Maddened by Mad Men

victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Tue Sep 20 23:40:17 UTC 2011

Given that much of what I came across in the 40s and 50s usage is a
secretary covering the office while the boss is out, this seems to be
/exactly/ the right cliche, in this case. Unless this is an issue of
securing "the fort" to the ground so that it does not fly away, this seems
to be just a personal pet peeve--both now and in 1962. In fact, take a look
at Faulkner's The Town to see that even the supposedly more standard
metaphor can be just as confusing:

"Good," he says, brisk and chipper as you could want. "I was hoping to see
> you before I left, to pass the torch on into your active hand. You'll have
> to hold the fort now. You'll have to tote the load."
> "What fort?" I says. "What load?"
> "Jefferson," he says. "Snopeses. Think you can handle them till I get
> back?"

And it's not like there is an overwhelming dominance of this form--there are
only about 30-40 of these from 1940 to 1964, which is about 3 times as much
as "hold down the fort". And most of these were in a historical context,
i.e., used literally. And I did not find a single one (perhaps I did not
look carefully enough) in the office context that I mentioned above.


On Tue, Sep 20, 2011 at 6:10 PM, Dave Wilton <dave at> wrote:

> What is the particular objection to its use in Mad Men, given that it is
> not
> anachronistic?
> One might consider the phrase to be silly or overused, but it's certainly a
> common expression and it's appearance in dialogue in a fictional TV series
> is natural and to be expected. Naturalistic dialogue is one of the hallmark
> of shows like this. The stock in trade of Ad men is the cliché; so it
> should
> be with Mad Men.

The American Dialect Society -

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