Staff Picks: Books, June 18, 2009
I Love It When You Talk Retro
Retrotalk and retroterms. These words are used by Ralph Keyes to describe the subject of his 2009 book I Love It When You Talk Retro. The main point of this volume is to give histories of words and phrases, the full meaning of which cannot be grasped unless one understands their origins. Keyes gives example after example, such as Ma Bell as the nickname for the phone company. We still say we answer the phone’s ring, we dial a number, and then hang up when we are finished with the call, even though with modern phones we have actually done none of these things. There’s a section on phrases that have appeared because of their connection to the office environment, such as rubber stamp, red tape, and pink slip. Animals are also a source for language such as a lame duck, a sitting duck, and a dead duck, as well as the goose that laid the golden egg, pecking order, and putting on the dog. For a time of amusement and enlightenment, this one’s a winner.