Did He Really Say That?

Happy Wednesday! The idea for today’s post came about from watching an old TV show. It made me realize that even when some things are wrong, they’re right.

Let’s talk dialogue and social attitudes. When I wrote my Point Pleasant series (set in 1982 and 1983) I had to stop and remind myself of words and expression that weren’t in use at the time. Even the morals and attitudes of the era were different.

Edward Mulhare and Hope Lange

Edward Mulhare and Hope Lange by NBC Television (eBay item photo front photo back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Lately, I’ve been DVRing a few old TV shows. When I was kid, I was hooked on The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.  The idea behind the series came from a 1947 movie by the same name, but I didn’t know that at the time. Although the TV series was short-lived—two seasons—it was enough for me to fall madly in love with Edward Mulhare in the role of Captain Gregg. He was the “ghost” in the series title, a dashing sea captain who finds his home invaded by a young widow, her two small children, their maid, and a dog. Although the original movie was drama, the TV series played for comedy with romantic sparks flying between the stalwart Captain Gregg, and Mrs. Muir, the lovely widow. Watching it now, it’s horribly dated, but still makes me smile. Hubby, on the other hand can’t see the attraction.

Johnny Crawford and Chuck Connors of The Rifleman TV western

Johnny Crawford and Chuck Conners of The Rifleman by ABC Television (eBay item photo front photo back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

We do, however, enjoy another old series, produced before I was born. The Rifleman is a western about Lucas McCain, a widower and Civil War veteran who is raising his young son, Mark, on his own. Although Chuck Conners in the title role gets to do a lot of fancy shooting with his specially modified rifle, the heart of the series is about the relationship between father and son. I’m a sucker for that stuff.

I was completely unfamiliar with The Rifleman until my husband found it on an obscure channel and got me hooked. The other night we watched an episode that aired in 1962. Mark and Lucas are cleaning up dinner dishes. Thoroughly enjoying the episode, I made the comment to hubby that “I’m gone on this series.”

This is the dialogue exchange between Mark and Lucas that immediately followed my comment:

Mark: (standing at sink and looking at a dirty dish) This isn’t clean, Pa.

Lucas: I guess that just goes to show the best dish washer is still a woman.

*Hysterical laughter from my husband*
*Yelling at the TV from me*

Husband: Are you gone on it now?

When I got done yelling (and he wiped his eyes from laughing so hard), I reminded myself the episode aired in 1962. Not only that, it reflected a time frame not long after the Civil War. Even if the episode was remade today, the mentality would be correct for the time period in which the show was set. Hard as that dialogue exchange is to swallow, there is nothing wrong with it when placed in perspective.

I remember writing a short story set in the 70s and cringing when I had to use the term stewardess instead of flight attendant. But I grew up hearing that term and it was correct for the time.

We all try to be authentic in our writing, but are there phrases you’ve had to use (based upon an era or time period) that made you cringe? Can you think of any example like mine from The Rifleman that made you roll your eyes or laugh? Heck, maybe you just want to tell me what silly old TV show you still remember fondly, despite the fact it would send PC monitors shrieking into the wild.

Let’s have some fun in the comments!

67 thoughts on “Did He Really Say That?

  1. This is so true, Mae Clair. Attitudes and lifestyles have changed significantly over the past 80 years or so. I stated in a post a short while ago that my Mother’s Father (my Grandfather) did not believe in educating girls so he wouldn’t buy the uniform so my Mother could go to grammar school. If you want your writing to “ring true” you have to write in the style of the time and need to get under the skin of the attitudes of the time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As painful as it is now, it’s something we have to do when writing for a specific era. And how sad about your grandfather’s views. Then again, it was probably the attitude of the day. Thanks for sharing, Robbie! 🙂

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    • The timing on that exchange couldn’t have been more spot on, Gwen. I love Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain, but omgosh, talk about a reaction from both of us, LOL. Thanks for visiting me today! 🙂

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  2. A really thought provoking post, Mae. Reading it stirs in me a curiosity. We, as authors, are concerned to use vocabulary, words that fit the era. Right. Though, even if many of my novels take place in the Middle Ages I do not use Shakespeare’s English. No modern reader would be able to understand half of the words. Right?!
    I agree with another aspect. We won’t use modern words like spaceships or cell phones, DNA analysis, etc. in ancient set up or Renaissance or Restoration period.

    You give an example stewardess vs flight attendant. Good. But, but, are the readers , no disrespect meant here, aware of the difference? I mean younger readers? If we have to search and find out if the word was in use at a certain time how should a reader know?

    Regarding old TV series, I remember The Saint and Kojak. There weren’t many “capitalist” shows around here in those times. They were carefully chosen not to make us envious or craving for your life there.

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    • I definitely couldn’t read a whole novel is Shakespeare’s English, Carmen. I have a hard enough time with some of the plays! 🙂

      I think for younger readers, they’re bound to encounter words or phrases that are unfamiliar to them when they read a period piece. I read a good deal of historical fiction, and I frequently come across words I’m unfamiliar with, but can usually learn given the content…either that, or if I’m curious enough, I look them up! 🙂

      I remember reading a short story once set in a historical era when the author referred to a door knob instead of a latch. It immediately threw me out of the book. Those are more the types of things I mean.

