Saturday, December 23, 2017

and "Yes, Virginia"

A few weeks back Roger ran a post about the famous "Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" New York Sun editorial. He had mentioned it to a younger staffer who was TOTALLY unfamiliar with it.

I guess I'm getting old. Because it surprised me someone would NOT know that. I seem to remember that the Akron Beacon Journal used to re-print the editorial (which by then had perhaps passed into public domain) every Christmas. Or at least, I KNOW I read it somewhere as a kid. It is a good thing to read. It doesn't explicitly say "yes," and it doesn't explicitly say "no." As an adult, I realize what the editor was doing: not wanting to let a child down, but at the same time hint that Santa was really more....metaphorical....and if she remembered the editorial when she was older, she'd probably figure that out.

the full text of  her letter, and the editor's lovely and sensitive response

I kind of think there was also a television special a few years back based on this? (Yes, but it's almost 30 years ago now. Which might as well be 100 years, for some people). And there was an animated one that I may well have seen as a child.  And didn't Macy's did a holiday campaign on this theme?

But it does concern me when bits of the shared culture fade away. Already there are references I make that I realize only my non-traditional students get. And there are funny disconnects - a couple years back I had a student who didn't know what a "spigot" was, in the sense of "an outdoor water tap." (Apparently that is a more upper-Midwest thing, but it may also be a bit generational).

And I know I don't get stuff. I've had to scurry off to check "Urban Dictionary" a few times when the students giggled at something I said, in case I inadvertently said something that had a second, "bad" meaning (So far: no. But I'm sure it will happen.)

I never know how much of this stuff - knowing things like this - are me being a bit of a nerd (I read copiously as a child, I read somewhat less as an adult but I still read and I am interested in history) or perhaps, some would say, show my privilege a bit: my parents got a newspaper, I read it, my parents cared about us knowing this kind of stuff.... and how much of it is people not bothering to look much past their noses? I know I've had a few students down the years who seemed depressingly and monumentally incurious - I remember asking someone once, when they couldn't come up with any ideas for their research project, "What interests you in biology?" and they just kind of shrugged and said, "Nothing, really" and I wanted to shake them and go "WHY ARE YOU MAJORING IN IT, THEN?" And also, the cases of people not knowing stuff (like how to calculate an average) that I would argue an adult SHOULD know - and getting angry with me when I expect them to know it.

But yeah. I don't know most current music outside of a few things friends refer to. But I know Bing Crosby and Dean Martin and I often recognize the old tunes used in advertising and wind up going "Why on earth are they using a song about the poor people of Paris to sell face cream?" and the like....

And I admit I take some pride and pleasure when I recognize something someone older than me or more well-versed than I am in classic American pop music refers to, or when I make some comment about it and they go, "You know, that makes sense"

But it does make me sad that it seems we're fast approaching a day when we all have a very fractured cultural "language."

1 comment:

Mokihana said...

We just finished watching "Prancer", a wonderful Christmas movie. There's a good reference to Virginia in it, and the movie uses the theme for part of the story. If you haven't seen it yet, I think you'd like it.