It’s well-established how humor plays a significant role in child development, and learning in general. But before all that, families have used humor to entertain, to instruct, to discipline, to show love, and even to pass down family histories. And the latter is the topic of this article. What do you need to know about ‘back in my day’ jokes?
‘Back in my day’ jokes and tales are popular with parents, grandparents, and teachers as they reminisce. While these stories are generally meant to be humorous and are usually eye-rolling cheesy, they are also ways to share personal histories, to teach, and provide commentary on current events.
As a mom and teacher, I have certainly told ‘back in my day’ stories. Sometimes I said them to simply share a silly story, but other times I wanted to illustrate to students or my own kids how life was for me ‘back in the day.’
One way to build humor with your kids is to use it strategically through routines or regular activities. For instance, our Fun Jokes For Kids Coloring Book is a great tool for embedding humor through kid-friendly activity.
I’ll share how I’ve used this method in my experiences with kids; what makes ‘back in my day’ tales useful; and provide some examples and guidance for you to apply.
- 1 The Meaning of Back in My Day- Overview
- 2 How to Tell Back In My Day Tales
- 3 The Reason for Back In My Day Stories
- 4 Back In My Day Punchline
The Meaning of Back in My Day- Overview
We’ve all probably heard someone say ‘back in my day.’ So what does this actually mean and why is it popular again to say?
Back in my day stories are popular with older people who use it to reminisce about the past and/or complain about current events and changes. However, recent trends for back in my day jokes are more about making fun of the past and its problems as well as those who romanticize it.
The Original Meaning: Back in my day was a way for older people to tell their stories as a contrast to something going on today. And they did it in a way meant to be humorous more times than not.
The thought is to compare how you or people around you used to live and/or the time period of when you grew up or even your young adulthood years to whatever is happening currently. And originally, it was always to glorify or elevate the past and to put down the present.
An old favorite: ‘Back in my day we didn’t take a bus to school just down the road. We walked, barefoot, five miles in the snow and we LIKED it!’
An example I’ve told: ‘Back in my day we didn’t have cellphones to ignore your mama’s texts; we just ignored her regularly.’
The New Meaning: Back in my day jokes have more recently been a humorous tactic to poke fun of the ‘old days’ and the people (i.e. ‘Boomers) who glorify them.
Today the trend for ‘back in my day’ is to do the opposite of the original intent. Rather than highlighting the greatness of the past in comparison to the present, it’s putting down or ridiculing the past in light of the present’s new information, advancements, and political correctness.
Nowadays, if you Google ‘back in the day’, you’re more likely to find memes and gifs that make fun of ‘back in my day’ rather than make fun of today.
An example of this: ‘Back in my day we didn’t have people with peanut allergies. Throats closed up for no reason at all!’
This illustrates that actually, yes, there were people with peanut allergies but the allergy was unknown so people suffered after eating peanuts.
An example I’ve told along this recent trend: ‘Back in my day we didn’t have Google, so our facts couldn’t be checked.’
This example above implies that at least facts today can be researched and verified.
And a favorite teacher example: ‘Back in my day we had 9 planets‘ (Get the t-shirt at Amazon) illustrating how science has advanced our knowledge of space today.
I think you’ll enjoy these other articles on humor:
- Does Forced Humor Work With Kids?
- Is Marvel Humor Child Friendly? (Dark Humor And Kids)
- What To Know About A Smiley Person
Other Words for Back in My Day
And there are some other phrases that are often interchanged with ‘back in my day.’ Listed below are the most common ones, but ‘back in my day’ is a favorite for many because it is personal to you and also takes more ownership.
- Back in my days- Sometimes people simply make in plural.
- Back in the day- Swapping ‘my’ and ‘the’
- Back in the olden days- Highlights the difference in new and old
- Used to- This is a regional shortening of the phrase.
- In times past- A bit more formal
- Way back when- Again more regional
- Years ago- More historical in connotation
- Bygone days- Emphasis is more on change and loss
- Old School- Slang for ‘back in my day’
How to Tell Back In My Day Tales
So now that we’re more clear about what’s meant by ‘back in my day’ as well as various phrasing and changes, how can it be used today, both positive and negative?
You can tell back in my day jokes and stories as parents, grandparents, and teachers. It is a method more appropriately used by older people, though kids might use it for satirical humor. Back in my day humor is really good for teaching the good and bad about the past in a nonthreatening way.
Though anyone can use ‘back in my day humor’, it’s most commonly connected to the elderly.
Back in my day humor is an excellent tool for teachers. It can be used as a casual way for teachers to build relationships with their students, showing how teachers are real people too. It’s also an effective way to teach comparison, and put a personal perspective on history.
As a teacher, one of the first things I learned as a professional is that you can’t teach anything if you don’t have students’ respect and attention. Incorporating personal anecdotes and stories helps build that relationship, and respect, with students. As well, using personal stories from ‘back in my day’ piques their interest and you can use that to teach many skills, related and unrelated.
Dads are notorious for cheesy jokes, which is how the term ‘dad jokes’ came about. And whether or not we enjoy ‘back in my day’ humor or feel it’s valid, we all have to admit it’s generally cheesy too.
Anytime my husband or I start a sentence with ‘back in our day’ to the kids, we immediately get eye rolls and smirks thrown our way. Kids know these jokes are cheesy, but despite that, we usually get their attention too!
