Time and the river

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The latest xkcd is a brilliant way to introduce the topic of child language acquisition and cognitive development:



The trouble is, the first-year college students in this year's intro linguistics courses were only 9 on 9/11. And in about five more academic years, the entering students will be too young to remember 9/11 as a personal experience at all.



64 Comments

  1. Sili said,

    October 9, 2009 @ 7:36 pm

    I read an article on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the fall of the Wall. The journalist had casually mentioned that it was that time to an eighteen-year-old acquaintance of his. The response: "What wall?"

    On the other hand, I'm surprised that Pokemon is only ten years old. It feels so much longer.

  2. Martin said,

    October 9, 2009 @ 7:36 pm

    I'm guessing the xkcd strip was inspired by a recent Reddit thread. Some quotes from it:

    I was talking to a Elementary school class about Veterans Day when the subject of 9/11 came up in response to a question. Most of the class had no idea what 9/11 was and I had to explain it. Chilling experience.

    I chaperoned my kid's class trip last year. On the list of unacceptable devices to bring there was a "walkman". Not one kid in the class knew what a walkman was.

    While reading to kids at an elementary school the book talked about a VCR. A kid from the back of the class exclaimed "whats a VCR?"… nobody else knew either.

    There was someone at my work was born in 1990 and she asked me who Sylvester Stallone was.

    My kids got so mad when we went to my father-in-law's house and he didn't have a DVR. They were like, "Why do they keep stopping the show and showing these stupid commercials?" Then they had to use the bathroom. "Just pause it." "We can't pause it." "WHAT?!"

    Maybe two years ago I was taking pictures of my friend's kids with a film camera. After I snapped the shot they all wanted to see the picture like you would with a digital camera. I explained, but they didn't really understand why a camera couldn't show the little picture on the back.

    I had some old 80s movie on in the background while playing with my daughter. My back was to the tv, and she looked up at the tv and starting laughing hysterically. I asked her what was so funny and she said "Daddy that man is talking on a string hahaha so silly". I turned around and noticed him on a corded phone. Then I realized she has never seen a phone with a cord. Then I felt really old and turned off the movie.

    When I tried to explain what a drive-in and a collect call were to my nephew he told me I was making stuff up.

    One of the assigments in my classroom is to have the kids send letters to people. They are in their teens and have no idea how to address an envelope.

    My son watches a lot of videos on any of the many computers in the house. Mostly youtube, but also a local on-demand kids TV kind of service and the occasional animated movie I leech of the torrents. He's only 2 y.o. but he knows exactly what he wants to watch. He'd come to me and ask for "helicopters" or "airplanes" or "whatever kids show here". So one day we were incidentally watching TV and there were some helicopters on, briefly. He quickly turned to me and demanded "more helicopters!", and started to get upset when I could not just produce more helicopters on the TV screen. I realized that the whole concept of watching anything but on-demand video was entirely foreign to him. He will probably never understand what it's like to wait for your favorite show to come on, or even to have to make sure you TiVo it.

  3. Bob Moore said,

    October 9, 2009 @ 8:43 pm

    Hey, Mark, didn't you get over this kind of observation by the time you started teaching at Penn, and your students were already more than ten years too young to remember the (first) Kennedy assasination? Oh, BTW, you kids get off my lawn!

    [(myl) The clever thing about this version of the meme, though, is that it's not about "kids today" and what they don't remember or didn't experience. Hell, I remember when most people — including my family — didn't have a TV, and I listened to adventure serials on the radio. Our phone was a party line. I walked a mile to and from school every day, uphill both ways. We got (unhomogenized) milk delivered by a milkman, in glass bottles.

    What I like about this strip is precisely that it's not about all that kind of stuff. It's about the miracle of language learning and cognitive development. Anyhow, that's how I took it.],

  4. KCinDC said,

    October 9, 2009 @ 9:52 pm

    Pokemon in the United States is only 10 years old. I first heard of Pokemon when the stories about children getting seizures from watching the show were going around, and that was in 1997. Admittedly, it only existed for about 3 years before it hit the US.

  5. Charles Gaulke said,

    October 9, 2009 @ 11:25 pm

    There has to be some kind of structure that links the recency illusion to the, "Oh, dammit, I just got old, didn't I?" moment we all seem to experience. Probably with some neurobabble to make it sound good. Perhaps it could even explain why I keep having those moments while talking to people older than me.

