s were common in school, so we all huddled around the radio for the rest of the day.

    I remember clothes more than sayings (we didn’t own a TV.) Vans (everyone had checked – the REALLY cool kids had jungle-print), Izods, stirrup pants, legwarmers, banana clips. My stars.

    Oh, remember roach clips? The girls who were trying to be wild would put them in their hair.
    Cathy recently posted..My Year in Books – 2010

  8. Ooooh… you’re bringing back memories!

    I used to wear a roach clip (gasp?). My oldest was born seven months before 9/11.

    How about…

    Leg warmers

    My brain’s fried, but I KNOW I’ve got more up there!
    Joanne Sher recently posted..Hope Youre Not Sick of Goals Yet

  9. Two words, “Parachute Pants”

  10. The dingo ate your baby. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I was in the pool! My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die. You keep saying that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. Sometimes you just have to say, What the ___, and make your move. There’s no crying in baseball. Talk to the hand (good riddance on that one).

    Things my kids have never seen: A tv w/o a remote. A record. An 8-track tape. Metal roller skates. Sesame Street without Elmo. Mister Rogers. Captain Kangaroo. Zoom. The Electric Company. HR Puffinstuff. Fraggle Rock. Hong Kong Phooey. The Hair Bear Bunch.

    Children’s programming that may contribute to the end of this world as we know it or at least cause brain damage: Teletubbies. The Doodle Bops. Caillou. The Wiggles. Dora the Explorer. The Wonder Pets. The Suite Life with Zack and Cody. Hannah Montana.
    katdish recently posted..Resolution Guy by Billy Coffey

  11. And as far as the younger generation entering into the adult world, I think I’m old enough to give some unsolicited and probably unwanted words of wisdom:

    You don’t even know what you don’t know yet.
    katdish recently posted..Resolution Guy by Billy Coffey

  12. Man, I love your groovy post. You really socked it to me with those far out references. A lot of what was hip when I was growing up is so square, it’s in again–mood rings, lava lamps, fishnet stockings.

    I used to hang out with the surfer dudes back then, bumming rides in their bugs or woodies and listening to Pipeline on my transistor radio.

    More old references? How about:
    Love beads
    Go-go boots and poor boys (and I don’t mean food)
    Granny gowns
    “Does she or doesn’t she? Only her hairdresser knows for sure.”
    “Plop plop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is.”
    “If you think it’s butter but it’s not” (although of course we altered it to “it’s snot”)
    “Put a tiger in your tank”
    How about the “one way” finger pointing when you passed another car with a fish sticker on it? They had to be Jesus Freaks!
    Do you know who Mr. Moose and Mr. Green Jeans were? Or Miss Nancy?
    And do they still use two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickle, onions, on a sesame seed bun?

  13. Wow…this thread was a trip down memory lane.

    And now I have the intense desire to introduce my kids to Hong Kong Phooey. I’ve already indoctrinated them into Animaniacs.
    Jason recently posted..Review- Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick

  14. How about “The Bugaloos”, “Sigmund the Sea Monster”, or “HR Puffinstuff”? I watched the Mickey Mouse Club before Brittany or Christina. I remember William “The Refrigerator” Perry scoring touchdowns.

    I grew up on a poor farm south of Dallas, so I was a bit sheltered from some of the fads, and when I did try to fit in, I did so poorly. I tight-rolled my jeans. I had parachute pants (thanks for that reference, Pete). I listened to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” cassette until it broke. I even argued with my Mother about who was better, “The King” or “The King of Pop.” (I’m so embarrassed). I also enjoyed Eddie Rabbit’s “I Love a Rainy Night” and Kenny and Dolly’s “Islands in the Stream” when they were new. My afternoon TV fare was the Brady Bunch and Little House on the Prairie. I remember actually using a “TV Guide” magazine. My younger sister enjoyed “Friendship Bracelets”, My Little Pony, Strawberry Shortcake, and (of course) the ridiculously over-priced Cabbage Patch Kids Dolls.

    I could go on and on…I don’t think I’m THAT old, but now I feel like it…Thanks, Matt :-}
    Paul recently posted..Life is Like a Surfing Lesson

  15. I don’t think it’s really possible to come up with a post that my brain loves more than this one. I am a crazy pop culture referencing teacher. I constantly wonder how many students are missing out on my clever inside jokes, inside for those who remember the 1980s and, sadly now, the 90s. Luckily I teach college so there’s always some who catch my stuff.

    The 9/11 thing is true. I basically have to explain it already to freshman in college. Beavis & Butthead, pages, & Indy Jones (who my life was supposed to imitate) are all spot on. The fact that you are going to raise your kids according to the 80s makes you a fav of mine! I’m subscribing bro.

  16. I know it’s not exactly what you are going for, but my kids (5 and 3) do not comprehend live TV. If a commercial starts, my five year old finds the remote and starts pushing forward. “Honey, it’s on right now, you can’t do that.” They also don’t understand that food takes time to cook. The three minutes to “cook” oatmeal is like an eternity to their instant gratification ways.

  17. Ok. When I was in about 5th grade, pogs were “all that” and we listened to Ace of Base. I saw the sign, and it opened up my eyes I saw the sign. Yeah!
    Some other fun references that the youngins probably don’t know:
    Kowabunga Dude!
    Where’s the Beef?
    And of course… the Macarena.

  18. blathering blatherskite!
    mo recently posted..New year Same mission

  19. Wonderful idea, Matt! I love reading all the comments. Katdish took some of my favorites, but here is my contribution:

    Where’s the Beef?
    Muskrat Love
    Peanut Farmer
    It’s K-K-Ken c-c-coming to k-k-kill me!
    Forever in blue jeans
    Summer lovin’
    Tramps like us, baby we were born to run.
    Tramps like us, baby we were born to run.
    Like, OK! Like, wow!
    Its still rock-n-roll to me
    Schlameel! Schlamazel! Hozenfezer Incorporated! (possible misspeling throughout)
    Isn’t THAT special?

    I was old enough to remember where I was when I found out that Ronald Reagen was shot.

    My kids have never had to deal with being “tethered” to a phone, nor have they ever had to get up to change a TV channel. For that matter, most of the stuff, we record, so even the concepts of having to watch commercials is novel enough that they REALLY want to see commercials. They have seen a turntable in operation and seen their mom and dad get goofy listening to old music on records. I even showed them how to “skip” to the next song by carefully lifting the needle and moving it! I have carefully preserved my first “real” turntable which I received as a Christmas present the year I turned 12 or 13, as well as most of the records I bought. The only albums I gave away were my Bee Gees because, quite honestly, their songs gave me headaches.

  20. when you typed september 10th, did you mean 11th?

    I remember when i first met a teenager a few years ago who had never even watched a saved by the bell rerun! not even on tbs or anything!!
    jay sauser recently posted..…a new day…

  21. I made a “happy trees” reference not too long ago and a high school age girl didn’t get it.

    :( it was the first time I realized I may actually be old someday.

  22. I never thought of 80085. The most corrupt my friends and I got was 7734 upside down.

    Just yesterday I heard “I Love Rock n Roll” by Joan Jett and remebered how great those first few riffs sounded seconds after dropping the needle onto the vinyl. Same goes for “Back In The Black”. Something about the first song on an album I loved.

    I had four TV channels to choose from growing up. Anyone remember Buffy and Jody, Sissy, Mr. French and Uncle Bill?
    Remember when there was only one HBO channel? Did anyone else ever try to watch a “dirty” movie on a scrambled channel that really wasn’t all that scrambled?

    One word…..Wham!

    and speaking of Wham! how about Choose Life T-shirts?

  23. The Soup Nazi

    Jelly shoes


    Doug & Bob Mackenzie (perhaps only a Canadian reference?)

