Retrotalk is ubiquitous among journalists of a certain age. By using it they set themselves apart from those born in the last three or four decades. On "Meet the Press," New York Times columnist David Brooks said about Hillary Clinton, “In the first debate she’s Emily Post, now she’s Howard Beale,” referring to the late etiquette maven and the angry protagonist of the 1976 movie "Network." In a recent column Brooks wrote, “And not to get Rod McKuen on you or anything …” Say what? Inquiring younger minds want to know.
As someone who discovered rich stores of culture, pop and otherwise, via references by my elders that were initially obscure to me (and as a songwriter who once used Geraldo's opening Al Capone's vault and finding it empty as a metaphor in a lyric), I heartily embrace and encourage the practice. In fact, poised as I am between the Brooks boomers and a younger crop of new journos, I sometimes find myself not quite grokking references in both directions, but that's all part of keeping up with our ever-evolving language and cultural conversation--or what David Foster Wallace called, slightly holding his nose at the clinical sound of the phrase, our "discourse community." I say, the broader and stranger, the better.