Monday, August 3, 2009

The “Say ‘Heyday’ Kid” *

My teenage daughter and I were having a conversation the other day and I mentioned the word “heyday.” To my surprise, she had never heard the term before (doubly surprising considering what a voracious reader she is).

Striving to give as precise a definition as possible off the top of my head, I explained that it was a person, entity or organization’s “glory days” ... the period of greatest success, happiness, prosperity, etc. A peak of something that has had some degree of duration.

“Oh, like ‘Golden Age,’” she said.

“Yes, very similar,” I replied, “but with a subtle difference.”

I stopped there, not sure that on the spot I could explain exactly what that subtle difference is. Even after consulting the dictionary later to check my assumption, I’m still a bit tongue tied in articulating the subtle distinction between “heyday” and “golden age,” though I’m still convinced there is one. From what I can surmise from Webster’s, which was not wholly explicative on the subject, “heyday” seems to refer to the experience of a smaller or more specific entity (person, organization, etc.), whereas “golden age” tends to be a more universal experience, or at least that of a much larger entity. For example, one might say the “golden age of Rome” or the “golden age of television,” but refer to “CBS News’ heyday with Walter Cronkite” or reference the “band’s heyday” when citing The Rolling Stones’ 1968-1972 period.

Today, I ran across a bunch of live clips of The Waterboys from throughout their career. One of the best was the band performing their simple, but poetic folk song “Fisherman’s Blues” on BBC-TV in April 1986. It struck me that while The Waterboys have had a substantial and lengthy run of it, with some truly outstanding high points, this was the heyday of the band’s career.

Glory days, indeed. Enjoy!

You do have to wonder what’s up with the studio audience, however. They look near catatonic. Despite the vigor of the band’s performance, the TV studio crowd may well not have even really known who they were. Maybe theses folks were expecting Duran Duran or something!

* Apologies for the tortured – and most definitely dating – Willie Mays reference.


  1. I think of "heydey" as being more associated with youth than golden age. But I agree that your wouldn't refer to a person or a band has having a "golden age." They could be a part of a "golden age," as in,"The Rolling Stones contributed to the golden age of rock music." If a person has a golden age, I'd say it's their 50s.
    (not signed up to comment on blogs. Can't remember the darned passwords ...)

  2. What a great Waterboys clip! Mike Scott looks like a cross between Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler in this. I know - it sounds weird, but it's uncanny. I actually searched online for photos of the two to hold up beside Scott and it looks like one of those "what will your kid look like" computer creations.
    Here's my take on the golden age vs heydey thing (which is similar to your take)--
    Golden age refers to a period of significant accomplishment and progress for a category of things (like "industry" or "rock'n'roll") Heydey refers to a time of greatest success and popularity for a specific person or thing.