One for the Road: The Words of ‘Mad Men,’ A Final Roundup

Mad-Men-7B-Gallery-Don-Hamm-Betty-Jones-Peggy-Moss-Pete-Kartheiser-Joan-Hendricks-Roger-Slattery-980Gradient

Mad Men has always shown, perhaps this last half-season more than ever, that everything must come to an end — jobs, relationships, life, and yes, even our logophilic round-ups of the show.

So pour yourself a cocktail, light a smoke (actually, don’t), and enjoy these drinking terms, hobo words, and of course an anachronism or two.

battle royale

Peggy: “They all have their own toy. If we want enthusiasm, we should just have one toy.”
Stan: “Like a battle royale, just throw one in there, last kid standing gets the gig?”

“Time & Life,” April 26, 2015

Anachronism alert! While the term battle royal — that’s royal without an “e” — has been around since the 1670s, battle royale (with an “e”) didn’t come about until 1999 with the publication of the novel by Japanese writer Koushun Takami.

Both meanings, however, are the same — a fight involving many combatants —  with the added implication of a fight to the death for battle royale.

According to the Grammarist, the original battles royal were common as “huge boxing matches” in 17th and 18th century England. When they lost popularity, the big brawls migrated to the southern United States, and today exist “in the domain of professional wrestling and mixed martial arts.”

beer belt

Bill Phillips: “He lives in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio. Some call it the heartland. Some call it the beer belt.”

“Lost Horizon,” May 3, 2015

A beer belt (not to be confused with this snazzy accessory) is a swathe of countries or states where beer is the beverage of choice, or where it’s produced.

However, while certain countries in the UK and Europe have been referred to as the beer belt since at least the early 20th century, we couldn’t a reference to the beer belt of the U.S. earlier than 2014.

Other regional “belts” include the bible belt, parts of the U.S. dominated by Southern Baptist Convention or Protestant fundamentalism; the rust belt, an industrialized area with older factories, often no longer in use; the borscht belt, “the predominantly Jewish resort hotels of the Catskill Mountains”; and many more.

catch

Mathis [to Peggy]: “You’re a catch.”

“Severance,” April 5, 2015

While to be a catch, someone desirable for marriage or a relationship, might sound modern, the idiom has been around since about 1722, and comes from an early meaning of fish as someone desirable to catch or hook for matrimony.

catchphrase

Peggy [to Don]: “Have a big idea. Create a catchphrase.”

“The Forecast,” April 19, 2015

A catchphrase is widely-used phrase originally created as a slogan for a group, movement, fictional character, advertisement, etc. The term originated around 1837 with the idea of a group of words that “catch” attention.

Another catch- word is, well, catchword, a well-known word or phrase that encompasses some idea; a catchy name or slogan; or in printing, “the first word of a page printed in the bottom right-hand corner of the preceding page.”

Draw-a-Man test

Mr. McDonald: “Your little girl scored very low on her Draw-a-Man test.”

“Time & Life,” April 26, 2015

The Draw-a-Man test — now known as the Draw-a-Person test — was developed by American psychologist Florence Goodenough in 1926. In the current evaluation, the child is asked to draw a man, woman, and herself. The drawings are then assessed for absence or presence of features, amount of detail, and correct proportion.

The test’s validity has been questioned as there is low correlation between Draw-a-Person scores and other intelligence tests. In addition, since at least the 1960s, the exam has also been used as an indicator of schizophrenia.

go cry in church

Marie [to Megan]: “Let her go cry in church.”

“New Business,” April 12, 2015

Go cry in church is a dismissal of someone’s self-righteous complaints. In a cursory search, we couldn’t find the origin of the phrase. If you have any information, let us know in the comments!

Mildred Pierce

Roger [to Diana]: “Hey, Mildred Pierce, can I get the check?”

“Severance,” April 5, 2015

Mildred Pierce is a 1940s novel and movie about a Depression-era woman who supports her family by working as a waitress.

