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The Catchphrase Catches On

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"When I hear your ideas, I'm reminded of that new ad, 'Where's the Beef?'"
Walter Mondale to Gary Hart, during a debate for 1984 Democratic presidential nomination

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 have one before.

Compare Person as Verb. Related to Defictionalization.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Thanks to Tengen Toppa 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. Ironically enough, the show's joke around the term was the exact opposite of its current meaning: when they found a photo of his "waifu", the rest of the cast couldn't believe a man like Kimura could have such a pretty wife and assumed he was deluding himself and/or stalking her, until she turned up at school with his lunch.
    • As of 2018 the word "Waifu" has been in the western animefans, or at least western otakus, lexicon for several years. Meaning seems to vary from "the absolute best girl ever in any anime", to "I actually want to marry this fictional character", to "another synonym for best girl". Some say you can only have one waifu, others say you can have multiple.
      • There is also a male variant / Spear Counterpart husbando. Again, people disagree if you can have one or several husbandos. Most people agree that IRL people, least of all actual husband and/or wives apply for waifu or husbando status. They are "just" wives and husbands.
    • 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. KanColle 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)").
  • Anya Forger from Spy X Family has caused children to call their parents "chichi" and "haha" like she does. ('Chichi' and 'haha' are very formal words used when talking about your parents in Japanese, not to your parents).

    Fan Works 
  • A Trekkie's Tale gave us the term "Mary Sue" from the main protagonist, who was already a Parody Sue, and has become part of everyday's lexicon, although the term has become essentially meaningless.
  • A.A. Pessimal wondered about Lancre witches post-Granny Weatherwax after her death (and the death of Terry Pratchett) with The Shepherd's Crown. How would she be remembered? In the years after her passing, all witches now reverently intone the blessing mayhersoulhavemercyonthegods whenever her name is mentioned. This convention has so far only appeared in one tale. However. Looking around the Internet in late 2019, the author noted this is spreading and has popped up on quite a few forums and websites when Granny (mayhersoulhavemercyonthegods) is invoked. It's popping up in some surprising and not directly Discworld-related places, in fact. the author is pleased with this and wonders how far this is going to travel.

    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 catchphrases... "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 This is Spın̈al Tap to know what someone means when they say that something has been turned up to 11.
  • 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.
  • Ghostbusters:
    • You know the phrase "You're toast!"? It comes from the first movie, believe it or not. The screenplay had Venkman say "I'm gonna turn this guy into toast", but Bill Murray shortened it to "This chick is toast!" (And in case you're wondering, yes, the "chick" was a "guy" in the original screenplay.)
    • Not only that, but Ghostbusters also popularized the use of "slime" as a verb ("He slimed me"). Just about every foreign-language dub rendered the line either as said or as "I have been slimed."
  • Even in contexts having nothing to do with Star Wars, it's not unusual to hear someone described as having crossed/turned to "the dark side".
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger has since adapted "I'll be back." as his personal catchphrase.
  • Ditto for Clint Eastwood who ends his speech at the 2012 Republican National Convention with a "Go ahead, make my day."
  • The Fly (1986) is the source of the warning "Be afraid. Be very afraid"; that this Signature Line doubled as the Tagline helped its exposure.
  • The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension popularized the aphorism, often attributed to Confucius, "No matter where you go, there you are."

  • 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. Bernard Levin once wrote a piece with multiple variants on "If you say [common phrase], you are quoting Shakespeare". Although others disagree.
  • William Gibson's Sprawl Trilogy popularized the term "cyberspace" to refer to the internet.
  • Many people use the Newspeak from Nineteen Eighty-Four 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. "Jabberwocky" can be in dictionaries as well, meaning something like "gibberish" or "nonsense". "Chortle" has essentially evolved all the way into a proper 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.
  • 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.
  • "Muggles", a term originating for J.R. Rowling's Harry Potter books, was often used by fangroups outside of the Harry Potter fandom to refer to "anyone who isn't a part of our fandom", and thus wouldn't understand what they're talking about. Nowadays, the term is more often used to refer to a character who doesn't have the same special powers, supernatural abilities, or magical/fantasy lineage as the main cast.
  • The term "waldo", an informal name for remote manipulator devices, comes from a 1942 short story of the same name by Robert A. Heinlein.
  • Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm, and especially its film adaptation, is responsible for popularizing the term "perfect storm" for a catastrophic effect caused by factors that amplify one another.

