Words from Mad Men

In honor of the upcoming Mad Men finale, Wordnik has put together a list of their favorite words from Don Draper and the gang.  Since I’m a Mad Men fanatic, I do feel compelled to share the list.

Below is a sampling of some of the top words. A complete list can be found here.

1.  bitchin’

Peggy [holding up Michael’s work]: “Have I lost my sense of smell or is this good?” Stan [laughs]: “That’s bitchin’.”

Episode: “Tea Leaves,” April 1, 2012

Bitchin’ is slang for “excellent; first-rate,” and originated as “teen/surfer slang” in the 1950s. The word apparently plays on the verb sense of bitch, to complain, “in some inverted sense.”

2.  calice

Megan [upon realizing Don’s surprise party has been spoiled]: “Calice.”

Episode: “A Little Kiss,” March 25, 2012

Calice is a Québécois French swear word which, according to Slate, “has its origins in Roman Catholic ritual—it’s the communion chalice.” Other French-Canadian swear words, says Slate, include “Calvaire! (Calvary), Ciboire! (ciborium—the container in which communion wafers are stored), Ostie! (communion wafer), or Tabarnak!” Tabarnak is the Québécois equivalent of fuck and comes from tabernacle.

3.  consumerism

Megan [to Don]: “I didn’t think [the play] was such a strong stand against advertising as much as the emptiness ofconsumerism.”

Episode: “Christmas Waltz,” May 20, 2012

The word consumerism, which was coined in 1944, originally meant “the movement seeking to protect and inform consumers by requiring such practices as honest packaging and advertising, product guarantees, and improved safety standards.” Around 1960, it came to refer to “the theory that a progressively greater consumption of goods is economically beneficial,” and by extension an “attachment to materialistic values or possessions.” Here Megan is referring to this last meaning of consumerism.

4.  fresh

Betty [to Don]: “I wanted to know if you’d have any problem with me strangling Sally. I’m not joking. She’s fresh. And I prefer to not have her sourpuss ruining our trip.”

Episode: “Commissions and Fees,” June 3, 2012

Fresh in this context means “verdant and conceited; presuming through ignorance and conceit; forward; officious.” This sense originated in 1848 as U.S. slang, probably from the German frech, “insolent, cheeky,” which ultimately comes from the Old English frec, “greedy, bold.”

5.  go ape

Hanson/Handsome: “Billy Josephs and I were supposed to join up, but my dad went ape.”

Episode:“Signal 30,” April 15, 2012

To go ape means “to become wildly excited or enthusiastic,” and is attested from 1955. “I Go Ape” is a 1959 hit song from Neil Sedaka. To join up means “to enlist or enroll,” and originated around 1916.

Disclosure: Wordnik.com’s comprehensive word graph brings meaning and context to the evolving lexicon, helping people unlock the value of words and phrases to discover what information is most meaningful and matters to them. I was not compensated to feature this information.

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