  24. I like to end many a lesson with, “And now you know, and knowing is half the battle.” A couple of kids get it, but only sort of. When they say, “Isn’t that from the G.I. Joe movie?,” I go home and cry. I like the movie, but it’s from the cartoon. Come on!
    Jeff recently posted..being offended

  25. Oh my google… I REMEMBER 80085!!!

    Today, at the pharmacy, the girl behind the counter remembered my name. I found it funny, since I’m too young to be remembered at a pharmacy, and remembered the song from Cheers. I realized she was too young to remember Cheers, but she said “That’s okay, my aunt used to baby sit me and make me watch reruns, and she was really old like sixty or something…”. I’m 41. Thanks kid….

    My students probably won’t remember where they were because I refused to put on the television in our classroom and let them watch. I taught in a Catholic school, so we prayed for the victims several times that day, but they did not see the television coverage until they got home. Neither did I…. Maybe they will remember, because I still do, that’s for sure…
    Helen recently posted..Reflecting on This Years Resolutions

  26. A telegram from Western Union.
    sidewalk skates
    kick the can
    The Shadow knows…
    Plastic Man
    Little Audrey
    red rover
    camp meeting –all ten days, preaching at 10, 2, and 7:30.
    continental kits
    and Edelbrock heads
    10 cent double dip ice cream cones: butter pecan ove black cherry
    bottled coke for a nickel, but pepsi, same price, nearly twice as much. And better. But RC was the best.
    or Nehi cream soda
    I could go on and on. But that is the advantage of LOTS of years behind me.
    vanilla recently posted..Where in the

  27. The Muppets!
    “Where’s the Beef?”
    A busy signal.
    An actual record (“just think how big their iPod must’a been”)
    A stereo.
    A home cooked meal, no boxes or cans used. From scratch.
    Fall canning.

  28. ha.. i actually graduated from beloit college (and took classes from tom mcbride and art robinson that make the list). in fact, i was there on 9-11..

    and i also went to the high school in beavis and butt head. yeah, really. not just one that resembles it, but the one used as a model. i had some of the teachers.

    how is that for cultural references? now i live in europe, and none of my cultural references translate that well..

  29. How about recent history like America online charging by the hour? Giant cell phones? Dialup? Snail like internet speeds. 386 Windows 3.1 computers that cost over $1000. Corded house phones? No seat belt or smoking laws? I am old, 46, but my youngest child is 5. I hope to educate him on the old ways. My other kids are up to age 19 and I do tell them stories about life before they were old enough to remember. They don’t really seem to care much, sadly. But thanks for the chuckles and memories.

  30. Matt, this was a phenomenal post and the comments were equally as funny!

    Aside from your closing reference to “Land of the Lost” I don’t think I saw any mention of Saturday morning programming including:
    -Captain Kool and the Kongs
    -Captain Caveman
    -Blue Falcon and Dynomutt
    -Elctra Woman and Dyna Girl
    -Sidney and the Sea Monsters
    -Speed Buggy
    -The Batman and Tarzan Hour of Power
    Tor Constantino recently posted..Cute Caption Contest Winner!!!

    • Wow, awesome post.

      Remember when “specials” on network TV were a big deal? I remember watching the cartoon version of “The Hobbit” and “Watership Down”. “Jim Henson’s ‘The Storyteller'” was awesome, too, and probably wouldn’t even get on network TV nowadays (it’d probably get lost on cable somewhere.)

  31. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. 386 Windows 3.1 computers that cost over $1000. And of course… the Macarena. I had four TV channels to choose from growing up.

  32. Well, I don’t have kids yet (which is good, I’m not married yet), but I watch a lot of older TV shows and it’s amazing how few people know who Gilligan and Skipper are(Gilligan’s Island). It’s become a joke between me and my sister that whenever we are checking to make sure the other isn’t listening we say “Adolph Hitler wears clip on bow ties” (Hogan’s Heroes) because no one else gets what we’re saying but it makes us laugh every time.

  33. Tyler the wise May 1, 2013 at 11:08 pm

    I would like to point out that we are all being just a bit hypocritical here. Does not each generation scoff at the fads of the next? And do the younger generations not berate their elders for intolerance of their own pop culture? We all need to get down off our high horses and lose the superiority complex.