Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

'Retro Talk': Cultural References Mystify Young

When Ralph Keyes heard Neal Conan and a guest joking about a reference to Captain Kirk and whether anyone understood it anymore, he emailed TOTN.

Keyes wrote a book called I Love It When You Talk Retro. He knows what's behind all kinds of "retroterms," from cootie to scuttlebutt. When we use these terms, it's with the assumption that everyone understands. However, that's not always true.

Cootie, for example, is a word for lice that originated as soldier slang in World War I. Keyes takes a look at the stories behind the allusions that have — so far — stood the test of time.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit