My son offered to give me a knuckle sandwich, and I’m confused because it’s 2022. Why are kids still using the same lingo I used in the 1980s?
OPINION: Apparently, some terms are so good that they cross generations and might live as long as the cockroaches.
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
I don’t know if you have little kids, but I do—little boys at that—and that means my days are full of unfunny jokes and non-stop laughs at farts. Seriously, I don’t know what is so hilarious about farting, but actual farts are undefeated in the “comedy for kids” department. If you are an up-and-coming comedian looking to corner the crass-kids corner, get up on stage and just let it rip for 30 minutes—you’ll make millions.
Lately, my boys cannot stop—and I mean that quite literally—yelling “butt crack!” over and over. One of my kids wakes up saying “butt crack!” He walks in the door and says it. He walks out the door and says it. I don’t know how school teachers do it; I’m sure while in class the kids know better, but the playground must be full of little boys yelling out body parts and farting and then all falling out from laughter. I’m sure I was like this as a child though in my recollection I was building nuclear fission something-or-others and reading James Baldwin books by age 4. I’m pretty sure that’s inaccurate, but that’s how I remember it.
Anyway, one of the more interesting things I’ve noticed is the generational step-and-repeat that is certain phrases. No matter how much slang changes—I still don’t understand what “cappin’” has to do with lying but that’s where we are right now; the first time I heard somebody say “no cap” I was genuinely trying to understand why we were referencing a person’s hat game…um…no cap. I bring this up because just the other day, my son who doesn’t like to yell “butt crack!” (as much) asked me if I wanted a knuckle sandwich, which I’m sure everybody recognizes as a colloquial term for getting punched in the face. I might have offered him one if I wasn’t so amused that this 7-year-old was recycling a term I know we used to use. The term itself sounds archaic. Like who really asks somebody if they want a knuckle sandwich? It sounds like something a non-tough street tough would have asked while cornering you in preparation for a fight during lunch in 1982. But it’s 2022, 40 years later and somebody somewhere offered this term to my son, and he brought it home.
I’ve never used the word around him so he must have picked it up from school. While his viewing choices on his iPad are often annoying—I genuinely cannot stand the “Ninja Kidz”—I’ve never heard them mention knuckle sandwiches. Yet here we are. So somebody at school, probably with an older sibling or a grandparent who likes to joke around introduced the term and it’s now in my home. But similarly, I’ve heard the kids yell out “whoever smelt it dealt it,” and I’m like, wow, WE’RE STILL USING THE SAME PHRASES. I wonder if these things have been around since Biblical days, but neither King James nor whichever Gilead was tasked with writing the Bible—a tedious task if ever there was one—thought it appropriate to place. I can just imagine a young Jesus telling the homie Lil Pete, “whoever smelt it dealt it.” When they weren’t dropping bars that did make it into the Bible, I’m sure there were some things worth omitting. I’m losing my way.
They’re also in a “jinx” phase, and again, from where? It’s so funny to me because I really assumed this stuff would phase itself out at some point, but older siblings always pass culture down to their little siblings, intentionally or otherwise, and now my kids keep trying to catch me in a “jinx”-like situation so they can silence me. But I have to keep telling them that it’s a new day, bro, and I will not be silenced. There are other things they’re saying that reminds me of my own youth—they have also gravitated towards things being “fresh”; 1988 is also confused by this—and I continue to be amused by it. Kids never cease to keep you laughing. I’m here for it all.
Now, if they ever say “slap me some skin, my man” you might as well stick a fork in me…because I’ll be done.
Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said “Unknown” (Blackest).
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