      I don’t remember The Saint very well, but I do remember Kojak and his lolly pops. Interesting how shows were chosen in your country. I’m glad times have changed for the better!

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  3. Loved this post, Mae. We’re starting to think alike because the other day I began drafting a post about obscure words. I’m not much on TV, but I do like to watch older shows, MASH and JAG being two of my favorites. (Guess I’m a sucker for military shows.) I’m also a music fan and a few weeks ago was listening to the Rolling Stones. Their hit “Under my Thumb” is certainly not politically correct today. Times have changed.

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    • Yes, they have. And the older I get, the more I realize that, Joan. There is so very little on modern TV I enjoy, but I still like a lot of old shows, even when the ideas were skewed differently. I guess a part of that is nostalgia because I grew up watching them. I never caught JAG, but I did love MASH! 🙂

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  4. Love this post! Never watched the Rifleman or The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, but I remember watching Bewitched, Brady Bunch, even the Monkees TV show. Used to love Little House on the Prairie, but I tried watching it a couple years ago and promptly turned the channel, wondering all the while what about it appealed to me when I was a kid. I still watch MASH when I can–it’s my go-to old show. Caught an episode of Bewitched, and cringed at Samantha’s role as, well, basically the cook/clean/entertain housewife. And I’d forgotten how much drinking they did. And smoking.

    Thank goodness for Seinfeld! 🙂

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    • Interesting that you should mention the Monkees, because I used to adore that show. I caught it recently in reruns and thought it was incredibly silly. I couldn’t make it through the episode (like you with LHOTP). I still love the Monkees’ music though 🙂

      And your observation about old TV is spot on related to drinking and smoking. There are a few old shows I like where people are constantly smoking. Again…the mentality of the day, I guess!

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  5. Good post! I’m old enough that I have seen every show! I haven’t watched I Dream of Jeannie in a long time but I bet that is showing its age. Your mention of The Rifleman reminded me of a favorite toy in our neighborhood- The Rifleman Ranch set complete with the ranch house, little plastic cowboys and horses, cactus, cooking utensils- the whole world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Jena! There was actually a Rifleman Ranch set? That’s too funny, LOL!
      And as much as I used to love I Dream of Jeannie, yes I’m sure I’d cringe over many of the episodes today.
      So nice to see you here! 🙂

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  6. I loved The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, and so on. I’m sure there are plenty of phrases in all three, especially the latter, that would cause women to scream at the TV now. For example, “Master.”

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  7. All in the Family. As un-PC as it gets. But a hit in its day.

    You know I don’t really read or watch westerns, so I can’t comment on The Rifleman, but I was a huge fan of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. I also enjoyed Please Don’t Eat the Daisies. Actually, my list of old shows I loved is pretty long. Probably longer than the list of things I like now. Hubby and I were just talking about the old shows a few days ago. They may be dated, but I’ll take them over Honey Boo Boo and the Kardashians any day.

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    • OMG, there is so much (reality) drivel on today it’s awful. Yes, give me the old shows any day over them.

      I’d forgotten about All in the Family, very controversial in it’s day. My whole family used to watch it. And believe it or not, I was just thinking about Please Don’t Eat the Daises, yesterday. I don’t remember what the show was about, just that I loved it as a kid. Wasn’t there a big sheep dog in that one?

      Also love that you’re a G&MM fan. There’s just something about a sea captain of old… 😉

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  8. Great post, and true about the ideals of an era. I wonder how much suffereng we’d have to do at the hands of PC reviewers if we got it right though. I remember the movie and the TV show, my folks watched The Rifleman when I was young. I preferred the reruns of Dragnet myself.

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    • I kind of remember Dragnet. Wasn’t that the one with Harry Morgan. And didn’t it end with a big police badge on the screen when the credits ran? I think there was a tag line too, but I can’t remember it.

      I was always a fan of cop shows and westerns 🙂

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      • Yeah, Col. Potter was a young man when it was on. Jack Webb is classic. They also had a unique ending where they would show the bad guys and tell you what happened in the courts. It’s called the Dragnet ending to this day, and some movies still do it. Animal House, American Graffiti, etc. (Okay now I sound old.)

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      • That’s it! They told you what happened in the courts. And I looked up the line because it was bothering me. It didn’t come at the end but was iconic to the show….”Just the facts, ma’am.”

        Wow, I love talking the “old days.”

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    • The Rifleman is a new one for me, Sherry, but I was so thrilled to see The Ghost and Mrs. Muir in reruns. Thank heavens for retro TV channels, LOL!
      Thanks for visiting 🙂

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  9. I grew up watching the shows you describe. Yes, today some of the situations make the skin of many crawl, but at the time the shows were a reflection on the viewing public. So it is with books. A writer must be true to the time and not worry too much about the politically correct critics. I’m wondering how many good stories are not being written due to the fear of backlash of some kind or another. I wanted to write about the Detroit riots of 60’s (which I lived through) but am almost positive some would take exception to the language and tone of the time especially if written by a caucasian male. Good post. Mae Clair.

