Lexicon Valley: Anachronisms in Mad Men, Downton Abbey, and Edith Wharton

A show about the mysteries of English.
June 11 2012 9:57 AM

“Lord Grantham, Don Draper’s on Hold”

The algorithm that finds anachronisms in Downton Abbey, Mad Men, and Edith Wharton.

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Listen to Lexicon Valley Episode No. 13: Capturing the Past

For period dramas like Downton Abbey and Mad Men, historical authenticity is crucial to the viewer experience. Vigilant designers work from photos to accurately recreate everything from kitchenware to hairstyles. But what about the dialogue? Are writers able to faithfully capture the way people actually spoke 50 or 100 years ago? Turns out it’s harder than you might think. Listen as Bob Garfield and I discuss the detective work of history grad student Ben Schmidt, whose computer program is uncovering the many, many anachronisms not only in these two programs, but even in the work of Edith Wharton.

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You'll find every Lexicon Valley episode at slate.com/lexiconvalley, or in the player below:

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Mike Vuolo is senior producer of podcasts and editor of @lexiconvalley.