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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. For example, "The Little Old Lady from Pasadena" is credited to The Beach Boys instead of Jan and Dean (did The Beach Boys have a less famous version of it or something?), and Wally Cleaver is identified as Beaver Cleaver's father instead of his brother! And even though I share Mr. Keyes's liberal views, I felt it was a bit unprofessional for him to so clearly advertise his stance throughout certain parts of the book. This isn't a political book, even though it does deal with some retrotalk that originated in politics. A good writer isn't supposed to let his or her personal bias show; I know I probably would have thrown the book down in disgust and not finished it had a right-wing writer been airing his own conservative views unnecessarily! Finally, I was turned off by how Boomer-centric much of the book was, particularly because Mr. Keyes says he was born in 1945, which would make him one of the youngest members of the Silent Generation, not a Boomer as he seems to think he is. I rolled my eyes whenever I read something like "Many Boomers have happy memories of..." or "If you ask a Boomer..." Why does this generation always find a way to make every single issue always come back to them and be all about their generation? I'm not a Boomer, but I'm pretty sure that most people in my generation know what a Magic Marker is, for example, and are familiar with tv shows from the Fifties and Sixties that we've seen on Nick at Nite or watched with an older member of the family! I also thought that short schrift was given to more current retrotalk.
In spite of the shortcomings, however, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in language and linguistics. It's always fascinating to see how language evolves and develops, and how things which are cutting-edge and familiar in one era are almost obsolete in another.