The Milk and Honey Route

“‘The Milk and Honey Route’ derives its title from a 1931 book subtitled ‘a handbook for hobos.’ It’s an apt point of reference for Don’s aimless wandering.”

Scott Meslow, “Mad Men Recap: ‘The Milk and Honey Route,’” The Week, May 11, 2015

The Milk and Honey Route: A Handbook for Hobos was written in 1930 by American sociologist Nels Anderson under the pseudonym, Dean Stiff. Anderson’s earlier study, “The Hobo: The Sociology of the Homeless Man,” was based in part on his own experiences as a migratory worker.

As for the milk and honey route, according to Anderson, it’s how “hobos” referred to the railroad. The original milk and honey route referred to the train that traveled from “Salt Lake City southward through the valleys of Utah,” an area which became “the greatest feeding ground” — or a land of milk and honey — for itinerant workers.

The phrase milk and honey meaning prosperity and abundance comes from biblical description of the Promised Land.

one for the road

Peggy [to Roger]: “This is the one for the road, okay?”

“Lost Horizon,” May 3, 2015

It’s popularly thought that the phrase one for the road, a final drink before departure, comes from “the supposed practice of offering condemned felons a final drink at pubs on the way to the the place of public execution in London.” However, no historical record supports this, says The Phrase Finder, and more likely it’s simply a colloquial reference to “a departing drink in English pubs.”

The earliest citation according to both The Phrase Finder and the OED is from 1939: “Propaganda should be employed to train and fortify public opinion in the condemnation of persons who drink before driving—above all to discourage the practice of ‘one for the road’.” The phrase was popularized by the 1943 Johnny Mercer song, “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road).”

person-to-person

Operator: “I have a person-to-person call for Betty Francis from Donald Draper.”

“Person to Person,” May 17, 2015

Person-to-person refers to a long distance phone call booked through an operator and “chargeable only when the caller speaks to an indicated person at the number reached.” The term, and presumably the practice, originated around 1919, says the OED.

Person-to-person calls still exist today, but, as a poster on Straight Dope says, “no one in their right mind” would actually place one. This type of call was useful in the past when long distance prices were exorbitant, but now with mobile phones and other technology, person-to-person calls are probably unnecessary.

Person-to-person also means direct communication between two people.

Want more Mad Men? Check out all of our Don Draper-esque posts.

The Words of ‘Mad Men': brunch, the four Ps, Mary Wells

Mad-Men-Season-7-Pictures

There’s only half a season left of Mad Men! We couldn’t mess around and lose our second to last chance to share our favorite words from the show.

brunch

Margaret: “I’d like to have brunch Sunday morning.”
Roger: “Sure, that’d be nice. I’ll bring vodka.”

“Time Zones,” April 13, 2014

While brunch, a combo of breakfast and lunch, may seem like a fad of the 1980s, the word actually originated around 1896 as “British student slang.” According to Google Ngrams, brunch gained a bit of popularity in the 1960s (this episode takes place in 1969) but didn’t really start to take off until the late 1970s.

four Ps

Wayne Barnes: “They pay me to think about the four Ps. Price, product, place, and promotion.”

“Time Zones,” April 13, 2014

The four Ps, or McCarthy’s four Ps, were proposed by marketing professor E. Jerome McCarthy in 1960. The four Ps are part of the marketing mix, a business tool. Also part of the marketing mix are the four Cs, which Robert F. Lauterborn developed in the 1990s: consumer, cost, communication, and convenience.

Hooterville telephone operator

Don: “I didn’t know I was going to get interrogated by the Hooterville telephone operator.”

“A Day’s Work,” April 20, 2014

Hooterville is the fictional town of TV shows Petticoat Junction and Green Acres. The telephone operator was Sarah, says the AMC blog, “the elderly switchboard ‘oppa-ray-TOR’ who tended to turn calls through the town’s antiquated party-line system into a variation on the telephone game.”

leg

Lou: “Why don’t you take us through the legs.”
Peggy: “Let’s start with radio.”

