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The Catch Phrase Catches On
"'Soup Nazi?' You people have a little pet name for everybody."
Jackie Chiles, Seinfeld Finale

A specific form of Memetic Mutation, it is the cultural effect that a runaway hit show can have on everyday language. Characters' personal vocabularies often seep into the real world, especially if they give a name to a phenomenon that didn't formerly have one.

Compare Person as Verb. Related to Defictionalization.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Thanks to Gurren Lagann, the specific variety of Cool Shades that come to points at the corners will always be referred to as "Kamina shades", no matter what character wears them.
  • Azumanga Daioh's Kimura-Sensei character spawned the usage of the word "waifu" to mean a Dating Sim character that someone actually falls in love with and may or may not try to marry, something that has become memetically common in Japan in recent years.
    • A variation of this is "flagship of my heart", a term which which originated in Arpeggio of Blue Steel that Maya used as a term of endearment, and is now used to show affection to a particular character of a series. Kantai Collection is particularly affected due to a collaboration between the two series, as well as a "marriage system" (temporary name) having been announced to be implemented for the game (said system has now been implemented, and it's called kekkon kakkokari (ケッコンカッコカリ), which literally means "marriage(temporary)").

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Austin Powers movies brought statements such as, "Yeah, baby, yeah!" and "Oh, be-have, baby!", "frickin' laser beams" as well as making "shag" a more popular term in the USA.
  • Innumerable examples from Casablanca: "We'll always have Paris", "Round up the usual suspects", "Play it, Sam", "The problems of three people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world," and of course "I am shocked, shocked...!" among many others.
  • For a while in the 1940s, people took to referring to the telephone as the Ameche after Don Ameche played Alexander Graham Bell in a movie.
  • Office Space has multiple such lines. Bill Lumberg's "Mmmyeaahh, we're gonna need you to come in on Saturday. Yeaahhh." Milton's anything, especially anything about Staplers.
  • It's easy to spot the droogs who have seen or read A Clockwork Orange.
  • For a while, Jim Carrey movies tried to invoke this with their Catch Phrases... "Somebody stop me!" "Alrighty then!" etc.
  • "[Example A] [exhibits trait X], [example B] not so much." suddenly became a pretty popular way to make a comparison after Borat came out.
    • Of course, some people were already saying that, since Paul said it so often on Mad About You years earlier.
  • The Godfather brought the line, "make you An Offer You Can't Refuse." Usually this is supposed to mean that the deal is so good you'd be crazy to pass it up, but the original offer from the movie is actually extortion: "Either his brains or his signature would be on the contract."
  • Some people use the term "ear-muffs" from Old School to instruct someone to cover their ears.
  • The movie Airplane! is a veritable font of repeatable one-liners. "Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop smoking/drinking/sniffing glue/fill in the blank" or "I'm quite serious. And don't call me Shirley".
  • Mean Girls has Gretchen Weiners making a failed attempt at introducing the word, "Fetch."
  • "Bond. James Bond" (in almost every Bond movie, to the point were the writers took heat for leaving it out of Quantum of Solace.)
  • You don't need to have seen Spinal Tap to know what someone means when they say that something has been Turned Up to Eleven.
  • Major League gave us the phrase "Juuuuuust a bit outside", for throws that are wildly off the mark.
  • Godzilla has become such a widely-known icon for Kaiju and Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever that "-zilla" has become a slang suffix applied to anything big and powerful. Toho has occasionally sued people for using the suffix, apparently to keep their franchise from becoming a generic trademark.
  • Although the word "Kaiju" has been the basic word in Japanese for such giant monsters and has seen niche use among non-Japanese fans of such movies ever since Godzilla first became popular, Pacific Rim helped bring it into mainstream use. Indeed, it probably helped our own "Kaiju" page become an Overdosed Trope.