    The thing about many of these examples of things kids today don't know about, of course, is that they're hardly actually bygone. The word 'Walkman' may not have much currency anymore, at least as a generic term, but most of the phones I see in people's homes and businesses still have cords. Is there, perhaps, some element of us old folks (I'm doddering along toward twenty-seven, and I don't understand today's music at all) looking for this stuff? I don't know if I should call it confirmation bias when most of us don't actually want to think we're getting old. On the other hand, many of us do seem to want to talk about how we FEEL old because a child looked up from texting to ask us what a vowel was, even if that has never actually happened.

  6. Charles Gaulke said,

    October 9, 2009 @ 11:30 pm

    And in an effort to be more on topic with the original post, it's a shame the hover-text for this comic isn't reproduced here; really drives the point home, though I think the ages are actually a little high.

  7. Charles Gaulke said,

    October 9, 2009 @ 11:31 pm

    Except it is reproduced here, my mouse is just acting weird. Sorry.

  8. Craig Russell said,

    October 10, 2009 @ 12:47 am

    What gets me is thinking of relative time relationships. For example: the other day I was watching The Godfather, which was released in 1970 but is set right after WWII. I was thinking about this relative time thing, and I realized that, when they were shooting The Godfather, the time they were recreating was closer to their own time than the Godfather is to our time.

    I think what'll really be too much to handle is in six years when I watch Back to the Future and realize that the time Marty travels back to is only as old to him as Back to the Future will be for me. Weird!

  9. codeman38 said,

    October 10, 2009 @ 1:00 am

    Personally, I felt old when I realized that this year's college freshmen are the same age as the Super Nintendo.

  10. army1987 said,

    October 10, 2009 @ 8:42 am

    Thanks Martin. Another dozen reasons for feeling old! (Of course, whenever I say that I feel old and there are older people around me they get offended.)
    ("to and from … uphill both ways"? how's that possible?)

    [(myl) In jokes, everything is possible. This particular joke is usually rendered as "uphill, both ways — in the snow". But I left out the snow.

    The point of the joke, which is an example of a genre whose apotheosis is the Monty Python "Four Yorkshiremen" skit, is that old people's memories of childhood hardships are generally a bit selective, not to say exaggerated.

    In this case, though, I really did walk a mile to and from school every day, and it's also true (though not relevant to the joke) that part of the trip in each direction was uphill. In fact, though, the walk was generally the high point of my day, since I usually took a shortcut across a cow pasture, along a brook full of opportunities for dam-building and turtle-catching, and up a wooded ridge with some great ambush sites and some even greater climbing-trees.]

  11. Ellen said,

    October 10, 2009 @ 9:04 am

    Charles Gaulke, yeah, the ages are too high, as most 8 year olds are more than 8 years and a month old, thus born before 9/11. I bet there's discussion about that in the xkcd forum.

  12. mollymooly said,

    October 10, 2009 @ 10:07 am

    1959: the day the music died (Buddy Holly)
    1971: American Pie (Don McLean)
    1973: Killing me Softly with his song (Roberta Flack)
    1996: Killing me Softly with his song (Fugees)
    1999: American Pie (movie)
    2000: American Pie (Madonna)

    American Pie has 12 years of nostalgia: less than our remembrance of the Fugees cover and not much more than our remembrance of the Madonna cover.

  13. Spell Me Jeff said,

    October 10, 2009 @ 10:36 am

    Geez, Mark you really are old. :-)

    At 46, I also remember the days of milk delivered in bottles. Families who got it that way had steel-clad boxes on their porches, with the companies logo printed on the front. I suspect part of this was regional behavior, as my community was a touch remote and surrounded by rurals. (I refer to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, which Mark has probably visited.)

    And now a hint of pertinence.

    The milk companies also ran small stores where they sold fresh milk products and other sundries. Because of this origin, we called these stores Dairy Markets. They are now called Convenience Stores, but they served much the same purpose. Indeed, as 7-11's and other chains first came to the region (ca. 1975), they bought out the Dairy Markets and took up shop in the original buildings. These are all long since demolished and replaced by the familiar, soulless structures of brick and glass.

