Scholars wishing to keep their finger on the pulse - or simply to avoid being seen as an old relic by their students - have been given a helping hand by US academics.
Beloit College has released its annual "Mindset List" to help lecturers stay on top of the cultural references that will and will not resonate with the Class of 2014, "a post-email generation for whom the digital world is routine and technology is just too slow".
The list, which is updated each year, was created in 1998 by Tom McBride, Keefer professor of the humanities, and Ron Nief, former director of public affairs at Beloit, to "remind faculty to be aware of dated references".
This year's cohort of students, according to the list, think that "Beethoven has always been a dog" and live in a time where "Czechoslovakia has never existed".
Professor McBride warns that they are "awash with computerised technology that will not distinguish information and knowledge" and will need to "acquire the patience of scholarship".
Academics are also warned that references to the rock group Nirvana will not cut it any more, as the band is now heard only "on the classic oldies station".
However, they can confidently refer to the lead singer of the hip-hop group Black Eyed Peas, since "Fergie is a pop singer, not a princess".
The list has not been welcomed by all. Linda Holmes, a contributor to National Public Radio's Monkey See blog in the US, said that it underestimated the intellectual capacity of today's students, who are "not necessarily a cultural black hole prior to the year they were born".
"The fact that we feel old is not the responsibility of the Class of 2014," she said. "This list isn't about the mindset of the Class of 2014. It's about the mindset of the people who write it. It's about what makes them feel ancient."
The list has also prompted academics on Twitter to start an alternative satirical list under the hashtag #freshmenmindset, which includes handy tips such as: "They've never worn wristwatches. Which means OMG THE WRISTWATCH IS DEAD!!!"
ARE YOU FEELING ANTIQUATED, PUNK?
1. Benny Hill has always been dead
2. John McEnroe has never played professional tennis
3. Clint Eastwood has always been a sensitive director rather than Dirty Harry
4. There have always been HIV-positive athletes in the Olympics
5. There have always been women priests in the Anglican Church
6. Galileo is forgiven and welcomed by the Roman Catholic Church
7. "Caramel macchiato" and "venti half-caf vanilla latte" have always been street-corner lingo
8. Had it remained operational, the villainous computer Hal could be their college classmate
9. They have never recognised that pointing to their wrists was a request for the time of day
10. Toothpaste tubes have always stood up on their caps
Source: Beloit College Mindset List.