    Literature 
  • The Bible is probably the Ur Example, supplying the meaning of so many words and phrases that have become so common that most people don't realize their origin as biblical metaphors. For example, the "parable of the talents" brought about the use of "talent" (being a unit of weight for valuables) to mean "aptitude or ability." A lot of very common names also come from the Bible — even parents who don't necessarily know that the name comes from the Bible use them.
  • And if the Bible didn't coin it, there's a good chance Shakespeare did.
  • William Gibson's Sprawl Trilogy popularized the term "cyberspace" to refer to the internet.
  • Many people use the Newspeak from 1984 to make a point - for example, "doubleplusgood", "doublethink", "thought police", and "thoughtcrime". It also created the term "Big Brother" to refer to a dominating or intrusive force of authority.
    • "Doublespeak" is not from the book, but was probably coined on the same principles and certainly would have been at home there.
  • Phrases such as "White Man's burden" and a cigar being "a smoke" come from Kipling.
  • Lewis Carroll brought quite a few words and phrases into the language, including "chortle", "galumph", "portmanteau word", and less meaningful but still recognisable terms like "jabberwocky", "brillig", and "slithy".
    • "Manxome" is also an official word found in dictionaries now. It means "like a manx", being a word along the lines of "feline", "canine", "leonine", etc. I do believe you'll find "jabberwocky" in dictionaries as well, meaning something like "gibberish" or "nonsense" if memory serves. "Chortle" has essentially evolved all the way into a proper, un word.
  • In Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein coined the term "grok," which means literally "to drink", but also "to love," "to understand," "to empathize," and - you get the picture. The term became popular among hippies and science fiction fans, and is now included in the Oxford English Dictionary.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien; he was a linguist, after all, and many of the words that today have clear meanings only do because he found or made them do.
    • For example, Goblins being distinct from Kobolds, Hobbits, Elves separate from fairies, the like. Words like Eucatastrophe (Near Villain Victory) are from his brain. He's also partly responsible for the use of "elves and dwarves" rather than "elfs and dwarfs" in fantasy fiction.
    • Considering he was not just "a linguist" but an associate editor of the Oxford English Dictionary (he also wrote a substantial portion of the "W" volume, including the entry on "walrus", on which, The Other Wiki says, "he struggled mightily"), it makes a lot of sense. (And appropriately enough, "hobbit" is now in the OED.)
  • Does language leave you a-mazed, con-founded or a-stonished? Thank John Milton, the English language's second (or third) most prolific word-maker/codifier after Chaucer.
  • Ladies and gentlemen, I give you a list of words invented by Chaucer.
  • "Muggles", a term originating for J.R. Rowling's Harry Potter books, is used by most fangroups to refer to "anyone who isn't a part of our fandom", and thus wouldn't understand what they're talking about.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Seinfeld's main characters come up with their own lexicon of terms that may or may not be shared by other characters.
  • Often subverted in Curb Your Enthusiasm, when people react with confusion or irritation over Larry David's personal Sein Language.
    Larry: I didn't want to do a stop-and-chat.
    Larry's Agent: "Stop-and-chat?" Where do you come up with these things?
  • Star Trek brought a few lines into popular vernacular: "Live long and prosper," being one.
    • "Revenge is a dish best served cold." Notable for not actually originating in Trek, but it's best remembered from Wrath of Khan.
    • "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" also comes from said movie and is one of Trek's honest creations.
    • Resistance Is Futile. (They popularized it, but the phrase dates back at least to Cool Hand Luke.)
  • Battlestar Galactica serves up "frak" for use as a minced oath.
  • Farscape does the same with "frell."
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. See Buffy Speak.
  • Friends (especially Matthew Perry) changed the way we used the word "so." There was a scholarly study on it.
    • Not to mention "Could <pronoun> be any more X?"
