Spot the 'Mad Men' anachronism! Or just look it up

mmoedFans of AMC’s Mad Men know that the set decorators are usually slavishly faithful to the look and style of the early ’60s. But Sunday’s episode contained a glaring (and uncharacteristic) anachronism, as my friend, the lexicographer Ben Zimmer, noted yesterday on his Word Routes blog. Can you find it in the picture at left?

Yes, that’s The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary on the ledge behind the desk of Lane Pryce (Jared Harris), the Brit now serving as the chief financial officer at the ad firm Sterling Cooper. But as lexicographers and dedicated word-lovers know, the compact OED was first published in 1971 — well after Mad Men‘s current 1963 timeframe. Worse still, the three-volume compact OED in Pryce’s office didn’t appear until 1987.

The character himself  — or at least whoever oversees his Twitter account — responded late yesterday: “Regarding my office library, I was asked to hold onto those books by a nervous young man named McFly.” Perhaps the producers will be inspired to give Back to the Future‘s ’80s-era time traveler a significant role in upcoming Mad Men episodes. Is it only a matter of time before we see a Lost/Mad Men crossover?


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  • jondelfin

    Speaking of which, when Gene took over the television from the kids to watch the ball game, they were watching … well, I’m not sure. Couldn’t really hear the TV, but the captioning read something about “Poko.” The only Poko I have found is a 2003 Canadian kids-TV show. Clearly not that. So what were they watching?

    • Sam

      I pretty sure it was Polo as in the Polo Grounds where the New York Mets used to play from 1962-1963.

      • jondelfin

        Nope, it was definitely dialogue from the show the kids were watching, with references to a character named Poko.

  • Susan

    This isn’t the first anachronism I’ve seen. Last year, they showed Joan putting on pantyhose, which wasn’t in common usage until the late ’60s. I know – I still laugh when I think of all of us girls in my 1968 6th grade picture wearing garter belts and stockings. Rather racy today, but cheap pantyhose were still a year or so off, so everyone still wore “hose.”

    • JA

      The stewardess in the 1st episode of this season was wearing pantyhose as well (when she stripped down for Don). I thought it was a little off.

      • mostboringseasonever

        Actually, the stewardess had on a garter belt with hose. She was not wearing pantyhose at all.

  • Sean

    Is this important at all? Who cares? Jesus Christ, get a life. Someone was actually researching “Poko” in their free time? Find a friend.

    • disgusted with Sean

      Sean-you need anger management classes. This is an article about anachronisms and someone was commenting on one. Why are you so angry? I think people like you who take your anger out on anonymous people are rather sad and pathetic. Keep you comments to the show and not to your fellow posters. I am not taking my own advice, because I think I need to set you straight. Please see a therapist.

      • Yojanse

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  • GGG

    C’mon guys… This is a fabulous show with set designers and producers that to their absolute best to be accurate. Why such glee in pointing out a rare error?

  • Joe Menta

    Easy solution… those volumes weren’t published books, but in-house prototypes being tested in the ad office before being offered to the public. Obviously, flaws in their functionality were discovered and they were held back from the public for several more years until the problems were fixed!

    • Julia

      Great solution Joe! LOL

    • TJHinNYC

      Yeah. Those compact books had teeny tiny print and it took them years to figure out —BINGO! — let’s put the books in a nice case with a magnify glass in a little trap door at the top!

    • Christa

      can’t wait until you are able to come back. love to see what you are up to. hope you can get your computer snehigatrted out. take care!

  • jen

    How sad is it that we take pleasure in pointing out the flaws of others? Mad Men is an amazing show. Let’s appreciate it and remember that set designers are human too.

    • SmileJen

      Jen-stop taking this so seriously. It’s fun to find anachronisms in shows/movies. Mad Men producers pride themselves on the shows realistic portrayal of the time; nothing wrong or mean-sprited about people commenting on a mistake. Lighten up!

  • Zo

    LMAO. I’m loving that McFly explanation.

    Anyone know if we’re gonna get to see/”live through” the Kennedy assassination? I’d really love to see how they tackle it. I know they’re in 1963, but I thought I read recently that the producers didn’t want to deal with it on the show and were going to skip it. I’m relatively sure that wouldn’t be the case though, and that that blurb was just flat-out wrong… considering how much they covered Marilyn Monroe’s death. It’s actually one of my favorite parts of the show– knowing historically what’s coming next for these people, and wondering how each will deal with it. (Also last season’s scare of nuclear warfare from Cuba was utterly gripping even though we know they’ll be safe.) I’m glad they didn’t do a two-year jump like they did last season– I wouldn’t want to miss this crucial time of change in the 60’s…

  • eli

    wow Jen, we’re pointing out the flaws on a tv show, not your love handles… get some perspective will ya.

    • snookums

      wow, Eli; “we’re”? You didn’t point out anything – you just hopped on a train of people adding zero value comments – just like how I hopped on your mom.

  • jeb

    That explains why Pete Campbell was munching on those 3-D Doritos.

  • Chris

    I would love if they did a 5 minute special feature for their DVD where they just insert a bunch of references, products and clothing that has no right to be there. The 3-D Doritos, iPods, Nintendo Entertainment System, sunglasses from the 80s, the 1st Mac computer and Peggy coming into work with the Rachel haircut.

    • Heather

      That would be hilarious!

  • Pat

    Marty McFly came from 1985. Still two years before the three-volume OED came out…

  • hipbone

    Yeah, but Marty had access to a time machine…

    wibbly wobbly, timey whimey

    • Amyner

      kaiokenification on April 24, 2010 man i know this might sound like im a wuss but i have a laptop that i watch and i get my gun and BLAST THE TV!

  • Too Kool

    The look and atmosphere of the show are absolutely fantastic – the set decorators likely leave these “mistakes” in plain site for the “get a life crowd”. However, ATTN: WARDROBE DEPT: Where did those sunglasses Don was wearing in the Maypole scenes come from ??? Way Way Way too cool!

  • Too Kool

    P.S. commented on the “Pat’s Steaks” line from Gene, noting that Pat’s verified that they sold “halves” in 1963 and one of their locations also sold chicken parm sandwiches. Always knew Betty was a Philly girl!!!

  • rick

    In last years episode Mrs Draper served meatloaf with ketchup-wrong!!-In westchester and fairfield counties back then meatloaf was always with brown gravy or brown gravy with mushrooms-i double checked with a lady in our office who’s late husband had a diner in westchester county too-I worked part time in a great diner in fairfield while in highschool from 64 to 66-always brown gravy-Oh I never heard the term “slept with someone”in the early 60’s -Mrs Draper stated that to her married friend who boinked the young guy at the riding club!!

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