It Just Sounds So Modern

In July of 2010, Ben Zimmer wrote an article for The New York Times titled “Man Men-esein which he discusses the accuracy of the show’s dialogue for the time period. Overall, Zimmer defends the historical accuracy of the language used by the show. He questions why Man Men has received so much scrutiny for language despite it being the only show on television that works hard to sustain historically appropriate use of language.

This article provides a clear look at Mad Men’s use of time appropriate language and cites many examples of phrases the creators of the show regret having used due to the language being from a later time period than the show. One example he shares is Joan’s line from season one “The medium is the message,” a phrase that was not coined for another four years. The evidence cited is made more credible because the author actually received this information from a conversation with Mathew Weiner, the creator, executive producer and head write of the show. The author also includes examples of lines with issues from multiple linguists and more generally lines that have upset viewers such as Roger’s line “I know you have to be on the same page as him.”

After discussing more examples of non-historically applicable language, the author then questions why the show has received so much scrutiny for this by viewers, which he argues was brought on by Weiner and his staff members need for accuracy and perfectionism with other aspects of production. This argument is supported by the author’s reference to examples such as the importance of the size of a fruit bowl to Weiner in set design.

The author then redirects the article to his conversation with Mathew Weiner in which Weiner explains the process through which he and his staff writers work to avoid words and phrases that don’t work for the time period. He ends the article by discussing Weiner’s personal struggle to use completely accurate language as he identifies himself as “one of the most nitpicky people in the world.”

Overall, this article provides great insight for anyone interested in the historical appropriateness of Mad Men’s language and pulls from a good variety of sources to demonstrate this, and using Mathew Weiner, the show’s creator as a main source certainly enhances the article.

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