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I Love It When You Talk Retro: Hoochie…

I Love It When You Talk Retro: Hoochie Coochie, Double Whammy, Drop a… (original 2010; edition 2009)

by Ralph Keyes

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1175173,524 (3.43)19
Discusses those "verbal fossils" that remain embedded in our national conversation long after the topic they refer to has galloped off into the sunset. Mrs. Robinson, Edsel, "Catch-22", Gangbusters, "Alphonse and Gaston", or "Where's the beef?" are just a few of the "retroterms" that can be found in this word-lover's store of trivia and obscure references.… (more)
Title:I Love It When You Talk Retro: Hoochie Coochie, Double Whammy, Drop a Dime, and the Forgotten Origins of American Speech
Authors:Ralph Keyes
Info:St. Martin's Press (2009), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 320 pages
Collections:Your library

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I Love It When You Talk Retro: Hoochie Coochie, Double Whammy, Drop a Dime, and the Forgotten Origins of American Speech by Ralph Keyes (2010)

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Showing 5 of 5
A surprising number of the words and phrases that we use every day are actually allusions to once-current events, people, pop culture, or technology, and many more of them originated as sports references, military terms, movie-making lingo, or other kinds of specialized language. Some of them have been used so often and for so long that they're now just part of the way we talk, long after we've forgotten what they originally referred to.

I Love It When You Talk Retro explores these expressions, with examples from various categories (names-turned-words, literary references, allusions to politics, etc., etc.) and short explanations of where they came from and how they entered our speech. Some seem very obvious, others interestingly obscure, but, as the author points out, which ones you think are common knowledge and which are new to you will vary from person to person, and depends a lot on exactly when you were born.

I've read a few other books lately that have dealt with similar topics, but I think this is far and away the best of them, or at least the most entertaining. That's largely because Keyes doesn't take a condescending "Here's some allusions you should be aware of if you want to be culturally literate" tone. He also doesn't organize things in a dictionary or encyclopedia format. Instead, he just takes a pleasant ramble through the history of American speech, and invites the reader along for the ride. And it's kind of fascinating, not least because it highlights the fact that so much of what we say can't be understood just by knowing what all the individual words mean, but is steeped thoroughly in our culture and history in ways that we don't necessarily even realize. It's also fun to speculate on what references or catchphrases that are current today will still be in use ten or twenty or fifty years from now, something Keyes indulges in a little bit in the final chapter.

It's hardly a comprehensive collection of "retroterms," but for language lovers, it's a pleasant and often informative read. ( )
5 vote bragan | Apr 25, 2012 |
Overall a fairly enjoyable book. Because I often assert that I was born too late, I found myself recognizing a good deal of these phrases, especially in the chapter on eponyms and terms referring to classical studies (e.g. Gordian knot, Pyrrhic victory). Also I definitely know what a breadbox is.

My favourite chapter was probably the one on terms that came into common usage through the various world wars and global conflict (WW1, WW2, Korea, Vietnam) -- I spent most of that chapter thinking, "Hey, I use that term! And that one! And that one too!" Apparently my idiolect makes extensive use of conflict-based terms, such as cooties, cold feet, shell-shocked, flash in the pan, and going off half-cocked. I also liked the chapter on nautical terms and was quite surprised to discover the origin of the phrase "taken aback".

Some folk may beg to differ with Keyes' assertions re advertising jingles that have stood the test of time -- the prologue states that Chiffon Margarine's "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature!" has been around for a long time, whereas the Alka-Seltzer slogan "I can't believe I ate the whole thing!" has not. In my experience the reverse is true -- I had never heard the Chiffon Margarine slogan before reading it in this book. I did however agree with the longevity of "Where's the beef?" and "I've fallen and I can't get up!" So perhaps some of these jingles and catchphrases are more popular in some areas than others. I would also argue that "kids these days" are probably somewhat conversant with LP-related terminology like "stuck in a groove" and "flip side" given the resurgence in vinyl.

All in all there is plenty of food for thought and fodder for debate in this book. Worth a read if you like knowing where expressions come from or if you're looking for some new (new-to-you) ones to sprinkle into conversation. ( )
1 vote rabbitprincess | Oct 9, 2011 |
As the introduction notes, the book is designed to be read straight through, browsed, or used as a reference for colloquialisms Keyes terms "retrotalk". He defines retrotalk as "a slippery slope of puzzling allusions to past phenomena." I found the book appealed not only to my endless fascination with words and etymology but my delight in trivia.

The book divides itself into chapters based on the source of the terms (for example, films, the military, etc.). The general pattern of the book is that there is a paragraph devoted to each term explaining its origin with the term appearing in bold, typically towards the end of the paragraph. Reading the book straight through, I found the bolding of the terms distracting but know that this stylistic choice would make it easier to use the text for browsing or reference. Some of my favourite explanations included those for cardigan sweater, boondocks, scuttlebutt, deep-six, and Molotov cocktail.

Overall, a decent read for anyone interested in lexicography, etymology, and trivia. ( )
2 vote MickyFine | Jun 23, 2011 |
List of idiomatic expressions from the past, arranged by topic. Etertaining for word buffs, but also a useful reference work. ( )
1 vote briantomlin | Mar 5, 2010 |
In this well-researched,well written book, Keyes examines (mostly) common phrases and words with (sometimes) forgotten origins. For each word or phrase, the author shares the term's meaning, its origin, and an example of its use. One of the more delightful things about reading this book now, is how recent many of these examples were. The 2008 Democratic primary of Clinton v. Obama is referenced several times, as are recent books and articles. While it does make me curious about how well this book will age, it serves to make I Love It When You Talk Retro an excellent read for this day and age. While I read this book cover to cover, I think most readers would prefer it as a browsing kind of book.

http://archthinking.blogspot.com/2009/07/review-i-love-it-when-you-talk-retro.ht... ( )
1 vote lorin77 | Jul 2, 2009 |
Showing 5 of 5
In his excellent introduction to this language book, Keyes defines retrotalk as a "slippery slope of puzzling allusions to past phenomena," allusions that employ terms he refers to as "verbal artifacts," or phrases that hang around in our national conversation long after the topic they refer to has vanished from memory. Hard as it may be for those of a certain age to acknowledge, young people no longer understand references to 45 rpms, breadboxes, and Ma Bell. In addition, one's comparisons also often fall along generational lines, as talking-head David Brooks discovered when he compared Hillary Clinton's first debate performance to Emily Post and her second to Howard Beale. The names of the mistress of etiquette and the raving anchorman from the movie Network do not resonate with anyone younger than 50. The bulk of Keyes' book is devoted to a pedestrian listing of such words and phrases and their origins, grouped in chapters related to the venues, such as boxing, politicians, movies, and comics, that gave rise to the terms. Still, the list makes addictive reading for word nerds and informative browsing for everyone else.--Joanne Wilkinson
added by kthomp25 | editBooklist, Joanne Wilkinson
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For my sons David and Scott, who helped me with this book, as they've helped me with so many things.
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A list compiled every fall at Beloit College attracts much attention.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Discusses those "verbal fossils" that remain embedded in our national conversation long after the topic they refer to has galloped off into the sunset. Mrs. Robinson, Edsel, "Catch-22", Gangbusters, "Alphonse and Gaston", or "Where's the beef?" are just a few of the "retroterms" that can be found in this word-lover's store of trivia and obscure references.

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