    Some people my vintage and older still call them dairy markets and even use the old company names on voyages thither. I haven't lived there for decades, but when I visit, I know exactly what people mean when they say they are headed to Banks's. (The Banks chainlet so epitomized the concept that during my youth, any dairy market could be called a Banks's.)

    It intrigues me that a memeplex like Convenience Store can exist with multiple names, or that one name for a meme can displace an earlier name. I suppose that's no different from Aspirin or "the camel nose" or saying "Let's go to McDonald's or something" or even, perhaps, The Artist Formerly known as Prince.

  14. Mr Punch said,

    October 10, 2009 @ 11:34 am

    Jeff — Where I come from (Massachusetts) the proto-convenience stores were not run by dairies, exactly, but did emphasize milk — which somehow allowed them to be open on Sundays, unlike all other stores. That's another thing younger people don't remember.

  15. Jerry Friedman said,

    October 10, 2009 @ 1:04 pm

    As long as we're doing dates:

    1967: "The Four Yorkshiremen" on At Last the 1948 Show

    1974: Ditto performed by Mony Python live (no recording available)

    1982: Ditto, available on Live at the Hollywood Bowl

    The original performers on At Last the 1948 Show were Tim Brooke-Taylor, John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Marty Feldman. All this from Wikipedia.

  16. Peter Taylor said,

    October 10, 2009 @ 2:40 pm

    I'm not yet 30 and I remember the days of milk delivered in bottles. My grandparents still have a container for 4 pint bottles by the front door, although I'm not sure whether it is still in use. I suspect not.

  17. Dan T. said,

    October 10, 2009 @ 3:19 pm

    In six years you can watch Back to the Future II and ask where the flying cars and hoverboards are.

  18. dr pepper said,

    October 10, 2009 @ 4:31 pm

    My grandmother saw coomunications move from wired telegraphy to cable tv and the earliest cell phones, albeit she only got the former. But she had 100 years to experience those developments.

    The changes in my lifetime have been a lot more extreme.

    I never even had a walkman. Or an 8 track, a betamax, or a C64, they were here and gone before i was finished with what came before. Heck, i didn't get all that much use out of my last dvr before i decided to drop cable and either download tv or watch it online. There are children who don't know about that choice, they've only ever watched tv on a computer screnn.

    So here's a formula:

    The length of a generation gap is inversely proportional to the velocity of future shock.

    That velocity has now exceeded mach 2.

  19. Nicholas Waller said,

    October 10, 2009 @ 4:47 pm

    I am 51 and I well remember the days of milk delivered in glass bottles by a milkman. It last happened this morning, probably about 8am (no longer daily, though – Saturdays, Tuesdays and Thursdays).

    At 11, Apollo 11 was a big deal for me; I am offended that all 39-yos and some 40-yos were born after it.

  20. Amber said,

    October 10, 2009 @ 5:36 pm

    I used to call this the Before Wings phenomenon. The running gag for a few years was to say "I was in a record store admiring some sweet young things, and one of them said, 'Hey! Did you know Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings?'" That name for the phenomenon has, of course, become outdated.

  21. Mark F. said,

    October 10, 2009 @ 5:50 pm

    When Future Shock came out, my dad observed that his dad grew up on a farm with no running water, no electricity, and no car. My dad had all of those things, and a TV starting in his teens. His childhood was much more like mine than like my grandfather's. Of course, that's partially because my grandfather left the farm for the city, but that's part of the point, since that was part of a change that was happening on a massive scale in that era.

    In the 40 years between 1914 and 1954, airplanes went from toys to 707s, and radio and TV became universal in the rich world. Cars were no longer a novelty in 1914, but they had barely begun to transform America's attitudes about transportation. That transformation was basically complete by 1954.

    Between 1969 and 2009 we have lost the ability to go to the moon, and gained and lost the capacity for supersonic commercial air travel. (This a bit of hyperbole, since we still know how to go about both of those if the need arose.) Of course, the power of computers has increased by many orders of magnitude, but the question is whether those changes are as transformative as the more energy-intensive changes of the previous decades. I am doubtful that they are. My son's childhood, even though he has an email account and primary use of a laptop, is still, I think, more like my dad's childhood than my dad's was like his father's.

  22. mae said,

    October 10, 2009 @ 7:41 pm

    One of the crossword puzzles published today had a play on the term "bank book" — I wonder how that goes over with the all-computers-all-the-time generation.

  23. Adouma said,

    October 10, 2009 @ 10:08 pm

    @mae:
    At eighteen, I can safely say I've never seen a bank book in my life. Does that answer your question?

    And just to add a youthful flair to the discussion – I've never had milk in a glass bottle, nor Coca Cola for that matter. Though I've heard of a Walkman, I don't think I've seen anything older than a Discman first hand. I consider Mini-discs and Gameboy Pocket to be retro, and no cellphone I've owned has been sans a camera. Clinton was out of office before I even knew what politics was.

    And I still walk 1.6 miles to and from school every day – even if I did use Google Maps to find that out.

  24. Janice Huth Byer said,

    October 10, 2009 @ 11:52 pm

    Call me jadedl, but what surprises me is how much young people do know from past times that presumably isn't taught in school.

    At a wedding reception, last summer, a DJ played an eclectic mix of rock. "Runaround Sue" had us boomers and seniors creaking, shuffling on the dance floor to the amusement of the twentysomethings, who sat it out. I sheepishly explained to a table of them afterward that it'd been a really big hit. Well, they knew that, and a couple knew more than I did: the name of the singer. Yet, they didn't hear it on the radio. They only listen to downloads, they said.

    They grasp cultural references like "sounds like a broken record" "high fidelity" "newsreel". Perhaps due to the ubiquity of Boomers, their familiarity with events from "the sixties" seems uncanny.

  25. Geoff Nunberg said,

    October 11, 2009 @ 12:02 am

    To judge from the drift (in every sense) of the commments, another thing that isn't what it once was is the "miracle of language learning and cognitive development."

  26. Eric said,

    October 11, 2009 @ 12:45 am

    I'm doddering along toward twenty-seven, and I don't understand today's music at all

    Then you probably never did.

  27. Stacy said,

    October 11, 2009 @ 4:20 am

    I was born in 1987, and I understand the significance of pretty much everything mentioned above. I have never owned a Betamax, but I know what one is (I did have a My First Sony tape deck), and I used a black and green screen computer to play Frogger. I remember 9/11 (I was in 7th grade) and I know the date of Pearl Harbor. I can recognize and name quite a lot of songs released since the invention of the record – my interests range from early jazz to the Strawbs to the Decemberists. Although I download music, I burn CDs to use in my car (and was horrified to find that it had no tape deck, just as I couldn't figure out why anyone would make a computer without a floppy drive). Call me an unrepresentative sample (fourth-year anthropology/former ling major at U Chicago), but I really don't get how people my own age can be so uninformed about events – especially in pop culture – that happened so recently. Seriously, isn't that what "I love the 80s" on VH1 is for? What weirds me out is that this year's college freshmen were born in a year I was cognizant of.

  28. Janice Huth Byer said,

    October 11, 2009 @ 4:25 am

    Jeff and Mr. Punch – Yes, "blue laws" we called those wicked state statutes that required stores to close on Sunday, unless they sold food. Even those weren't allowed to sell anything but. Inexplicable how seriously those laws were enforced.

    It's unlikely any 7/11 keeps those hours today, making that name an anachronism like Dairy Market. After the blues went bust. supermarkets expanded their range of merchandise and fairly quickly became 24/7.

  29. Cecily said,

    October 11, 2009 @ 7:25 am

    @ Adouma,October 10, 2009 @ 10:08 pm
    I may be 25 years older than you, but I can't understand how or where you can NEVER have seen a banknote. A banknote just means paper money, like a dollar bill (it's not the thing you write out to transfer money from a checking account (a "cheque" in BrE)).

  30. Dave Ferguson said,

    October 11, 2009 @ 9:01 am

    Cecily: I believe Adouma had never seen a bank book, which I take to mean the small booklet my parents had for recording deposits to their checking account back in the 50s and 60s: the teller would record the amount and use a rubber stamp (I think) to mark the date.

    With the decline of incandescent bulbs, I'll hold on to this historical oddity: until 1978, Detroiters could exchange burned-out light bulbs for new ones at Detroit Edison "stores" all over the city; I stocked up before moving out of state. (An account of the last day of this practice.)