    • Ross' tendency to emphasize the wrong words in any given sentence probably counts too.
    • Not to mention the show has forever altered the way we will take God's name in vain.
    • Joey's seductive "How You Doing?" is probably another example.
  • Coupling - Jeff has a Personal Dictionary several volumes long, some of which he shares with Steve while others mystify even him. It's also constantly being updated due to his habit of giving names to any concept that pops into his head. So we have; the Melty Man, the Sock Gap, the Nudity Buffer, Nudity Hoovering, the V.A.A. (Visual Access Angle), Captain Subtext, "the Prickles, the Blurts and the Head-laugh" and Nose Avoidance Tilting. This is not to mention the Giggle Loop, which has become a relatively well-known expression for the times you try to stop yourself laughing at an inappropriate moment and it just makes it worse.
  • Top Gear
    • "...in the world."
    • "Flappy-paddle gearbox", coming soon to your automotive manuals—oh wait, it's already there. Never mind, then.
  • Blackadder, which typifies this trope like something that typifies a trope... a lot.
  • After Firefly finished, things like 'shiny' as a synonym for 'good' became (and remain) very common in New Zealand, even from those who'd never watched the show.
  • The Colbert Report has made great pains to popularize new words as social commentary:
    • "Truthiness" is something that feels truthful but isn't necessarily. The term is similar to a "factoid," which is an unsubstantiated assertion that seems factual. Colbert uses the term to lampoon politicians and pundits who say what they want to be true rather than consult facts.
      • The word "truthiness" has now been used several times in the Canadian House of Commons and is consequently recorded in Hansard.
    • "Wikiality" is the attempt to say something is true in order to make it true. The term comes from the idea that in a wiki, a user can write whatever he wants, then appeal to the wiki's authority to assert that his statement is therefore true.
  • Get Smart featured the running joke, "missed it by that much," which became a popular quote.
    • Some people have also found it difficult to say "Sorry about that" without adding "Chief."
    • Would you believe there were hundreds more? You find that hard to believe? Well, would you believe at least one?
    • Max spent a lot of time using catch phrases...aaand loving it.
  • Police are popularly referred to as "Five-O" thanks to Hawaii Five-O.
  • How I Met Your Mother has several of these: "eating a sandwich" and "reading a magazine" are euphemisms for smoking weed and masturbating, respectively. Also, many of Barney and Ted's rules, like Revertigo and The Mermaid Theory. Phrases like, "Suit up!" and "Legen - wait for it - dary!" have become more popular.
    • On the show, "reading a magazine" was originally used to mean taking a dump, though plenty of viewers used it in the dirtier sense after Barney, possibly intentionally, misunderstood Marshall's point about doing it at work because originally Marshall comes home to the apartment to relieve himself (whilst carrying a magazine) and when Robin catches him he says he was "reading a magazine." Robin, not understanding, asks why he would bother coming all the way back to the apartment to simply read a magazine. However Ted understands the euphemism from the beginning and basically explains/implies the meaning to Robin.
  • Doctor Who- the acronym TARDIS is in the Oxford American Dictionary, as "a time machine" or "a building or container that is larger inside than it appears to be from the outside."
    • Brittish politicians and talking heads will occasionally refer to their opponents as "Daleks" or "Dalek-Like", after a monster in the series.
  • Israeli satire show Eretz Nehederet is particularily known for bringing a few neologisms every season, some of them sticking for quite a while.
  • Jon from Delocated is constantly trying to invent new words and having other start to use them. It has not caught on a single time in the whole series, either in-universe or outside. His attempt to sell 20,000 t-shirts with the What a crunchery! line he is attempting to raise to a Memetic Mutation meets a similar fate when he only sells two before shutting down his website. They were both bought by Sergei to humiliate Yvgeni after "What a crunchery" becomes the stand-up comedy punchline that allows John to beat Yvgeni in a comedy contest.
  • Red Dwarf with the word "smeg".

