‘Ought’ vs. ‘Need’: “Mad Men” and Cultural Shifts Represented by Changing Language

How much has language usage in America changed since, say, the 1960s? Sure, there’s the inclusion of various colloquial terms, a relaxing of grammer, and everyone’s least favorite lexical evolution, textspeak, but what about the more fundamental word usage? An Atlantic article on the historical inaccuracies of word usage in the television show Mad Men, set in the ’60s, piqued my interest by describing a fairly dramatic shift from the occurrence in media (TV, movies, books) of the phrase “I need to” over the phrase “I ought to,” which reigned supreme before the cultural revolutions of the ’60s.

Continue reading