Fans 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?

  • Book