Hey, Boomers: Don’t say these things to younger generations (they won’t have a clue what you mean)


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Every generation has catchphrases that take them back to their youth, and that becomes part of their language throughout their lives. But what means something quite obvious to a boomer may mean absolute gibberish to somebody from generation Y, Z, or even X. 

These expressions are products of their time, with historical and technological contexts that may elude younger generations who have been raised in a digital age. Which ones do you find yourself saying on the regular? Let us know if there are any we missed. 

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“You sound like a broken record.”

This phrase harks back to the era of vinyl records, those large black discs that spun on turntables. You may remember that a scratched record could make a repetitive, annoying sound that made your ears bleed. Younger folks, raised in the age of digital music, simply can’t relate to the frustration of a scratched vinyl record causing repetitive playback. Records are now seen as something trendy for hipsters, if a millennial even knows what one is at all. Instead, just tell someone they’re acting annoying, they probably won’t even be offended.

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“Hang up the phone.”

Remember the good old days of landline telephones, when you had to physically place the receiver back on the phone’s base to end a call? This phrase was commonplace then. But with smartphones, the concept of “hanging up” has transformed, and younger generations have probably never used a phone with a receiver to hang up. In fact, considering most youth prefer to text than speak anyway, it’s pointless to even tell them to end a call in the first place.

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“You’re in a real pickle.”

This phrase dates back centuries. In the “Tempest”, Shakespeare used the expression of being in a pickle to describe being drunk. Additionally, the Dutch used a version of the phrase to also refer to being inebriated. Eventually, it became a common way of expressing that someone was in a tricky situation. However, the reference to a “pickle” as a predicament might not be immediately obvious to younger generations; after all why would you associate pickles with difficulties? Logically, we don’t understand either.

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“You’re a regular Houdini.”

Named after the famous magician Harry Houdini, this expression refers to someone’s ability to escape tricky situations. Younger generations might not be as familiar with Houdini’s escapades, or even have heard of him outright. Magicians just don’t seem to hold as much allure in this day and age, especially when you can use filters to make anything look magical on TikTok. 

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“It’s like finding a needle in a haystack.”

This centuries-old phrase describes the challenge of locating something small and valuable in a vast, disorganized space. While still in use today, younger generations may not have ever seen an actual haystack to fully appreciate this metaphor. We’ve heard the expression “looking for a white cat in a snowstorm”, which may be more relatable as presumably every age knows what a cat is.

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“You look like a million bucks.”

This phrase, likely from the early 20th century, praised someone’s exceptional appearance by comparing them to what was considered immense wealth. However, with changing perceptions of wealth, younger generations may not connect a million dollars with opulence. Try changing the phrase to a “billion dollars”, then maybe you’ll make an impression.

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“You’re as stubborn as a mule.”

Mules are known for their obstinacy. While the phrase is still used today, younger individuals might not be as familiar with mules and their stubborn reputation. After all, how many mules do you encounter in your day-to-day life? You could try saying someone is bull headed or pig headed, but that may be equally confusing. No one wants to hear that a boomer thinks they’re acting stubborn anyway.

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“Pull yourself up by the bootstraps.”

This phrase historically referred to being self-reliant and working hard. But it’s doubtful that kids today know what a boot strap is, considering most of them slip their feet into Crocs. If you want to make the point that someone needs to take initiative and improve their situation through their own efforts, maybe keep your mouth shut because younger generations probably don’t want to hear that from you anyway.

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“Roll down the window.”

Many of us remember when cars had windows that actually rolled down via a crank handle. But today, modern cars all have power windows operated by buttons, so the idea of rolling down a window makes no sense. What to say instead that someone younger will understand? How about just, “open the window”. 

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“You’re going to get a taste of your own medicine.”

This saying is believed to have roots from “Aesop’s Fables”, an ancient Greek storyteller. The story refers to a swindler who sold fake medicine, convincing others it could cure anything. When the swindler himself fell ill, people gave him his own medicine, which he knew wouldn’t cure him. The phrase is still used today, but the meaning may not be as obvious to younger generations. What can you say instead? You could “even the score”, “get pay back”, or suggest our favorite option: refer them to Taylor Swift’s song “Karma”. 

This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.

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