People Hated Millennials Even in the Middle Ages

This week's column was inspired by an article by Eric Weiskott, Millennial Bashing in Medieval Times.

(The following story has been translated from Olde English, circa late 1300s.)

"Young people these days!" said Geoffrey Chaucer, casting the evil eye over at a group of young drinkers at another table.

"Aye," said William Longdale, another noted, but less well-known author. "Can't live with 'em, can't shoot 'em with an arrow."

"What are you on about?" said Thomas Malory. He had just joined his friends with his own mug of ale.

"Oh, those young people over there," said Geoffrey, gesturing at their fellow tavern patrons. They appeared to be in their mid-teens, and were boasting about their day's work as laborers and merchants. "They've got no appreciation for the old ways anymore. They're ruining language."

"It's always about language with you," said Thomas. "Write one tale and suddenly you're the Lord Chamberlain of today's modern English. You've let your own fame go to your head."

"It's been seven tales, and yes, God has granted me that role," said Geoffrey.

William spoke up: "Aye, and a good caretaker he makes too."

"Stop saying 'aye,'" said Thomas. "It makes you sound like a pirate."

William ignored him. "Teenagers are ruining language, twisting it around to mean something new. For example, now they're using the word 'nervous' to mean agitated and afraid. In my day, it meant that you were sinewy and strong."

"We're still in your day," said Thomas.

"Yes, but I'm 27, and here in 1388, that's practically middle age. My own father never lived a day past 33, so I've only got six years by my reckoning."

"I thought your father was kicked in the head by a horse," said Geoffrey.

"Yes, but only because that witch caused the horse to become spooked when Father dropped his bucket."

"There's something else these young people don't respect: superstition," said Thomas. "They're always blathering on about science and 'proof.' It used to be a story told from one friend to another friend to a third was enough to have a witch burned. Now young people are spouting off about laws and justice. What kind of world is it when the word of Blind Harry the Beggar isn't good enough for an angry mob?"

"Not only that, they're reading books. 'Sblood, books," said Geoffrey. "No one is happy with just sitting around the hearth and telling tales of woe and sorrow?"

"Ever since that damn German built his movable type machine, all the monks are out of work copying documents," said William.

"And the music these days," groused Thomas, finally getting into the spirit of things. "It used to be a good song would be about courtly love and romance and tales of knights doing great deeds to win a simple kiss from their fair ladies. Now we have bawdy tales of people having sex out of wedlock or taking several lovers."

"Sorry, that one's on me," said Geoffrey. "My 'Wife of Bath' tale became popular with many ladies of London after it was on 'Top Of The Pops.'"

"Why can't young people just be satisfied with their lot in life?" said Thomas. "My daughter was telling me the other day that with these modern improvements to hygiene, like bathing once a week or rubbing our teeth with a rag, we could live to our 50s. That's practically ancient!"

"My grandfather lived to 51," said Geoffrey. "He was stooped over and broken from a life of toil. He finally died when the physician over bled him with leeches."

"Sounds like a blessing in disguise," said Thomas.

"Agreed. He said he wasn't dead when we loaded him on the cart," said Geoffrey, "but he was well-known for his lies and fairy stories. He's the reason I became a writer, in fact."

"And what's with all this taking to the streets and protesting? Now they're on about the Peasant's Revolt or some such nonsense. I can't even walk down the street without being yelled at by a bunch of young people in skinny leggings, big bushy beards, and flannel shirts," said William.

"What's flannel?" asked Geoffrey.

"It's like a Scotsman's tartan, but more pretentious," said Thomas. "It's what city dwellers wear when they want to look like woodsmen, although they've never lifted an axe in their lives."

"Aye, these young city dwellers have the softest of hands," said William. "I haven't felt skin that soft since my own son was born."

"How is your son these days?" asked Geoffrey.

"Oh, he's doing well. The lad finally got married and settled down. I was worried that he was going to live with us forever, but we managed to get him married off before he turned 16. Now he's apprenticing with John the Smith. Another two years, and my Evan will have his own smithy, unless John the Smith's physician can cure his scurvy."

"Leeches!" said Geoffrey.

"Leeches!" said Thomas.

"That's what I said," said William. "He said John the Smith's doctor was one of these modern new doctors who went to Cambridge. He recommends fresh fruit."

"Young people," scoffed Geoffrey.

"Young people," said Thomas.

"Aye, they're ruining everything," said William, and the three men toasted with their mugs and drank deep.

Photo credit: Unknown (Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons)

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