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?).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.”

4 thoughts on “Mad Men Soup: 15 Groovy Words From Season 6

  1. “Bake-off” in the business-competition sense strikes me as anachronistic here, although it’s hard to prove. My understanding is that it first took on the figurative sense among computer hackers in (I think) the 1980s, and it gradually entered other parts of business life.

    Which would make it anachronistic in the 1960s. I don’t think it’s used much in the advertising industry even now — except among agencies that specialize in technology.


  2. Thanks Nancy for the detective work! I did a very brief search in Google news archive before 1970 for figurative uses of ‘bake-off’ and couldn’t find any, although that’s hardly an exhaustive search.

  3. “Get it on” was around in the late 60s but may not have been recorded as a term until the 70s.
    Marc Bolan and TRex had a number 1 hit with “Get it on” in the summer of 1971 so the phrase would have already been in use however the title was changed to “Bang a Gong” for the US market as it was considered too rude for radio.
    As is always the case people use these terms before they are officially recorded.

    Great Post about a brilliant series!

  4. Thanks David! That’s a really good point. And I didn’t know that about TRex’s song. As a John Taylor fan, I’m more familiar with Power Station’s version. 😀

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