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  10. Red Clay and Roses was set in the Deep South in the 19502 and 60s. Lots of phrases and words that wouldn’t be used today. I was chastised by reviewer for allowing Sybil to have an affair that included sex so early in her relationship with Nathan, a black man…but that’s the whole point of the story…Sybil was a high-spirited, super-independent white woman who started her own business, was a bit Bohemian, and didn’t allow others to dictate terms to her.

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  11. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir was enjoyable, and The Rifleman was such a good show. Until watching it again, you don’t realize how often he removed his shirt. Wasn’t he always injured and removing his shirt? Ouch on his comment! Regarding it– my mind tends to expand it out to consider their longing not just to have a woman to wash the dishes “better” but to have the mother/wife they lost, to make everything better. I know if she was there, they would both be falling off their chairs doing things for her and treating her right. The anachronisms for me in all the old shows I remember fondly are so interesting, .One of my favorite shows was The Avengers with Steed and Mrs. Peel. She was a strong, independent woman who could best any villain in a fight. When her replacement came along, we learned that one of the “jobs” of Steed’s female companions was to stir his tea correctly. It’s comical in its ridiculousness, but also endearing.

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    • Lucas does seem to take off his shirt a fair amount now that you mention it, Flossie, LOL. And I couldn’t find a good shot of him and Mark together in public domain with his shirt on, so that must say something.

      A very good point about how Lucas and Mark would have been falling over a wife/mother in that day to do all they could for her. As much as there were some odd notions about women, they were cherished and treated like gold.

      I vaguely remember The Avengers. Patrick McNee (I might have the name wrong) and Diana Riggs, right? She was a very classy and intelligent lady. Funny about his tea. That I don’t remember! 🙂

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  12. Back to the days when Mummy made children and cakes, and Daddy was kissed out of the door on his way to work, and slippered on his return; when Mummy stayed home doing the ‘shake and vac’ while Daddy did all the ‘reallyimportant’ stuff. Economic pressure forced the realignment, didn’t it? The single wage-earner household didn’t work anymore, so the scene changed. Not that it wasn’t a much needed change or an undesirable one, but it was very fast, so attitudes have tended to lag a little.
    Back on topic, it’s sad to see how twenteens drama abuses period language quite blatantly, although it no worse a crime than subjecting classic gems like Hamlet to new alternative treatment. Personally, I’ll never quite get over seeing Hamlet in a tuxedo. Oh, and what about – outrageous – the kiss before the credits? Mr. Darcy and Elisabeth locking lips lustily as they ride away from their wedding in an open carriage (never!) and our Lizzie in a WHITE DRESS!!!

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    • I haven’t seen the Hamlet you refer to, or Darcy and Elizabeth in that moment, but I do remember a really offbeat treatment of Romeo and Juliet set to modern music back in the 80s or 90s. I attempted to watch it but couldn’t get past a few scenes.

      I think in some ways the pendulum is starting to swing back again. Women jumped into the workforce partly because they wanted that independence. They had a choice for the most part. Today, I think most women don’t have a choice because two incomes are needed to run a household, and yet I hear many women complaining that they would love to stop working and stay home and raise their children. In some ways, I guess we always want what we can’t have.

      Thanks for the insights, Frederick. I always love your comments! 🙂

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    • Hi, Debbie! Nice of you to visit my blog. YouTube is great for a lot of content that isn’t available otherwise, isn’t it? I’m so lucky in my area my cable channel is actually showing G&MM on a retro channel! 🙂

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  13. Oh my gosh, Mae, this gave me the giggles! The TV shows, movies, music, commercials…I gasped at some of the phrases, but that goes for some of the reality shows on TV these days, too. If I had a nickel for every time I said, “I’m so glad to have grown up where and when I did” I’d be rich. Loved the late 80’s as a teenager. Good times!

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    • I’m glad you got a kick out of this one, Natalie. I love all those old shows, movies and music too (although I was more of a late 70’s teen). As awful and as funky as they were, there is nostalgia there too. Sometimes I look back though and wonder “what was I thinking” dressing like that, or styling my hair that way, LOL. And some of the phrases? I guess you had to be in those eras to love them.

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting. Always a pleasure to have you visit!

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  14. My favorite Western TV show when I was a kid was High Chaparral. I’ve been watching it in reruns recently, and it’s definitely not politically correct regarding Native Americans. But that was the mentality in those times. Also, they are always drinking and brawling.

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    • I liked High Chaparral too, but I didn’t discover that one until much later when it was off the air. I was able to catch a few reruns of it, and loved Harry Darrow as Manolito. A lot of the old shows were very unPC to Native Americans. Another old western I found decades after it aired was Custer. That one was highly unPC, but it had Wayne Maunder of Lancer and so I became addicted to it, LOL. I loved westerns then and still do!

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  15. Pingback: Writing Links…3/13/17 – Where Genres Collide

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