  31. Spell Me Jeff said,

    October 11, 2009 @ 9:52 am

    @ Mr. Punch & Janice:

    Yes, I'd forgotten. In my community, even the grocery stores stayed closed on Sunday, the old blue laws being so strict. But there was something about milk. Its "importance" to children, I assume. That explains volumes. Why they were called Dairy Markets, for instance. And also the mutation into Convenience Stores. It wasn't just late hours. They were the only place to buy stuff on Sundays! The prices weren't convenient, though. $5.00 for a dozen eggs, as I recall from one outing. Can you imagine a price like that 40 years ago?

  32. stormboy said,

    October 11, 2009 @ 10:17 am

    @ Cecily: I can't understand how or where you can NEVER have seen a banknote.

    Wasn't it "bank book"? An entirely different thing.

  33. Jerry Friedman said,

    October 11, 2009 @ 10:25 am

    I see I misunderstood the Wikip article on the Four Yorkshireman sketch. It must mean that Python's 1974 version has no video recording.

    @Cecily: Mae and Adouma were talking about bank books, not bank notes.

    This past summer I was teaching math to fifteen- and sixteen-year-olds. At one point, a boy and a girl got half-seriously hostile and exchanged cutting remarks. Another boy, a friend of the first, said happily, "Girl fight! Get out your phones!" and suited the action to the word. I cracked up. (I don't think anyone could tell.) The best kind of future shock is the funny kind—though you may have had to be there.

  34. Adrian Mander said,

    October 11, 2009 @ 1:26 pm

    This reminds me of a Dave Chapelle joke:

    'My oldest son is three. This nigger made me a necklace out of macaroni. That shit's ballin'. He painted the macaroni green and put it on a string. He tied on my neck and he told me he was proud of me. And I got choked up. And he thought I was sad, that's how smart he is. He said, "Are you sad, daddy?" And I said, "No, I'm not sad. You're too young to understand this, son, but this is fucking crazy. You used to live in my balls, man! Now you making jewelry out of macaroni! You're a bad mother-fucker!"'

  35. fiddler said,

    October 11, 2009 @ 1:42 pm

    @GN: To judge from the drift (in every sense) of the commments, another thing that isn't what it once was is the "miracle of language learning and cognitive development."

    Yes, I'd really like to know more about this. What in the strip made Mark think of the miracle of language learning etc.?

  36. Janice Huth Byer said,

    October 11, 2009 @ 2:22 pm

    Jeff, yes, astute point you make about "Dairy" bestowing on Dairy Markets what sociologists call a "halo effect" because of its relation to maternal nurture. I can't think of another consumable that would serve better.

  37. Cecily said,

    October 11, 2009 @ 4:24 pm

    Ok, ok, I'm sorry. I misread what Adouma wrote. (Hangs head in shame and wishes there was a "Delete" option.)

  38. Tlönista said,

    October 11, 2009 @ 4:25 pm

    I remember hearing my cousin's first word ("up")…and now she's posting Facebook statuses in Spanish. Damn. When did that happen?

  39. Daniel said,

    October 11, 2009 @ 8:40 pm

    Fiddler, I think what made Mark think of that was the "old enough to have this conversation with you". In other words, the kid's language skills have developed from nothing to what is displayed here in a mere eight years and change.

  40. Michael W said,

    October 12, 2009 @ 12:12 am

    I think there are some interesting questions there. At what age can children first express comments on language (realizing that their expression can be a conversation)? When are they aware that inanimate objects and certaing other people can't understand their language? I presume well before eight years, but this does make me wonder.

  41. dr pepper said,

    October 12, 2009 @ 12:56 am

    I remember reading The Little Nightengale at 6 and objecting to the use of the word "empire" to describe Japan. I was sure it was too small a country for that designation.

  42. Terry Collmann said,

    October 12, 2009 @ 6:56 am

    I have to agree with the demurrers that the cartoon seems more to do with the telescoping of time as you grow older than cognitive development in children.

    And on the subject that the post has turned into, am I wrong to be surprised that modern teens have heard of "Runaround Sue", when teens in 1961 probably wouldn't have heard of a single song from their own "48 years ago*, 1913? (I looked it up on Wikipedia – the two most famous songs from that year appear to be "On the Trail of the Lonesome Pine", and that only probably because of Laurel and Hardy, and "El Cóndor Pasa", mainly because of Simon and Garfunkle.)

  43. Dianna Trent said,

    October 12, 2009 @ 6:56 am

    I stumbled onto this site because I'm hooked into anything "Stallone" into my emails. (The above mention from Martin that someone born in 1990 did NOT know who Sly was! Duh!)
    Anyway, I'm fascinated by the conversation here. I'm so nostalgic! I was born in 1958 but do remember milk being delivered to our house and the Blue Laws among tons of other things.
    "Thanx for the memories!"

    – Dianna

  44. Słowosław said,

    October 12, 2009 @ 7:54 am

    "am I wrong to be surprised that modern teens have heard of "Runaround Sue", when teens in 1961 probably wouldn't have heard of a single song from their own "48 years ago*, 1913?"

    One thing that occurred to me (and please correct me if I'm wrong) is that in 1913 the concept of popular music didn't really exist in the same way as in 1961, so it seems less likely that teenagers would have had as good a knowledge of current songs as in 1961.

    Of course, it's possible that I (born in the 1980s) believe all that I've heard about "teenagers" not apprearing until the 1950s, which may not be strictly true.

  45. Słowosław said,

    October 12, 2009 @ 7:56 am

    Oh, and to keep a language-related discussion going, I wonder which current/recent idioms will survive into the next generation and which will be rendered obsolete by technology (e.g. "broken record" is still in use, even though vinyl records are a thing of the past for most people).

  46. David Cantor said,

    October 12, 2009 @ 8:03 am

    If you really want to feel old, I heartily recommend a trip to the American Computer Museum in Bozeman, MT. There you can find such gems as a four-function calculator the size of a console TV (with nixie tubes), an IBM 1620 mainframe (20,000 decimal digits of core memory), examples of the original 8" floppy disks (~250kb each), a DEC PDP-8 minicomputer, an Altair microcomputer, and oh yes, a bunch of slide rules. I actually used all of these things in the lab and at work.

  47. Aaron Davies said,

    October 12, 2009 @ 8:23 am

    @Słowosław: while pop in the years before WWI certainly wasn't the mighty marketing machine it became in the fifties, there was still a fair bit of it about–Tin Pan Alley, show tunes from early Broadway, ragtime, etc. Some of it is still fairly well known–Irving Berlin's stuff, "Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home", "K-K-K-Katy", etc.

    I'm sure kids in 1961 would have known, or at least recognized, at least a few fifty-year-old songs.

  48. Aaron Davies said,

    October 12, 2009 @ 8:26 am

    Oh and of course, pop music in general ("popular" music, in the Latin sense of the word, i.e. liked by the people, but differentiated from "folk music" by having a known author) goes back at least as far as Stephen Foster, who started writing in the 1840s.

  49. Benjamin Zimmer said,

    October 12, 2009 @ 11:00 am

    Jason Kottke's post on timeline twins may be of interest.

  50. Jody said,

    October 12, 2009 @ 12:41 pm

    As to the convenience stores, my sisters and I were just reminiscing "…remember when gas stations were really tiny buildings, where you just went in to pay for gas? They had cigs and maybe a small soda cooler, but that was it…."

    Fun topic – the language and communication piece is interesting, too

  51. Bloix said,

    October 12, 2009 @ 2:16 pm

    And for something completely different:
    "Can you do scarier?"
    When did this expression move from theater jargon to mainstream?

  52. Bev Rowe said,

    October 12, 2009 @ 2:35 pm

    This could run and run.
    I was born in 1935 and I don't know about 1913 specifically but Edwardian music hall songs were very much part of my musical knowledge.
    What upsets me as that the time between my birth and WW1 is similar to that between current births and the first Gulf war.

  53. Sili said,

    October 12, 2009 @ 8:16 pm

    This may be off the topic as well, but I just realised that this disproves that old saw about "sticks and stones". The grown-up character here looks quite hurt indeed.

  54. army1987 said,

    October 12, 2009 @ 8:35 pm

    One thought which sometimes made me sad is that if I had a son when I am 30, then when he is as old as I am now, "Stairway to Heaven" will be as old as the songs listed at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1941_in_music, none of which I have ever heard of, are now.

  55. army1987 said,

    October 12, 2009 @ 8:39 pm

    On the other hand, "Light My Fire" will be as old as "Sweet Home Chicago" is now, and I do know and like that song. But now my concern is that "Sweet Home Chicago" will be as old as Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 6 (just to take the first entry off http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1906_in_music). Usually I feel old, but when I think about these things I feel too young (i.e. I wish I were born 30 years earlier).

  56. empty said,

    October 13, 2009 @ 12:38 pm

    If you are 21, and if your mother was 21 when you were born, then some Beatles songs were hits before your mother was born.

  57. andrew cave said,

    October 13, 2009 @ 6:16 pm

    children get exposed to a lot of old songs by being forced to sit in cars while their parents tune into golden-oldies stations. And my experience is that littlies prefer singable music (eg The Wiggles, Run-around Sue) and don,t really switch to more modern music (which requires a more sophisticated understanding of rhythym and beat IMO) until they are about 8 or 9. Also schools will often teach old hits to kindergartners – possibly because of their apprpriateness to the age bracket's musical undestanding.

  58. Jim said,

    October 13, 2009 @ 7:33 pm

    "Before Wings" phenomenon: a decade or more ago, that one got an extra level added — "What's Wings? Paul who?"

    Dairy Markets: there's a 1976 memory I haven't hit since 1978 or so. But it's better than my other childhood milk memory. We were too poor to afford real milk (that's not a cue for either Python or the Match Game), so we drank "half and half": half milk and half powdered milk. You can always tell people who drank powdered milk by that scrunched up "horrible memory of the taste" face you all just got.

    Walkman: mind you, Sony still produces Walkman devices, parallels to iPods. They don't take cassettes these days, of course.

    The Godfather: that sort of observation comes up with superhero comics all the time, where 1960s characters who are still in use today have to have their WWII connections heavily ignored (except for Captain America). It gets really troublesome with the ~20 year olds who are supposed to be children of characters who fought the Nazis. I'm 43 and could have such a child (if I did), but my *grandfather* fought in WWII. The ages just get bizarre to make it work. (A recent character said his mother had a thing for much older men, for example.)

    I was at a bar recently and the DJ played a Depeche Mode song, which I recognized from college. Then I realized that there were people in the bar born after the song came out. That was my "I'm suddenly old" feeling.

  59. Peter Taylor said,

    October 14, 2009 @ 8:31 am

    Runaround Sue has a pretty sophisticated rhythm (at least, assuming that you're talking about the one I dance jive to).

  60. Peter Howard said,

    October 14, 2009 @ 11:43 am

    I still get milk delivered by a milkman, in glass bottles. I must be living in the past. Or another country, maybe.

  61. Vincent Rivellese said,

    October 14, 2009 @ 1:45 pm

    I love this entry. Mildly on topic: As I read some of these posts I was thinking, almost as an odd exception to this time flying theme, how close to the past I felt when I read fairly recently that former U.S. President Grover Cleveland's son had just died. But then I went to Google and saw that he died in 1995, thus illustrating the point being made repeatedly here.

  62. Toma said,

    October 14, 2009 @ 4:48 pm

    I thought one of the points of the cartoon was that here it is 8 years after 9/11 and we're still at war, Osama bin Laden is still out there, etc., etc. That's the scary thought.

  63. Cath said,

    October 15, 2009 @ 8:23 am

    Michael W,

    (on children commenting on language)

    if you're aware of Annette Karmiloff-Smith's book on language acquisition, she has a fascinating chapter on children's awareness of things like the difference between content words and function words, eg children being puzzled if you ask them whether "the" is a word.

    There's a fair bit of work too on metalinguistic development in the context of phonological structure. Eg the 1993 article by Amanda Walley in Developmental Review. Children are generally able to segment words into syllables fairly early, then they can segment into units as small as consonant clusters (ie syllable onsets) around 3 or 4, and around 5/6 they become able to segment into 'phonemes'.

    In the 80s there was a book edited by Tunmer and Harrison on metalinguistic development which also included development of reflective thought/analysis of syntactic and pragmatic aspects of language – not something i'm especially familiar with but that might be a starting point for chasing it up.

  64. NickB said,

    April 10, 2010 @ 10:09 am

    When I started work, the nearest thing to email was Little Brian. We had to dictate and check memos, then they would be put in a brown envolope and moved around the 5 buildings by Little Brian. On my desk I litterally had an in box and out box. And I'm only 45 !

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