    Radio 
  • Rush Limbaugh coined the word feminazi.
    • He also encouraged people calling into his show to say "ditto" rather than waste airtime gushing about how much they like the show, which led to Limbaugh fans being called "dittoheads".

    Tabletop Games 
  • Shadowrun's Future Slang is so convincing players tend to start using it in everyday conversations.
    • Jack out and smell the soykaf, uh, chummer!
      • Hoy, motherfraggers, there's good reason that Fourth Edition brought the word "fuck" back to Shadowrun.
  • While some of it is borrowed from real life slang (such as "berk" from Cockney Rhyming Slang), the same can be said of D&D's Planescape Cant.
  • Dungeons & Dragons gave us Hit Points, now used as a universal term for life bars in video games.

    Theatre 
  • William Shakespeare contributed 1,700 new words to the English language (where would the Internet be without the word "rant"?), created scores of phrases (from the obvious "to be or not to be" to "with bated breath" and "Foregone Conclusion") and popularized the uses of various method of phrases constructions such as combining two adjectives with the word "and". That's right: When you say "that was blank and blank" (e.g., "I like it fast and loose", "I like my women like my coffee, strong and bitter"), you probably owe it to Shakespeare.
    • Well, Shakespeare didn't quite invent that many words, but the way he used and spelled them became the gold standard by early dictionary writers. Considering that he played with the meanings of words a lot, the Bard was not the best choice as a standard. The early editors of the Oxford English Dictionary commissioned actual lexicographers to cross-reference other Elizabethan texts to make sure that Shakespeare hadn't fooled them!
    • Likewise, Alexander Pushkin is William Shakespeare for Russian language, although he was a poet and writer, not a dramatist.
    • Similarly, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe for German. Many sayings and idioms can be traced back directly to his works, most famously Faust.

    Video Games 

    Webcomics 
  • ANYONE who reads through the entirety of the Schlock Mercenary archive will invariably find themselves referring to any artificial gravity technology in any verse, and of any type, as "gravy".
  • Similarly, many people refer to Mad Scientists in any context as Sparks, inspired by the webcomic Girl Genius.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons
    • D'oh!
    • "Worst. Episode. Ever."
    • YOINK!
    • Meh.
    • The Simpsons popularized 'cromulent' to the extent it can now be found in many scientific papers online.
  • Family Guy can have an effect on a viewers speaking pattern, but it seems "giggity" and "What the Deuce?" saw wider usage than just fans.
  • Believe it or not, the current use of "nimrod" to mean a stupid, silly, or foolish person derives from Bugs Bunny using it sarcastically to taunt Elmer Fudd. (Nimrod is a Bible character described as a "mighty hunter before the Lord.")
    • You can also blame Bugs for the use of "maroon" as an alternate spelling of "moron".
    • "What's up, [doc]?" was probably already in use, but Bugs Bunny in all likelihood helped give it staying power.
  • A lot of the fans/'phans' of Danny Phantom pick up insults from the show. Most notably 'cheese head' or 'you are one seriously crazed-up fruit loop'. Coincidentally, both were originally describing Vlad.
    • Actually "Cheese Head" is a reference to Vlad being a massive Green Bay Packers fan, as it is the term used to describe one. Vlad was such a huge fan that one of his big hang-ups was his failed attempts to purchase the team, and his mansion was filled with Packer memorabilia.
  • South Park:
    • The phrase "That makes me a sad panda." has been used as a pretty much catch-all term to express any sort of displeasure.
    • Phase 1: Think of a meme. Phase 2: ? Phase 3: PROFIT!
  • Young Justice: Whelmed. Aster. Concerted. Thank you, Robin.
  • Members of Phineas and Ferb's Periphery Demographic who are asked "Aren't you a little old to be watching cartoons?" have only one response: "Why yes, yes I am."

    TV Tropes Wiki 

    Other 
  • Spending too much time on the Internet will eventually lead to this, only in comparatively horrendous ways.
    • These include the regression of grammar into something no language would accept, use of one-word sentences-explicatives, development of a pronounced-misspelling based accent, and the adoption of slang to such an extent that inner-city gangsters sound like Stephen Fry compared to you.

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alternative title(s): Sein Language; Memetic Language
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