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View Full Version : When did "back in the old days" become "back in the day"


jharvey963
05-26-2008, 01:23 PM
"Back in the day" has seemed to completely replace the "back in the old days" phrase.

How did this happen?

Anyone have an earliest cite of this expression?

I'm making the (possibly unwarranted) assumption that "back in the day" is derived from "back in the old days". Any evidence for or against?

Thanks,
J.

Napier
05-26-2008, 02:00 PM
Back in the olden days I only heard "back in the olden days". I'm not even sure when "back in the olden days" became "back in the old days". I don't think I remember noticing "back in the day" until I was watching some movie in, oh, maybe the 80's.

Mister Rik
05-26-2008, 02:18 PM
I've always figured that "back in the old days" refers back to my grandparents' time or earlier, or my parents' childhood, and is used more in the sense of something that came long before myself.

If I say "back in the day", I'm referring to my own childhood, which makes me suspect that the phrase is derived not from "back in the old days" but rather from "back in my day".

Examples:

"Back in the old days, they used to ..."

"Back in the day, I/we used to ..."

I mean, how old do you need to be to consider your own youth "the old days"? I remember as a child asking my mom what things were like "in the old days" (i.e. the late 1940s through the 1950s). Mind you, I was asking this question in the early '70s. As far as my then-under-30 mom was concerned, the 1950s were most certainly not "the old days" :D

All this reminds me of an "American Joke they tell in Poland" (from MAD Magazine):

Q: What does an American call a period of war, poverty, and widespread unemployment?

A: "The Good Old Days"

samclem
05-26-2008, 08:43 PM
You can only find the experssion "back in the day" as early as 1989 on usenet(Google Groups). You can find many more examples of "back in the old days."

Usenet being a pretty good indicator of younger speak(IMHO), I'd tend to think sometime in the '80s is about right.

Cisco
05-26-2008, 09:22 PM
"Back in the day" was used tongue-in-cheek, mostly by young people trying to sound old, when I was growing up in the '90s. Sometime this decade it seems to have become a "legitimate" term that adults use in earnest. One generation's slang becomes the next generation's common expressions.

UltraVires
05-26-2008, 09:31 PM
"Back in the day" was used tongue-in-cheek, mostly by young people trying to sound old, when I was growing up in the '90s. Sometime this decade it seems to have become a "legitimate" term that adults use in earnest. One generation's slang becomes the next generation's common expressions.

This is how I remember it as well. When the term "back in the day" first started being used, it was accompanied with a smile..

AskNott
05-27-2008, 11:33 AM
People also smile when they say, "As women of a certain age will remember..."

Old-timers used to say, "In my day..." before telling you that kids were tougher, and adults were nobler or more civilized.

I like to mock that sort of thing by saying, "Back when we had steam-powered televisions..."

Napier
05-27-2008, 05:20 PM
>"Back when we had steam-powered televisions..."

You had steam?!?! etc etc

Mark Ryle
05-27-2008, 09:37 PM
I'm making the (possibly unwarranted) assumption that "back in the day" is derived from "back in the old days".In the mid-90's, when I first heard the altered phrase, I interpreted it "back in the good old days." But I agree with Cisco ("was used tongue-in-cheek before it became 'legitimate'") and jtgain ("when first started being used was accompanied with a smile"). Back then I did detect that, but don't now.

There has always been an element in it, I feel, of reference to the recent past, specifically the generation preceding the one (originally) employing the phrase. I used to hear it a lot in reference to music-related comparisons between those generations, always employed by the younger speaker, at times with a faint hint of sarcasm, but only at times. For that reason -- it was a useful phrase over and above the sarcasm -- I had a feeling it was headed for the mainstream.

"Back in the day" has a slightly different meaning than "back in the good old days" or even "back in the old days." That it is useful is one of the reasons it has taken over. I looked at it askance years before beginning to employ it, but now, as Cisco said, "it's become a legitimate term that adults use in earnest."

Ellis Aponte Jr.
05-28-2008, 11:20 AM
This expression definitely came from the hip hop community. Rappers used to say it in 1985 when remembering events of 1977 or such.

Tyrrell McAllister
05-28-2008, 02:31 PM
Back in the day, when people wanted to refer to things that happened back in the day, they'd just say, "These days, . . .".

Diceman
05-28-2008, 11:06 PM
I mean, how old do you need to be to consider your own youth "the old days"? I remember as a child asking my mom what things were like "in the old days" (i.e. the late 1940s through the 1950s). Mind you, I was asking this question in the early '70s. As far as my then-under-30 mom was concerned, the 1950s were most certainly not "the old days" :D
That's why I say "back in the day." I'm 32, and it just doesn't sound right to refer to my own childhood as "the old days." I know in my head that the 1980's were 20 years ago now, but it doesn't feel like a long time ago.

outlierrn
05-29-2008, 12:44 AM
>"Back when we had steam-powered televisions..."

You had steam?!?! etc etc


you were lucky!!




I'm pretty sure I picked it up from things to do in denver when you're dead

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