“Back in the Day”

Is it just me, or are we, like, getting old?

That saying, “back in the day,” makes me cringe every time I hear it. It wasn’t long ago that I began to hear my contemporaries use it. I think it might have been at a high school reunion. It scared me to death. You know why?

Because it ages us! Like most baby boomers, I don’t like to be looked upon as old, let alone older than I am. Like TAB, Oldsmobile, PanAm, even Blockbuster — those entities are gone. We’re not!

At the surface level, it seems to be a pretty benign expression. It’s just another way of saying long ago. But are we old enough to be using a statement like “long ago”? Given the span of the universe, our world, or America, we are but nits.

I’d liken it to an oldies station’s particular set of music. (Does anyone listen to the radio anymore?) Nowadays (a choice word given this topic!), songs from the 90s may be an oldies station’s format.

How could the 90s be old? That’s the decade that alternative music found its footing in musical history. I’m sorry, but acts such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, or Soundgarden are not old!

I think old is hard to define for those born in the Rock ‘n Roll era, which started around 1955. Songs from those first few years do sound a bit outdated now, but these songs and the acts were the foundation of what we have today. Rock began to mature in the 1960s. The sound of the 60s is timeless, and its’ artists began to use the power of their voices to make social commentary. But I digress.

Where does “back in the day” originate? According to Grammaphobia, it is a term that’s been used since the 1940s. The article states that widespread use began among Blacks, often referring to the 1960s, reflecting “a kind of nostalgic longing for the historical moment when there was a strong sense of Black unity.”

The Urban Dictionary says it’s an “incomplete thought”. (Back in what day?) They say that it was most widely used in 2012 and has fallen out of favor since then. Is this a function of the generations? After all, there are more Millennials than Baby Boomers in the world. True to form, I cannot see a millennial saying “back in the day.”

Collins claims it as a British-English term. Grammarist says it is “an American idiom. It’s not specific and the “day” is not qualified..”

Since it became used in the mid 20th Century, could it be a commentary on how things were before the advent of technology and computing? Before things changed so fast? Is it meant to harken us back to better times?

In researching this story, I found approximately 114 other ways to say “back in the day.” I could have written them into this story, but then it would have become just another listicle. Google it. Which we would have had to use a thesaurus for, “back in the day..”

My life in the context of 20th-century history and pop culture — infused with a dose of fun (where appropriate!) More to come when I get my sea legs on here.

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