Lexicon Valley: The Narrative Mastery of Seinfeld’s Kramer

A show about the mysteries of English.
July 2 2012 2:42 PM

Talking About the Past in the Present Tense

Listen to Slate’s show about Seinfeld’s masterful use of a time-honored narrative technique.

120206_PODCAST_lexiconAlley

Listen to Lexicon Valley Episode No. 15: "Then Is Now, Now and Then."

Do you ever catch yourself talking about past events in the present tense? Linguists call it the “historical present,” and although it may sound like a verbal tic—or, less generously, an affectation—it’s actually an organic part of the way we tell tales. Dickens knew it. Charlotte Brontë mastered it. And Seinfeld staffer Larry Charles wrote what may be the most textbook example of it. Listen as Bob Garfield and I discuss the much-maligned, oft-abused narrative technique that, when used judiciously, adds oomph to our stories.

Advertisement

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

Send your thoughts about the show to slatelexiconvalley@gmail.com.

Mike Vuolo is a radio and podcast producer and the host of Lexicon Valley.

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

Yes, Black Families Tend to Spank More. That Doesn’t Mean It’s Good for Black Kids.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge

Politics

The GOP’s Focus on Fake Problems

Why candidates like Scott Walker are building campaigns on drug tests for the poor and voter ID laws.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 16 2014 6:30 PM Nothing Succeeds Like Secession Breakaway movements across the United States want to get on the Scottish bandwagon. 
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 6:23 PM Bryan Cranston Reenacts Baseball’s Best Moments to Promote the Upcoming Postseason
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 16 2014 4:09 PM It’s All Connected What links creativity, conspiracy theories, and delusions? A phenomenon called apophenia.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.