Dads can easily incorporate ‘back in my day’ jokes and stories to segue into many big topics at home like dating, friendships, getting a part-time job, career decisions, college and so on. It lends itself quite flexible to be utilized in the home.
In this way, back in my day jokes, used by dads and moms, are good humor tactics to talk to teens, but it’s also suitable to use for talking with your younger kids.
Back in my day stories are a natural, easy way to talk about your own childhood and share your life experiences with your kids, big and small.
Even though parents and teachers under 50 years old can easily incorporate back in my day stories and jokes, it’s naturally more aligned with the senior crowd. So in this sense, back in my day humor was meant for grandparents, clearly!
As I get older, I can see how it’s more difficult to connect with younger generations, from toddlers to young adults. Using back in my day humor is a way for grandparents to start conversations with their grandkids without much effort.
Back in my day humor is a simple, fun, jocular way for grandparents to also voice disapproval with kids or just in general with the changes they see today in comparison to how things were when they were younger. Rather than say ‘I don’t like this’ or ‘this isn’t good’, they can make their point in a funny, creative, low stakes way. That’s much more grandparent-y, right.
As well, as we get older, we appreciate history, including our own past. Back in my day jokes and tales are a way to share our personal lives with the youth, intending for it to be humorous, but also informational. When we start a story with ‘back in my day’ we’re automatically taking kids on a walk through the past!
The Reason for Back In My Day Stories
There are several reasons for using back in my day stories and jokes. From sharing personal anecdotes to using it as an instructional tool, ‘back in my day’ humor is a low-stakes way for an older generation to share with a younger generation.
Reasons to Use Back in My Day Humor:
- To disapprove in a low-stakes way
- To share a personal story
- To highlight the past, both positive and negative
- To hook someone’s attention or pique interest
- To teach a lesson or value
- To teach about the past
- To entertain
Back In My Day Comedians
You can share with kids the best comedians ‘back in my/your day’. Often older people, myself included, compare today’s comedy and comedians with those who we grew up with, and of course, say ‘back in my day, comedy was much funnier!’ Or ‘back in my day, comedians were much better!’
Here are some popular comedians, aka ‘Old School’, that prove just how funny it was ‘back in my day’!
Joan Rivers: Rivers was one of the few well-known comediennes from the 80s and 90s. I think what made her so popular was that she made fun of celebrities. Rivers was noted for her rants on the red carpet, showing that famous people aren’t all that great or different from the rest of us!
Bernie Mac: Bernie was a well-known stand-up comedian, and also grew popular from his tv show, ‘The Bernie Mac Show.’ And one of his popular schticks was to poke fun of his childhood days and ‘back in my day’ ways.
Rodney Dangerfield– An 80s great, Dangerfield popularized the phrase, “I can’t get no respect.” He’s one to share with kids today because his over-the-top mannerisms and catchphrases are really timeless!
Eddie Murphy: While much of Murphy’s 80s shows aren’t kid-suitable, you can definitely find short clips (or make your own) from YouTube. Kids will enjoy his rock star looks, cool vibe (which has been modeled over and over by many of today’s comedians!), but most importantly his distinctive vocals! And yes, they will recognize him as their favorite cartoon donkey!
Old School/Back In My Day Movies
And of course, there are many old school/back in my day comedies that also illustrate just how funny it used to be. Below are some examples to share with your kids (keeping in mind kid-appropriateness), either in short clips or entirety depending on your personal situation.
Back in the Day Movies For Kids (and Kids of All Ages)
Mary Poppins: Yes, it was a book (series, actually) first, but the 1964 classic is great for kids! It’s quality entertainment but also will have your littles giggling up a storm!
Toy Story (1995)- Perhaps the greatest Disney movie ever, most kids have probably already watched Toy Story multiple times by the age of 5! However, it is a good one to remind kids and teens that it is a ‘classic’ and from ‘back in the day’ in order for them to appreciate movies before their birth!
Back in the Day Movies to show Teens
Clueless was released the same year as Toy Story, so it’s another good one to show quality comedy to your kids. This one is certainly better for the tween and teen crowd, but it’s also should be pointed out to them that it’s based off a Jane Austen novel!
Napoleon Dynamite: This one is a bit older than some others given here, but being from 2004, it’s still quite ‘ancient’ in most eyes of teens and younger. Napoleon is the kind of movie you have to watch multiple times in order to get the humor but once you do, it becomes a favorites for one-liners. I can almost guarantee it’ll be popular with your teens!
For Those Who Grew Up in the Late 70s and Earlier
Monty Python is comedy gold and typically on every ‘best of’ list, so it’ll be easy to persuade your tweens and teens to watch. Be sure to take credit for this masterpiece as it’s definitely from ‘back in the 70s day.’
Airplane! and it’s sequel was something my brothers and I watched over and over, laughing til tears fell down our face and our bellies hurt. While some of the humor is a bit risque for younger kids, with parental supervision, it’s suitable for most elementary and older, and you can always fast-forward any questionable parts. It’s worth the effort!
Back In My Day Punchline
The punchline for using ‘back in my day’ is that while it’s often funny, if not also cheesy, it’s actually much deeper than that.
Back in my day is a humorous way to teach about history, about your own life, and about issues, both what you approve of and don’t, in a low-stakes, creative way.
So go ahead and share your ‘back in my day’ stories with your kids, grandkids, and students!
For further reading about humor, I suggest these articles: