April 11, 2015
As the philosopher L. P. Berra noted, “You can observe a lot by watching.” I spend a significant part of my week observing 18-20-year-old undergrads and occasionally I learn something besides the fact that they don’t care whether you write “a lot” or “alot.”
1. There are five levels of partying:
a) Rager (not to be confused with a “rave”): 100 or more attendees, many or most of whom don’t know each other personally; presumably alcohol may be involved.
b) Party: more than 20. You may or may not know, or even like, all the people.
c) Kickback: not a form of political graft but a smaller, personalized party. Estimates vary but numbers like 8-20 or 5-10 are typically used. Includes only people you know and like, all of whom were personally invited.
d) Chillin’: 2-6 people; some say no more than 5. Akin to “hanging out” ― not quite a kickback or party; presumably video games are involved.
e) Posted: 1 person (you, alone) ― waiting for something to happen; got nothing to do, nowhere to go. Could also be two people staring at the wall. (For some reason, the term does not lend itself to other parts of speech. You wouldn’t say, for example, “I’m just posting tonight.”)
2. The term “bae” (or Bae), which was one of the Oxford Dictionaries’ inane “words of the year” in 2014, is well-known and just as widely mocked. Although some media report it to mean “Before Anyone Else,” the kids know it’s simply a short form of “babe” or “baby” and would no more use it than they’d say “Word!” or “groovy.”
3. For some reason (that I may have just made up), age 26 is the Maginot Line dividing various styles and tribal memories.
a) If you’re under 26, you can wear your ball cap with the brim flat (what I might call “gangsta style”) or curved. Both are perfectly acceptable and cool–just a matter of preference. The 3-D sticker may be left on for further coolness. (According to Urban Dictionary, no gangster rap videos before 1994 featured a straight brim hat.)
b) No one under 26 knows who James Caan is. Forget “Misery.” Forget “The Godfather.” Forget “Elf.” If you say “Caan” or “Jimmy Caan” you’ll get the same polite blank stare as if you said “Say, can you explain what a gerund is?”
c) No one over 26 still plagues the public streets with sub-woofers blasting from their car trunks.
4. The one album cover that everyone instantly recognizes, no matter their age, is Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.” However, although they know the Beatles, the name “White Album” is in James Caan’ville.
5. There is no conspiracy theory too outrageous ― chemtrails, aliens building the Pyramids, and, alas, Holocaust denial ― that at least a few students won’t believe in it.
Herewith, however, the top conspiracy theories they believe in:
a) Alien abductions/Roswell/Area 51
b) 9/11 was staged by the government
c) President Barack Obama born in Kenya
6. Approximately 23% have at least one tattoo. (“word art” seems to be popular — that is, slogans or phrases tatted on an arm, ankle or…ack…neck).
7. They apparently believe that if you can’t look it up on Google in 30 seconds, it’s not worth bothering with.