That’s the title of a New Yorker blog post by Hendrik Hertzberg, a senior editor and staff writer, who is upset that “the makers of movies and television shows set in the historical past” take pains with everything except the language, listing examples from the show Masters of Sex, set in St. Louis in the early nineteen-fifties, e.g. “I’m going to pass on the bacon”: “People played a lot of bridge back then, but ‘pass on,’ as a metaphor for skipping or refusing something, was not yet in use.” This of course warms my heart, but I was also surprised and irritated that he didn’t mention Benjamin Schmidt’s Prochronisms site (see this LH post from last year), which has been working that territory for some time now and deserved a shout-out. Schmidt responds with this post, in which he quotes Hertzberg’s “Are there no production designers for language? There ought to be” and responds “Be reassured, Hendrik: we exist!” (I was impressed by his limiting himself to such a mild complaint at being ignored); he goes on to point out that “Hertzberg’s not right about all of his claims” and provide some nifty graphs. Anyway, if you like this sort of thing, read both posts, which are short and meaty.
Addendum. A good response to Hertzberg by Ammon Shea, pointing out that “words have a nasty habit of first appearing much earlier or later than memory or intuition would attest” (though also stipulating that “he is largely correct: some of the words he calls into question were not actually used at that time, and some of the others were not in widespread use”).