"That's no biggie"-- anachronism on "Mad Men"?

ronbutters at AOL.COM ronbutters at AOL.COM
Tue Aug 26 15:37:00 UTC 2008

If people were saying "biggie" for "big deal" in 1945, it seems to me pretty likely that they were negating it by 1960--and probably before.

Would we expect a big time lag between "cool" and "not cool"? Should we expect a dictionary always to record both positive and negative forms?

Even more to the point: if "That's a biggie" would not have been an anachronism in a script purporting to take place in the 1960s, is it justified to say that "That's no biggie" could be an anachronism--since it is just a simple grammatical extension of the nonnegated form? For someone in 1960 who had "That's a biggie" as a part of their [sic] vocabulary, "That's no biggie" would scarcely be noticeable, it seems to me.

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-----Original Message-----
From: Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>

Date:         Tue, 26 Aug 2008 10:51:09
Subject:      Re: [ADS-L] anachronism on "Mad Men"?

At 2:13 PM +0000 8/26/08, ronbutters at aol.com wrote:
>If it found its way into print in 1974 (only the most recent
>antedating), "no biggie" could well have been in use in the 1960s.
>After all, somebody had to SAY it first, and then it had to get
>uttered with enough frequency that writers would have used it. (When
>one finds it in print in scare quotes, that CAN be an indication
>that it is new to the writer.)

No scare quotes in the HDAS cites, and it may be worth noting that
their earlier ones are in positive contexts (where indeed _a
biggy/biggie_ = a big deal).  And the OED has instances of the
positive _biggie_ dating back to 1931 (for 'big shot') and 1945 (for
'anything impressively large or influential'). There's even a
euphemistic plural drecative use:

1953 E. SIMON Past Masters IV. iii. 233 You're used to having biggies
all over your floor, aren't you?

But nothing specific for the 'big deal' reading, or negative contexts.

>And of course these guys are supposed to be ad guys from New York,
>the genesis of fashionable buzz words.
>"No biggie" from "No big deal" seems likely.
>Anecdote is no substitute for hard data, and I can't SWEAR that I
>heard "no biggie" in the late 1950s from an adult (gay wm, b. c1917)
>in the advertising business who made many trips from Iowa to New
>York, but my memory is that it sounds like something he used to say.
>I'd look in queer novels from the period if I wanted to seek
>antedatings. .

All true, but I'd think that HDAS, which casts a fairly wide net for
written sources (gay and straight), would have found at least one hit
for "(no) biggie" before the mid-70s if it were really around as
early as 1961.


>------Original Message------
>From: Douglas G. Wilson
>Sender: ADS-L
>To: ADS-L
>ReplyTo: ADS-L
>Sent: Aug 26, 2008 12:09 AM
>Subject: Re: [ADS-L] anachronism on "Mad Men"?
>Laurence Horn wrote:
>>  This well-received AMC series about the advertising business is set
>>  in the early 1960s, which is the primary point--it's big on
>>  verisimilitude and does a nice job in general.  The episode before
>>  last (which I just watched on tape) contained the phrase "no biggie".
>>  As far as I can tell (with the help of HDAS), "no biggie" doesn't
>>  date back before 1978 or so.  It seemed wrong to me when I heard it,
>>  so I suspect it really was a lapse on the writers' part.
>Seems wrong to me too.
>N'archive has a few instances of "no biggie" from 1974 and 1975.
>In the 1960's, I think maybe "no big deal" would have been _de rigueur_.
>-- Doug Wilson
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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