For a second year we’ve jumped into the way-back-when machine, dialed it back several decades, and shared our “old school” words to 30 college students age 25 and under.   

Their guesses as to the meaning of our “freaky-deaky” phrases put a twinkle in our wrinkle.

A little dab will do ya:  Depending on the song, “dab” today means to take a puff or a hit, or just relaxing. Little did the students know the original phrase was part of a ad jingle persuading men to give their hair what amounted to a lube job:

Brylcreem, a little dab will do ya

Brylcreem, you’ll look so debonaire

Brylcreem, the gals will all pursue ya

They’ll love to get their fingers in your hair.”

Nowadays, rubbing my fingers through the hair of the men I know feels like trying to pick up a bowling ball!

Betamax: Students thought it to be “some kind of movie theater.” Developed in 1975 during the “Please be kind and rewind” era, Betamax eventually lost out to VHS.

We could have paid off the national debt with the late fees we accrued.  

Boob tube: Six students knew this one. Others guessed that this pejorative term for television was some sort of, I kid you not, “vacuum cleaner for bras”!

Imagine what our parents would have thought about today’s teens averaging nine hours per day in front of some sort of glowing screen!  

Here’s a reminder to us all: life is what we’re doing while we’re waiting for our cell phones to vibrate!

Ducktail: When we think of this Philly creation from the ’50s, we can’t help but think of Elvis and the Fonz. One student guessed a Ducktail was “…when your tucked-in shirt starts puffing out in the back.”

Actually, the college students were more interested in what a “Fonz” was!

Shake it, don’t break it: Any of you men have memories of telling a girl to “shake it, don’t break it”? If so, you probably also have memories of getting slapped.  

Students thought this was a warning to be careful with something fragile. In reality, it was a compliment “Daddy-Os” (aka “Dipsticks”) catcalled to “chicks” who had a “wiggle in their walk.” 

Johnny Mercer even wrote and cut a record by that title in 1953.

Hair eyeball: Students speculated that giving someone this look meant “passing on a contagious disease.”

Submarine races: Students couldn’t figure out why anyone in their right mind would be interested in watching such a spectacle. We explained that when we used that term we actually were not in our right mind — that’s because we were teenagers who wanted to play a little “tonsil hockey” in a steamed-up car!

By this point the students under 25 were giving us the hairy eyeball, looking at us like we didn’t have a full deck.

How do we tell them we’re still cool and holding all 52 cards, that we’re just shuffling a little slower these days?

Until I catch you on the flip side . . . keep thinking the good thoughts.

— For more than 30 years, Rona Barrett was a pioneering entertainment reporter, commentator and producer. Since 2000, she has focused her attention and career on the growing crisis of housing and support for our aging population. She is the founder and CEO of the Rona Barrett Foundation, the catalyst behind Santa Ynez Valley’s first affordable senior housing, the Golden Inn & Village. Contact her at The opinions expressed are her own.