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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 Hardcover – March 31, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0312340056 ISBN-10: 0312340052 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (March 31, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312340052
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312340056
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #574,077 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The phrase drinking the Kool-Aid is a mystery to young people today, as is 45rpm. Even older folks don't know the origins of raked over the coals and cut to the chase. Keyes (The QuoteVerifier) uses his skill as a sleuth of sources to track what he calls retrotalk: a slippery slope of puzzling allusions to past phenomena. He surveys the origins of verbal fossils from commercials (Kodak moment), jurisprudence (Twinkie defense), movies (pod people), cartoons (Caspar Milquetoast) and literature (brave new world). Some pop permutations percolated over decades: Radio's Take It or Leave It spawned a catch phrase so popular the program was retitled The $64 Question and later returned as TV's The $64,000 Question. Keyes's own book Is There Life After High School? became both a Broadway musical and a catch phrase. Some entries are self-evident or have speculative origins, but Keyes's nonacademic style and probing research make this both an entertaining read and a valuable reference work. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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

More About the Author

Ralph Keyes's sixteen books include the bestselling Is There Life After High School? which became a Broadway musical still produced in this country and abroad. His book Chancing It was a New York Times Notable Book, and The Courage to Write has been in print for 15 years. Keyes has discussed his work on Oprah, The Today Show, Tonight Show, ABC World News Tonight and 20/20 as well as NPR's Fresh Air, All Things Considered, Talk of the Nation, and On the Media. In addition to his books he has written hundreds of articles and essays for publications ranging from GQ to Good Housekeeping. An article Keyes co-authored for the Harvard Business Review won its prestigious McKinsey Award for Best Article of the Year. After graduating from Antioch College in 1967 Keyes spent was Assistant to the Publisher of Long Island's Newsday for two years. After that he spent a decade as a Fellow of the Center for Studies of the Person in La Jolla, California, then worked as a freelance writer in the Philadelphia area Keyes now lives in Yellow Springs, Ohio with his wife Muriel where he writes, lectures, and is a Trustee of the Antioch Writers' Workshop.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Sandbox47 on April 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover
When our daughter-in-law's parents turned 60 last December, my husband and I sent them a box of memorabilia from our common youth containing a "Don't Trust Anyone over 30" button, a "Make Love Not War" mug (with peace symbol), a "Groovy Chick" T-shirt, the Sunset Book of Macrame Plant Hangers, and our personal fave, a barbecue apron that read "I owned an 8-track player." This was all opened in front of the kids who were visiting for Christmas. The parents howled. The kids were...baffled.

Better that we had sent them Ralph Keyes "I Love It when You Talk Retro." Not just for serious Wordies, this collection of "retro terms" (which Keyes defines as a word or phrase...in current use yet [has]an origin that isn't current") is an equally fun read for your favorite boomer, clueless teenager, or simply the idle curious. It works well as a coffee table reference (we regularly find guests leafing through it) or nightstand favorite; our copy, in fact, has been regularly commuting back and forth between both places.

"I Love It When You Talk Retro" is a wonderful addition to anyone's personal library.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Anyechka on February 7, 2010
Format: Paperback
I couldn't stop reading this book because it was so packed with wonderful words and expressions, many of which I had never even heard of. As I read the introduction, I couldn't believe that so many young people entering college today have, for example, never heard of Watergate, are unfamiliar with cassette tapes, and draw a blank at the phrase "you sound like a broken record," but then again, a survey a few years back did show that more Americans can identify the Three Stooges than the three branches of our executive government, and sadly many young people believe history is boring and stupid. While many of the retroterms identified and explained by Mr. Keyes were completely new to me, that just proves the point he was making at the beginning. What's baffling or ancient history to your generation is a well-known reference or term used by another. However, because I have read a lot of older books, some of the terms that supposedly are a mystery to my generation were quite familiar, such as davenport (my preferred word for couch, actually!), icebox, victrola, Hays Code, and Comstock Act. Mr. Keyes doesn't just limit his book to 19th and 20th century retrotalk, but goes far back in history in some cases, such as for "cut a Gordian knot," "Pyrrhic victory," and "hanging by a thread." The book is divided into categories such as comic books, literature, university subjects, sports, personal names, transportation, and television. I also found it helpful as a historical fiction writer, as I discovered that some of the phrases and words I've used in my writing hadn't been coined back then!

However, I felt that a bit of a closer proofreading/editing job might have been needed, as I discovered a couple of embarrassing errors.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Virgil Hervey on April 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Ralph Keyes is more than a writer; he has fashioned himself into an expert on the origins of expressions used in everyday American speech. I Love It When You Talk Retro is a resource work, complete with notes, bibliography and an index, that can be breezed through with the ease of reading a personal essay or a work of fiction. What he has discovered is that the origins of our everyday speech can be a source of amusement, and he readily shares the amusing tidbits he has uncovered with his readers.

"After chasing down their origins I found myself repeatedly musing, `So that's where that comes from!' Keyes writes.

In I Love It When You Talk Retro Keyes posits that expressions that enrich our language such as "bigger than a breadbox," "show me the money" and "cut and run," while seeming to have achieved universal meaning over time, may not really be understood by those of generations that follow the one that spawned them, or by those for whom English is a second language. He calls these words and phrases retrotalk.

"To qualify as a retroterm," he writes, "a word or phrase must be in current use yet have an origin that isn't current."

Catch phrase references like "I've fallen and I can't get up!" "Where's the beef?" and "cha-ching" of TV commercial fame already a generation old, are not likely to be understood by today's teens. Neither are references to scratched or broken records likely to conjure up meaningful images to young people who download their music from computers directly to their I-pods. This is the kind of stuff that is fodder for Keyes who tirelessly back-tracks to the point of origin, because some of those we think we know, we do not.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Nancy H. Dickson on May 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book--I Love It When You Talk Retro: Hoochie Coochie, Double Whammy, Drop a Dime, and the Forgotten Origins of American Speech--is an absolute hoot for anyone with a fascination for the American Language and/or Popular Culture. For many of us it evokes a rich pre-Internet, pre-Facebook past and for younger readers a view into the lives of their parents and grand-parents. My husband, Paul Dickson, who writes about language, gave this book to me and I couldn't let go of it.
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