“The Strategy,” May 18, 2014

To be honest, we’re really not sure about the definition of leg here. We’re assuming it’s a broadcasting term, as per the Oxford English Dictionary, “a branch or supplementary network attached to the main network and providing coverage for a particular region,” where each leg is a different form of media (e.g., radio, print, and television).

An idea that “has legs” has staying power.

Longfellow Deeds

Lou: “What am I supposed to do? Just hide while he sits down there cooling his heels like Longfellow Deeds?”

“Field Trip,” April  27, 2014

Longfellow Deeds is the main character of the film, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. Deeds is “the co-owner of a tallow works, part-time greeting card poet,” and a tuba-player who “inherits 20 million dollars from his late uncle.” He’s considered by some to be a “heartless” and “ultra-rich man, who will not lift a finger to help the multitudes of desperate poor.”

Marriage Encounter

Brooks: “She hasn’t been herself lately, and we went to this Marriage Encounter group.”
Roger: “You’re kidding.”

“The Monolith,” May 4, 2014

Marriage Encounter is a religiously-based program developed in the early 1950s to “help married couples by reason of discovering or re-discovering the need for God in their lives.”

Marriage Encounter was started by Gabriel Calvo, a priest in Spain, while the New York City chapter was held under the guidance of Jesuit priest Charles (Chuck) Gallagher.

Mary Wells

Roger: “You want to walk down some hotel hallway and see Mary Wells sitting on Don’s lap the next time you go in to present?”

“Field Trip,” April 27, 2014

Mary Wells refers to Mary Wells Lawrence, the founding president of ad agency Wells Rich Greene and the first female CEO of a company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. In a previous episode, Don had lunch with an executive from Wells Rich Greene to discuss job prospects.

mess around

Peggy (to Don): “No. Stop messing around. It’s not funny.”

“Waterloo,” May 25, 2014

Here by messing around Peggy means joking or kidding around. This is probably the oldest meaning of the term, originating around 1853, according to the OED. Around 1896, mess around gained the meaning of “to handle roughly” as well as to have sex or an affair with someone.

In the mid-1920s, mess around also came to mean to improvise, especially in jazz music or dance. The Mess Around was “an improvised jazz dance” from the 1920s and 1930s.

retard

Ed: “What if you replaced [the Burger Chef mascot] with a fresh recruit? A saucy little retard named Scout.”

“The Runaways,” May 11, 2014

Retard is an offensive slang term for someone who is mentally handicapped, and by extension, a person thought to be “foolish or socially inept.”

In the early 1900s, says the OED, retard was a clinical term used in education and psychology meaning “a person displaying or characterized by developmental delay or learning difficulties”:

Then there are the backwards, or the retards for their years, and those subnormally endowed in respect to mental gifts, afflicted with physical defects of various kinds and degrees.

It was around 1968 that the term started to be used as derogatory slang for someone mentally or physically deficient.

tag

Peggy: “I want to get started right away. I think, 25 tags should get the ball rolling.”

“The Monolith,” May 4, 2014

Tag is short for tag line, “an often repeated phrase associated with an individual, organization, or commercial product; a slogan.” The Online Etymology Dictionary says tag line originated in 1916 as the “last line in an actor’s speech,” and then as the “punchline of a joke” in 1926. When it gained the meaning of “slogan” in advertising we’re not sure. If anyone has any insight, let us know in the comments!

 

Mad Men Soup: 15 Groovy Words From Season 6

Another season of Mad Men is wrapping up, and we’ve been collecting our favorite groovy words along the way. We have 15 here, including slang of the times, a bit of sales lingo, and some catsup (or is it ketchup?).

1-A

Arnold: “It doesn’t matter if he goes back to school. He’s 1-A. His induction could be tomorrow. He’s on a damned list for the rest of his life.”

“Favors,” June 9, 2013

1-A, or Class 1-A, is a classification of the Selective Service System, “an independent agency of the United States government that maintains information on those potentially subject to military conscription.”

Someone who is classified as 1-A is “available for unrestricted military service.” Class 1-S is someone who has deferred by statute, either high school or college. In 1969, President Nixon established “conscription based on random selection,” otherwise known as the draft.

bake-off

Stan [upon seeing Peggy and her rival agency]: “It’s a bake-off? Since when?”

“To Have and to Hold,” April 21

The first bake-off was held by the Pillsbury Company in 1949. At the time the contest was called the Grand National Recipe and Baking Contest, and was first referred to as a bake-off by Sheboygan Press, according to the Oxford English Dictionary: “In a grand final bake-off at the Waldorf-Astoria, Pillsbury Mills will award $150,000 in prizes.”

The word bake-off comes from playoff, which was coined around 1895, and cook-off, coined in 1936. It’s unclear when the figurative use of bake-off began. The earliest citation the OED has is from 2003.

blow (someone’s) mind

Ted [to Peggy]: “Your friend’s mistake was underestimating you. I hope ketchup makes the same mistake so you can blow their minds.”

“Collaborators,” April 14, 2013

The phrase, blow (someone’s) mind, originated in the mid-1960s to mean “to induce hallucinatory experiences (in a person) by means of drugs,” says the OED. It gained its figurative meaning, to astonish or shock, around 1967.

In 1965, a band called The Gas Company released a song called “Blow Your Mind,” while in 1966, the Barry Goldberg Blues Band had an LP called Blowing My Mind.

bogart

Rollo: “Should I roll another? Your friend bogarted the last one.”

“The Quality of Mercy,” June 16, 2013

Bogart has a few different meanings. The OED says the word originated around 1965 as African American slang meaning “to force, coerce; to bully, intimidate,” named for the actor Humphrey Bogart’s tough guy characters.

The meaning, “to appropriate (a marijuana cigarette) greedily or selfishly,” is from 1968, also named for Humphrey Bogart, in this sense referencing his “frequent on-screen smoking, especially to the long drags he took on cigarettes.”

Bogart also refers to “the first cup of brewed coffee collected from under the coffee filter.” We couldn’t find how this meaning came about. If you know, please fill us in.

catsup

Peggy: “So, what’s the difference between ketchup and catsup? Well, catsup has more tomatoes, comes in a bigger bottle, is cheaper, but tastes just like ketchup. Now we know that’s not true, but that’s what your competitors are saying.”

“To Have and to Hold,” April 21

As Slate tells us, there’s no difference between catsup and ketchup (and catchup for that matter) except the spelling. Catchup seems to have come first with a 1699 citation in the OED. Ketchup is next in 1711 and catsup brings up the rear in 1735.

These catsup varations may come from Amoy, also known as Xiamenese, a Chinese dialect. Kôechiap or kê-tsiap is Xiamenese for “brine of pickled fish or shell-fish.”

Ketchup caught on when Heinz, again according to Slate, changed “Heinz Tomato Catsup,” to “Heinz Tomato Ketchup” to distinguish it from competitors.

close

Roger: “I have this check for $10,000 because I close, Pete. I close things.”

“For Immediate Release.” May 5, 2013

Close here means to close a deal or bargain. The earliest citation, according to the OED, is in Charles Dickens’s 1839 novel, Nicholas Nickleby: “He closed the bargain directly it reached his ears.” The word closer, someone good “at bringing business transactions to a satisfactory conclusion,” is from around 1906, says the OED.

Always be closing (ABC) is “a sales strategy in which a salesperson should constantly look for new prospects, pitch products or services to those prospects and complete the sale.” According to Investopedia, “the phrase was popularized in the 1992 film ‘Glengarry Glen Ross.’”

get it on

Wendy [to Don]: “Do you want to get it on?”

“The Crash,” May 19, 2013

Anachronism alert! While this episode takes place in 1967, the term get it on, or to have sex, didn’t come about until 1971, according to the OED, appearing in B.B. Johnson’s Blues for a Black Sister: “She gripped him with her legs and they got it on.” But if anyone can antedate this term, please let us know in the comments.

grok

Squatter [to Betty]: “What you can’t grok is that we are your garbage.”

“The Doorway,” April 7, 2013

To grok means “to understand profoundly through intuition or empathy.” The word was coined by science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein in his 1961 novel, Stranger in a Strange Land: “Now that he knew himself to be self he was free to grok ever closer to his brothers.”

In Heinlein’s invented language, grok “is described as being from the word for ‘to drink’ and, figuratively, ‘to drink in all available aspects of reality.’” Grog is an alcoholic drink named for Old Grog, the nickname of a British admiral who always wore a grogram cloak.

groovy

Ted: “Fleischmann’s. Groovy. We’ll get right on that.”

“Man with a Plan,” May 12, 2013

Groovy originated in the late 1930s as jazz slang, says the OED, meaning “playing, or capable of playing, jazz or similar music brilliantly or easily.” Groovy comes from in the groove, which has the same meaning. Groove refers to the groove of a record, perhaps from the idea of a record playing smoothly and easily in a groove, as opposed to skipping.

margarine

Peggy: “[Margarine] was invented for Napoleon III because armies need to move and it never spoiled.”

“Man with a Plan,” May 12, 2013

Peggy’s right: in the 19th century, Napoleon III “offered a prize to anyone who could make a satisfactory alternative for butter, suitable for use by the armed forces and the lower classes.” In response, a French chemist “invented a substance he called oleomargarine, the name of which became shortened to the trade name ‘margarine’.”

Margarin, which comes from the Greek margarites, “pearl,” was the French term given to “a peculiar pearl-like substance extracted from” animal fat, a main ingredient in the original formulation of margarine.

out of sight

Party-goer: “I heard the bread is out of sight.”

“A Tale of Two Cities,” June 2, 2013

While out of sight might seem like typical slang from the ‘50s or ‘60s, it’s actually much older than that. The OED has it originating as U.S. slang for “excellent” or “wonderful” in 1891. We particularly like this citation from 1902: “‘How do you feel old chap?’ ‘Out of sight,’ replied the American.”

Bread as slang for money is from the 1940s, and comes from breadwinner, which originated in the 19th century with the idea of winning or earning bread or other food.

rap session

Ted: “I want to have a little rap session about margarine in general.”

“Man with a Plan,” May 12, 2013

The term rap session, “an informal discussion held especially by a group of people with similar concerns,” was very new at the time of this episode. The OED’s earliest citation is from 1968. To rap meaning to talk is from the 1920s.

Second Avenue subway

Realtor [to Peggy]: “Believe me, when they finish the Second Avenue subway, this apartment will quadruple in value.”

“The Flood,” April 28, 2013

While a few subway lines run up and down the west side of Manhattan, only one runs the entire length of the east, the Lexington Avenue Line. Plans for constructing a second east side subway, the Second Avenue subway, began in 1929. As of today, it is nowhere near completion.

truncheon

Michael: “You’re a truncheon, Cutler!”

“A Tale of Two Cities,” June 2, 2013

A truncheon is “a staff carried as a symbol of office or authority,” and ultimately comes from the Latin truncus, “trunk.” It may also be used figuratively to refer to an authority figure.

Yankee wrinkle

Pete: “How come you didn’t get yourself a job?”
Duck Phillips: “That’s a Yankee wrinkle. You interested in my business?”

“The Better Half,” May 26, 2013

A wrinkle is a “clever trick, method, or device, especially one that is new and different.” This meaning originated around 1817. Yankee, in addition to referring a native of New England or the U.S., has the 19th century meaning of “to deal cunningly with like a Yankee, to cheat,” says the OED. Thus, a Yankee wrinkle is an especially cunning trick or scheme.

From a 1912 article: “I have discovered the latest Yankee wrinkle. You couldn’t guess what this new scheme is if you tried a hundred times.”

Word Soup: Mad Men

From ricmeyers.com

Say it isn’t so! The season finale of Mad Men is right around the corner. While some have been on anachronism watch, we’ve been keeping our ears open for words that we like. From slang to advertising lingo to words of the time, we’ve gathered our favorites here, even managing to notice one out-of-place term (see sicko). Ben Zimmer would be so proud.

UPDATE: Sicko may not be an anachronism after all. Thanks to Ben Zimmer for the detective work!

bitchin’

Peggy [holding up Michael’s work]: “Have I lost my sense of smell or is this good?”

Stan [laughs]: “That’s bitchin’.”

“Tea Leaves,” April 1, 2012

Bitchin’ is slang for “excellent; first-rate,” and originated as “teen/surfer slang” in the 1950s. The word apparently plays on the verb sense of bitch, to complain, “in some inverted sense.”

calice

Megan [upon realizing Don’s surprise party has been spoiled]: “Calice.”

“A Little Kiss,” March 25, 2012

Calice is a Québécois French swear word which, according to Slate, “has its origins in Roman Catholic ritual—it’s the communion chalice.” Other French-Canadian swear words, says Slate, include “Calvaire! (Calvary), Ciboire! (ciborium—the container in which communion wafers are stored), Ostie! (communion wafer), or Tabarnak!Tabarnak is the Québécois equivalent of fuck and comes from tabernacle.

consumerism

Megan [to Don]: “I didn’t think [the play] was such a strong stand against advertising as much as the emptiness of consumerism.”

“Christmas Waltz,” May 20, 2012

The word consumerism, which was coined in 1944, originally meant “the movement seeking to protect and inform consumers by requiring such practices as honest packaging and advertising, product guarantees, and improved safety standards.” Around 1960, it came to refer to “the theory that a progressively greater consumption of goods is economically beneficial,” and by extension an “attachment to materialistic values or possessions.” Here Megan is referring to this last meaning of consumerism.

fresh

Betty [to Don]: “I wanted to know if you’d have any problem with me strangling Sally. I’m not joking. She’s fresh. And I prefer to not have her sourpuss ruining our trip.”

“Commissions and Fees,” June 3, 2012

Fresh in this context means “verdant and conceited; presuming through ignorance and conceit; forward; officious.” This sense originated in 1848 as U.S. slang, probably from the German frech, “insolent, cheeky,” which ultimately comes from the Old English frec, “greedy, bold.”

go ape

Hanson/Handsome: “Billy Josephs and I were supposed to join up, but my dad went ape.”

“Signal 30,” April 15, 2012

To go ape means “to become wildly excited or enthusiastic,” and is attested from 1955. “I Go Ape” is a 1959 hit song from Neil Sedaka. To join up means “to enlist or enroll,” and originated around 1916.

grabass

Don: “Now knock off the grabass and give me some lines.”

“The Other Woman,” May 27, 2012

Grabass means “horseplay; play fighting, wrestling.” We couldn’t find an exact date of origin but the term has been in use at least since the mid-1940s, perhaps beginning as military slang. Also playing grabass.

half-assed

Peggy [to Don]: “You didn’t want to rehearse. You ran through it one time half-assed.”

“Lady Lazarus,” May 6, 2012

Half-assed is slang for “not well planned or executed” or “incompetent.” The word originated around 1932 and may be “a humorous mispronunciation of haphazard.”

Hare Krishna

Mother Lakshmi: “Hare Krishna, Harry.”

“Christmas Waltz,” May 20, 212

Hare Krishna refers to “a chant to the Hindu god Krishna”; a “member of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), founded in the United States in 1966”; and “the society itself.” Hare translates from the Hindi as “O God!”

hep

Pete: “[The New York Times is] doing some literary profile on hip agencies.”

Bert: “Hep.”

“Dark Shadows,” May 13, 2012

Hep, first recorded in 1908, is slang for “aware, up-to-date.” However, with the rise of hip in the 1950s, says the Online Etymology Dictionary, “the use of hep ironically became a clue that the speaker was unaware and not up-to-date.” The speaker here is Bertram Cooper, and his use of hep is made even more ironic as he corrects Pete on his “hipper” language.

line

Don: “What’s the line?”

Peggy: “Doesn’t need one.”

“Dark Shadows,” May 13, 2012

Line is an advertising term that may be short for tagline or strapline.

mad money

Don: “Car fare, in case it doesn’t work out.”

Joan: “Mad money? Thank you.”

“Christmas Waltz,” May 20, 212

Mad money is “a sum of money, often relatively small in amount, kept in reserve to use for impulsive, frivolous purposes.” The term is attested from 1922, playing on the mad meaning of “wildly or recklessly frolicsome.” In this scene, the mad money is a from Don Draper, a “mad man,” with mad referring to Madison Avenue, slang for “the American advertising industry,” but also recklessness, derangement, or rage.

RFP

Roger [to Lane]: “A little bird told me you had an RFP from Jaguar.”

“Signal 30,” April 15, 2012

RFP stands for request for proposal, which “is issued at an early stage in a procurement process, where an invitation is presented for suppliers, often through a bidding process, to submit a proposal on a specific commodity or service.” Part of that proposal may be an SOW, or statement of work.

shakedown

Harry [to Mother Lakshmi]: “If this is some kind of shakedown, let me stop you right there. I know you’re trying to recruit me.”

“Christmas Waltz,” May 20, 212

Shakedown is slang for “extortion of money, as by blackmail,” and “a thorough search of a place or person.” When the word came about around 1730, it originally meant “a temporary bed made by shaking down or spreading hay, rushes, or the like, or also quilts or a mattress, with coverings, on the floor, on a table, etc.” The “extortion” meaning is attested from 1872, and “thorough search” from 1914, says the Online Etymology Dictionary, “both probably from the notion of measuring corn.”

sicko

Michael [to Peggy, Megan, and Stan gawking over gory pictures]: “You know what? You’re sickos.”

“Mystery Date,” April 8, 2012

A sicko is “a deranged, psychotic, or morbidly obsessed person.” The word plays off sick in the way weirdo plays off weird. But while weirdo originated in 1955, sicko didn’t come about until 1977, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. Therefore, sicko is a likely anachronism in this episode, which takes place in 1966. However, Ben Zimmer pointed out a Los Angeles Free Press movie advertisement dated April 16, 1965:

LARRY MOYER’S “THE MOVING FINGER”
Winner “Best Director” Award
San Francisco Film Festival
SEE…Freakos…wierdies (sic)…sickos…corrupt fuzz…faggots…wasted youth…smut…

The episode takes place in 1966 so sicko may not be an anachronism after all. Thanks, Ben!

square

Megan [to Don]: “You’re so square, you’ve got corners.”

“Tea Leaves,” April 1, 2012

Square is slang for “a person who is regarded as dull, rigidly conventional, and out of touch with current trends.” The word originated around 1300, says Online Etymology Dictionary, and came to mean “honest, fair,” in the 1560s; “straight, direct” around 1804; and “old-fashioned” in 1944 as “U.S. jazz slang, said to be from shape of a conductor’s hand gestures in a regular four-beat rhythm.” Squaresville originated around 1956.

A 1771 word, square-toes, has a similar meaning to square: “a precise, formal, old-fashioned personage,” from “a style of shoes then fallen from fashion.”

turn on

Sandy: “I say we postpone this conversation until after we turn on.”

“Far Away Places,” April 22, 2012

To turn on means to “get high, stoned, or drugged,” and seems to come from the phrase popularized by American psychologist Timothy Leary, turn on, tune in, drop out. Leary first used the phrase at a press conference in New York City on September 19, 1966, urging “people to embrace cultural changes through the use of psychedelics and by detaching themselves from the existing conventions and hierarchies in society.”

U-2

Pete: “I know. Because he hovers over your desk like a damned U-2. You think he’s looking at your breasts? He’s looking at my calendar!”

“A Little Kiss,” March 25, 2012

A U-2 is “a single-engine, very high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft operated by the United States Air Force (USAF) and previously flown by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).” It was nicknamed the Dragon Lady and first developed in the mid-1950s.

What are some of your favorite words from the series?

[Photo: Mad Men Season 5, from ricmeyers.com]