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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
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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

3.44  ·  Rating Details ·  215 Ratings  ·  60 Reviews

Today's eighteen-year-olds may not know who Mrs. Robinson is, the size of a breadbox, or why going postal refers to a major uproar. Such "retroterms" are words or phrases whose origin lies in our past. I Love It When You Talk Retro discusses these verbal fossils that linger in our national conversation long after the topic they refer to has galloped into the sunset. Tha
Paperback, 320 pages
Published February 2nd 2010 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published March 31st 2009)
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Bill  Kerwin

This is an entertaining exploration of the origins of common words and phrases which contain allusions to cultural phenomena that may already be unknown to people under thirty--e.g., Judge Crater, kee-mo-sabee, got some 'splaining to do,etc.-- and illuminating their connotations.

I knew a lot of this stuff already, but still learned a lot. And I bet you will too.
Jan 23, 2013 Christie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: language, humor, reference
This is a fabulous book I stumbled across at my local library. I enjoyed it so much that I am putting on list of must-have books for my personal library.

This compilation of word and phrase origins that have become cultural staples in American language. Many of the phrases that are covered by the author are ones that I have used for as long as I can remember and never knew the origin or the intent of the phrase when it first became a part of the lexicon in the United States.

The way in which the
Jun 27, 2011 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: language
I have kind of a love-hate relationship with this book.

In the former case, I love the book because it collects so many sayings into one handy location. As I was reading it, I would ask my wife, "Have you heard of this one...?" - this generated a lot of talk between us about why she knew some that I didn't and I knew some that she didn't. For instance, I was surprised that she didn't know what 'snake oil' was; she was surprised that I had never heard of Lizzie Borden. In both cases (and numerous
Heather C.
I enjoy just about any book that deals with language, and this one was good. It can be read straight through, or as a reference. It tracks the origins of just about every idiom you can think of, and explains the background of how the connection is made between how it was originally used and the way it is used now. The only thing I didn't like about this book was that I am suspicious (ok, cynical) of some of the purported origins, they sounded 'googled' to me, but that's just me.
Mar 13, 2009 Elizabeth rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those born before 1970
Recommended to Elizabeth by: read a review
Shelves: non-fiction
This is for readers who were born before Generation X- I did not get many (if any) of the "retro talk" except "where's the beef?" I kept waiting for the "oh, so that's where it comes from" word or phrase.

Still waiting.
Nov 13, 2014 Jessrawk rated it did not like it
Shelves: own
This book could have done without the author's dumbass opinions on popular culture he so obviously does not understand.

& again, so much twisting to turn every retro term into something popularized by an American's words (even when the term originated from a very old phrase).
May 03, 2015 Eva rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some good content, but too much of a frenetic brain dump to be truly enjoyable.

Kindle quotes:

In that story, a boy confronted with a mound of horse manure plunges in and begins to dig with enthusiasm. Asked why he’s doing so, the boy responds that with this much manure, there’s bound to be a pony inside. That story dates back at least to the early 1960s, when my brother Gene heard it from a college professor. Over time there must be a pony in there has come to signify sunny assessments of gloomy
Sep 19, 2011 rabbitprincess rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: word nerds
Recommended to rabbitprincess by: library browsing
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
Jul 04, 2009 dirt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to dirt by: Skirvin
This book is a good example of how language grows and shrinks, incorporating new words and phrases to describe life, discarding outdated vocabulary.

One phrase that we need to add to our vernacular is "Russell Simmonsed". As in, "Man, that guy really fucked me over and prevented me from reaching my full potential for his own professional gain. I was russell simmonsed." Or for short, "Quit simmonsizing me."

The portion of the book that covers retro movietalk was a disappointment. He skipped some r
Regan Sharp
Sep 14, 2013 Regan Sharp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reference
I love books that investigate the origins of words and phrases. This might be due to my habit of misusing words and phrases as I put the English language through the wringer on a daily basis. Books like this feel like they might actually help me shift gears and get on track when trying to express myself. It was told in a casual yet informative manner that made it easy to read from front to back, but was well enough organized that I'm sure to pick it up when I need to refresh my memory on why I s ...more
Aug 20, 2009 Phair rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've always loved books about word origins, proverbs, slang and odd references. This one was informative and nicely divided up into thematic chapters. Being quite a bit older than the intended audience for this book I was fairly familiar with most of the retro terms. Where I am beginning to feel left out is some of the newer terms that he also touches on (future retro talk) that the kids get but we oldsters aren't quite up on. I had the most fun reading many of the sections to my husband who is ...more
Apr 13, 2009 Rory rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
2.5 stars, really. A big fat MEH. I think it's a case of a publisher shining up a book with a catchy title, a cool cover and a misleading pitch. I was talking to Shelley H. about this and we agreed that we'd hoped the same thing--that it'd cover and illuminate very of-the-decade slang, filling our history-lovin' brains with both the origins and silliness of, say, "daddy-o" and "moll."

Instead, it was a rather staid mini-encyclopedia of what the author DECIDED, almost randomly, to call "retro-tal
Chrissy  Neff
I stumbled upon this book at my local library while searching through retro-themed books.
I think that this is a pretty informative little book. It would be a must read for anyone who hasn't grown up in the Gen. X (or older eras), who are always wondering just what all these old sayings mean.
Every entry (and explanation) are categorized by topic. The book is written in a traditional story-type fashion, but personally I would have preferred it in a bulleted, referance-type format.
There are som
Joshua Rigsby
Dec 16, 2012 Joshua Rigsby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-fun-modern
This is a good book. At times I wanted it to be more academic. At times I wanted it to be funnier. But on the whole, four stars seems appropriate. I learned quite a bit about the origins of phrases I have heard but never used, and others that I used all the time without knowing from whence they came.

