Anachronisms


Roberta and I found 3 phrases we thought were anachronisms. Commenter latenac did the research and none of them are, in fact, anachronistic for 1960. This isn’t the first time we’ve discovered this sort of thing.

Here’s an interesting question: Why did they sound as if they were?

I think it’s because people in the movies and TV of 1960 didn’t talk much like the real people of 1960; certainly not to the extent that realistic dialogue exists (or attempts to exist, depending upon the skill of the writer) today.

This is one of Weiner’s themes, of course, that the people in Mad Men aren’t people in movies; they’re people who watch people in movies. 1960, I am so over you.

Roberta and I have been keeping a folder of potential anachronisms. It’s a very well-written show, of course, and therefore a very small folder. Here’s what we’ve got:

In 5G, Midge says to Don:

It must be so intense above 14th Street.

That strikes me as something we didn’t start saying until the 1980s. Calling things “intense” sounds kinda druggy/trippy; maybe mid-70s but I don’t believe earlier. I’m interested in any memories of the usage of this word in that way. Anyone?

In Red in the Face, there are two military phrases. First Betty says to Francine,

You’re my friend, are you here to do recon?

Later, after Roger throws up, Bert Cooper says to the Nixon guys,

Let’s let Roger regroup.

“Regroup” in particular sounds a little off for 1960, not something you’d say about one person. I’m guessing here, I’m not a linguist and I wasn’t alive at the time.

Thoughts?

In Long Weekend, Joan posts a memo on the bulletin board that the office will be closed on Labor Day.

Which means that’s not routine? That people didn’t know whether or not the office would be closed?

It’s sort of baffling. Does Sterling Cooper have no stated holiday policy? Do employees simply not know what their days off will be? And is Labor Day actually optional?

I checked up on this. Labor Day has been a holiday for a very long time. Business have been closed on Labor Day for over a hundred years, and workers in an office such as Sterling Cooper would certainly expect and know well in advance that Labor Day was a long weekend (hence the title).

This hovers on the edge of goof. It’s more one of those cheap TV tricks to remind the viewers of what’s going on, and put Joan in the right place at the right time. It’s the kind of “goof” that you wouldn’t notice on a lesser show, but because Mad Men rarely relies on stupid trickery, it stands out.

Or I’m too obsessed. Either way.

Everyone (including, let’s be truthful, me) made fun of Bush for calling himself ” The Decider.” Typical Bushism—guy can’t speak, right?

In Long Weekend, there’s a Kennedy commercial on TV that Don and Pete watch. In it, Kennedy mocks Nixon for saying that as Eisenhower’s veep, Nixon made a lot of decisions and was a part of policy in the White House (sort of how Obama has mocked Clinton).

Anyway, in the commercial, a journalist refers to President Eisenhower as “the decider.” Which is sort of the opposite of an anachronism; it was treated as a coinage when Bush said it, but turns out, not so much.

This has been driving me crazy. I will state right now that I haven’t researched this… I suppose the trick would be to find a book cover from 1960 of Exodus, or even some other best seller from the period that was re-issued while the movie based on it was in production. For my purposes, to find several books. Or print ads for those books.Because in Babylon, when Lily Meyer slides Exodus across the conference room table and over to Don, she tells him that it is “soon to be a major motion picture”. And she says it with the quotation marks as part of her inflection; she is lifting a popular phrase.

My gut, and my gut alone, tells me that turning this kind of phrase was not commonplace. That even if the industry was using it, people were not. People just didn’t lift catch-phrases the way they do today. Especially people to whom English is a second language. I really don’t think that started until the 70’s; I believe it to be a post-modern phenomenon, and in 1960 we were just broaching modern.

Now, Deborah suggests that perhaps she was directly quoting, and not being ironic. Maybe that’s it. But I don’t see why she would be inclined to directly quote rather than rephrase.  (more…)

In Shoot, Jim Hobart says: “Can you imagine the lifestyle that goes with handling Pan Am? It’s a panty dropper.”

What’s beautiful about that is that it’s not an anachronism, and it would be painfully easy to use the word “lifestyle” anachronistically. “Lifestyle” has been around since 1929, but when I was a child it was used to describe, well, your style of life. How much money you had, your marital status, whether you lived in the city or the suburbs, that sort of thing. From there it shifted into life choices; ultimately getting attached to subculture and community. The Religious Right refers to a “gay lifestyle” but you might also say a “religous lifestyle” or a “Green lifestyle” or whatever.

It’s got to be pretty tricky to write the script with a word like that, which has changed in subtle ways. So this is by way of kudos.

“‘Ya know I can’t believe I even thought about getting back together with you! We are SOOO over!”
~Rachel, re-breaking up with Ross on Friends (Episode 4:01; The One With the Jellyfish)

In a discussion about the possible origins of the term ‘self-worth’, Rondi commented about the anachronistic “1960, I am SO over you“.

First of all, Rondi, don’t second guess yourself. This one is absolutely undebateably out of step with the era. Is it POSSIBLE that a woman in 1960 could have put those words together in that sequence? Sure, it’s technically possible. But it screams Today. It screams it so loudly that I wonder if it was deliberate. (more…)

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