OK. All of a sudden this year, as we are reading The Outsiders, I am having to explain (or GoogleUp-on-the-big-screen*), all kinds of things I have never had to explain before. Up until this year, the references I had to stop and talk about were always pretty much the same ones. You know, the ones they put into all those lame novel units for this book. Things like…
madras shirt. After we look at pics, the kids are all, “Why would Ponyboy be jealous of those?” These kids can’t wear anything without a logo or a message on it.
Corvair. They like the look of that. Until we start talking about it being the most dangerous car ever built. Actually, they like that too.
heaters. The guesses on this one are great. Lighters. Actual heaters. Knives heated up on the stove. Tasers — me: “They didn’t have those back then” them: “They could have.” Gawd I hate when they say that.
fuzz. I actually looked this one up. Nobody really knows how this one got started, but Ponyboy probably would have used it because he heard it on Dragnet.
“know the score.” I love this one because I always connect to our vocab word savvy. After I explain it that way, they get it.
Will Rogers. This one is tough even for me. I always compare him to Bill Cosby.
There might have been a few here and there who didn’t figure out that icebox meant ‘fridge or that “lift” meant steal, but that was pretty much it for the explaining slang and colloquialisms. But this year, I have a whole new list of things that are met with blank expressions when I ask what they mean.
Paul Newman. He’s officially an icon for oldsters now.
booze. Really? This one surprised me. At least 3/4 didn’t know what Pony means when he says Two-Bit gets boozed up too much.
“in stitches.” This year, not a single one of them knew what that meant. It was always a minority, but this is the first time the number went to zero. I guess nobody has called it a side stitch since I was a lad.
icebox. This one went to almost zero this year too. Sort of understandable I guess. But you’d think they would figure it out from context. They’d rather ask you or look it up on their phones.
wisecrack. Another one that bottomed out this year. It’s the crack part that throws them I think.
Dairy Queen. Really? Are you kidding me? I was floored, as they say. But the closest one to us is 35 miles away. Around here, that may as well be across the country. Still, there are tv ads and whatnot.
peroxide. Three kids.
concession stand. In every class this year, it went down the same way. Reading aloud, I am a paragraph or two past the mention of the seats in front of the concession stand at the drive-in when several hands go up. I bark, “Snack bar!” at them and there is a collective “oh,” and I roll on. They also couldn’t cope at the prices mentioned: 25 cents for popcorn, 25 cents for a double feature (or more). Then I tell them that the minimum wage in ’67 was one dollah an hour. In their infinite seventh grade wisdom, they say, “Cool, that’s four popcorns!
And almost none of them this year understood what Pony means when he says that Two-Bit’s switchblade was the “result of two hours of wandering aimlessly around a hardware store to divert suspicion.” I always pause there for effect, but this year there was silence. Then,
“I don’t get it.”
*GoogleUp-on-the-big-screen is when I search Google live in front of the whole class, displaying it with my lcd projector. I also use it as an opportunity to demo how they should be searching on Google. People who say kids today are tech-savvy have no idea what they are talking about.