There were a couple entries that struck me as a bit dubious, and at times I wondered if the author did his complete due diligence with the research, but overall it increased my knowledge about the o
May 09, 2013 Alex rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
First, I'm disappointed that discussion about Whammies did not include reference to "Press Your Luck!" However, I was unaware that Whammies and Double Whammies originated from L'il Abner.

Easily digestible in short bursts. This is an amusing book containing information an inch deep and a mile wide. I am aware that some specific items could have been better researched, which makes me question the veracity of the remainder.

I learned a few things I didn't know, and confirmed a bunch of others. There
May 19, 2012 Lynn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
[Gift from Alex from her trip to Boston.]
Just a couple chapters in, but here are initial impressions: The book is fairly scattershot and explains the origins behind phrases that many of us use on a regular basis, some of which we even forget are references. The author tries to group things with a similar origin together to give the book more cohesion, but it still is something one could pick up, read a couple pages, skip around, etc.
I already knew some of these, but many (most?) were new to me
Mar 27, 2009 Beth rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really liked the premise of this one: an examination of slang terms
and allusions that are quickly going out of date; for example: "you
sound like a broken record" may not make any sense to youth who grew
up listening to tapes or CDs. Author gives context for hundreds of

The book might have been a little more readable organized into one or
two line bullets of information; the narrative encased in formal
paragraphs, with terms in bold, didn't work for me at all. I love
linguistics, but this wasn
Jan 30, 2015 John rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Meh! I wanted to love it, and at moments I did. But overall it just felt like more of a chore to read. I was really glad when I finally finished it, just because it was over.

He categorized the retro-terms into topics & sub-topics creating a cool flow, and I loved learning about some of the origins of words / expressions that get thrown around. But I couldn't help wonder if there's not a better book out there that does the same thing with a little more kick.
Nov 17, 2014 Lesley rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Published in 2009, this book was already out dated. Some of the tried and true saying remain the same but most were already antiquated. While the arrangement of the book was well suited for quick reading, some of the vocabulary that the author selected was troublesome for me and ultimately distracted me from the text. I would have also liked more in text citations and research acknowledgments.

I didn't finish the book.
Jun 28, 2009 Lisa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
An interesting description of English (American) terms and phrases and where they came from. I sat down to read this book from cover to cover, but it was sort of like reading a dictionary. I think it would be more interesting to browse through. I did learn a few things and had fun remembering some of my favorite childhood TV shows, cartoons and advertising jingles - the sources of many phrases still common today.
D.M. Busek
Aug 30, 2013 D.M. Busek rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A treasure chest for a non-native speaker (like me). A slightly biased approach of the author didn't spoil it for me, and the narrative was fun. Some of the stories however were not quite accurate (I was told, e.g., that "have tux, will travel" came first, and "have gun, will travel" is based on it). Which is a shame because I'd really like to use this book as a reference guide instead of consulting Wikipedia etc. all the time.
Margaret Sankey
Complete with proper end notes, a linguistics scholar documents the origins of and explains the transmission mechanism of phrases now so far removed in technology and lifestyle ("tough row to hoe," "drop a dime," etc.) from their original meaning that English speakers continue to use them without having any idea where they came from.
這本書收錄了許多美國人日常生活常用但多半已經不清楚來源的字詞或片語,作者稱之為"retroterm",譬如Where's the beef?和throwing down the gauntlet;有早從希臘羅馬時期生成的,也有一九五、六零年代才出現的。此書的目的就是解釋這些片語的出處並簡單說明用法。大致以政治、媒體、娛樂、生活等分成數個章節。

Carolyn Fitzpatrick
I only got about 25 pages in and had to stop. If you do not know any American idioms, this book might be interesting. But if you already know American sayings and want to know where they came from, you will be frustrated by the vague references to time and place, senseless thematic organization, and dubious claims (several that I double-checked elsewhere did not pan out).
I was a little disappointed in this book - most of the examples of the origins of phrases seemed painfully obvious. About one in 50 or so was vaguely interesting, maybe one a whole chapter was intriguing. I started skimming after the first chapter. Fortunately, it is well indexed, so it could be used as a reference work...
Janet Windeguth
This book was fascinating when I started. I love hearing how phrases and expressions came into being. But the book just goes on...and on...and on...and on...and on. I started skimming pages--never a good sign--and made it to page 126 (out of 271) before I admitted defeat. I've got other things to do in life than sit and make myself read something that bores me.
Jun 08, 2009 Tamela rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although I enjoyed this book--as any good etymology nerd would--I didn't finish it. I had borrowed it from the library and couldn't make myself sit down and read it through before it was due to be returned to the library. It's more suited to "casual reading" (today's euphemism for "reading on the john") than to reading it from beginning to end.
Jan 11, 2013 Justin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was intrigued to hear the origins of some of the phrases we say today. Some of them don't even hold the same meaning as when they were brought to life. I found this an easy and very interesting read. It is very interesting how generations have never heard of some of these phrasings. I am intrigued to see how language will continue to add new ones of these to our daily lexicon.
Darshan Elena
A useful book for folks into the evolution of idiomatic language. The book's focus, however, is rather narrow, largely chronicling dominant idioms and expressions without regard for the multiracial constituencies of the U.S. Sometimes the author was a bit clumsy and disordered, but given the book's scope, that seems unsurprising.
Jul 15, 2009 Allison rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
There was no continuity to this book. I could find no way to get into it because there was no way to "keep reading;" although the concepts were organized by chapter, they did not flow logically into one another, especially because not enough could be said about one before the author had to move onto a new idea. It was a nice idea and an interesting premise, but as a full-length book, it failed.
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