Some years ago, my late BBC comrade Alistair Cooke took a young friend to New York’s famous Plaza Hotel, where a pianist was gaily tinkling. As Alistair enthused about each song, it gradually dawned on him that these familiar standards by Gershwin and Kern were entirely unfamiliar to his callow companion.
I’ve experienced a slightly more unsettling form of cultural dislocation this Christmas season: People still know the songs, but have no idea what they mean.
Take “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” Sixty years ago this song was popular, but now it’s everywhere. My theory is that it’s because the only thing holding