Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Death of Cultural References

I heard, in the latest somewhat distasteful Eminem song, Love the Way You Lie, with Rihianna, a reference to a physical phenomenon that today's youth can't possibly have experienced: The Broken Record.

We all know what it is - we've all experienced a skipping, repeating LP. We know a broken record refers to the repeated moments before the scratch on a record being played. But, what child today even can identify a record? Who has a record player? Do they even know what a broken record IS? Or is it just a cultural reference with no antecedent now - like "The proof is in the pudding"?

In fact, the proof is in the pudding isn't even the correct phrase. It comes from "The proof of the pudding is in the eating", which makes much more sense. But, having lost the reference point, it got repeated and transformed into its nonsensical current state. And now that Mr. Safire, may he rest in peace, has left us - no one will correct us on these errors.

All of this makes me worry that the Broken Record phrase will become bastardized to something else in the coming few years. Something like a chipped disc. Something where the entire reference is lost and only the cultural meaning remains. It is troubling - but it will happen. Because no one will have experienced the Ernie and Bert Sing Sesame Songs record skipping on their Fisher Price First Record Player.

I suppose I should start retiring my references to rotary dial phones as well.

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