    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 (or the one)" 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.)
    • After making the first coffee brewed in space, Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti would tweet "Coffee: the finest organic suspension ever devised" along with a photo of her drinking the coffee while wearing a Starfleet uniform. The original phrase was from the coffee-loving Captain Janeway of Star Trek: Voyager.
  • 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 (UK)
    • " 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.
  • Chappelle's Show gave us the phrase "I'm Rick James, bitch!" The phrase caught on so much that ''Dave Chappelle has walked off stage due to fans endlessly repeating it during his performances.
  • 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.
    • It's the Old Adding an Entry on a TV Tropes Page Trick! And I fell for 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."
    • British politicians and talking heads will occasionally refer to their opponents as "Daleks" or "Dalek-Like", after a monster in the series.
    • "Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey" (a shortened version of a phrase used by the Tenth Doctor in "Blink") is often used to describe something that's rendered confusing by multiple layers of time travel.
  • Israeli satire show Eretz Nehederet is particularly 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".
  • The Big Bang Theory brought about the term "Bazinga," not to mention the playing of "Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock."
  • Drake & Josh brought us a few as well. Some of these include "boobs," "Whoa, just take it easy man," and of course "PIP PIP DA DOODLEY DOO!"
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia had the concept of "hanging dong", or in other words Male Frontal Nudity.
  • The Thick of It had Malcolm Tucker coin the word "Omnishambles" which ended up being used by real politicians before eventually entering the Oxford English Dictionary. This baffles the writers to no end.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine
    • Bingpot!
    • Cool cool c-c-cool
    • Talking about Terry in the 3rd person
    • Referring to Captain Holt, Kevin and/or Terry as ‘Dad’
  • Schitt's Creek:
    • Alexis's catchphrase "Eww, David" has caused a notable uptick in people simply responding "Eww" to something they don't like.
    • Moira's pretentious, French pronunciation of baby as bebé has wormed its way into English.

  • Thanks to Eminem, "stan" has come to mean Loony Fan in daily parlance, even being included in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Some people claim the title for themselves with a less toxic connotation.

    Puppet Shows 

  • Rush Limbaugh coined the word feminazi.note 
    • 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".

  • José Mourinho once complained about Tottenham's overly defensive display, saying "As we say in Portugal, they brought the bus and they left the bus in front of the goal." Over the next few years, this evolved to "park the bus" to refer to an overly defensive style of association football.

    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.
  • Warhammer 40,000 of course, gave us the Orks and more importantly, Dakka for rapid fire ballistics. More Dakka is always good.
    • Not to mention, "grimdark". (A shortening of the game's tagline, nowadays used as an ironic name for fiction so dystopian that it becomes a parody of itself. Which the game actually was, at first.)

  • 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 rather provided the first known written usage of many words that were no doubt already in use, and 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.
  • The phrase "Everything's Coming Up Roses" was coined by Stephen Sondheim for the musical Gypsy. He said in an interview "The point was to [coin] a phrase that sounded as if it had been in the language for years but was in fact invented for the show." It has since become common parlance.
  • Moličre certainly had lots of influence on the French language. Notably:
    • A "Tartuffe" came to designate any religious hypocrite.
    • Likewise, " Harpagon" is an easy insult directed at a miser.
    • From Les Fourberies de Scapin, "Que diable allait-il faire dans cette galère?" ("What the devil was he doing on this galley?") gave birth to a commonly used expression, soon shortened to "Quelle galère!" ("What a hassle!") and the verb galérer (to have a hard time). Although Molière didn’t quite invent this one, just popularized it, since the scene was inspired from an earlier play by Cyrano de Bergerac (the historical one).
  • The word "robot" was coined by Czech playwright Karel Čapek (suggested by his brother) for his play R.U.R.: Rossum's Universal Robots, based on the Czech word robota "unpaid labour required of serfs; drudgery, servitude." It promptly became the standard word in English and many other languages for computer-controlled work-performing automata, one of our few borrowings from Czech. (However, his robots are creatures of flesh and blood, just artificial ones—quite different from our conception of robots today.) A bit strange that the word got so popular, perhaps, considering that the play itself involves the robots Turning Against Their Masters and exterminating humankind.

    Video Games 
  • Pokémon:
    • A wild something appeared!
    • It's super effective! At catching on, at any rate; the phrase for successfully using Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors from the game has been used well beyond its original source.

  • 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.
  • The webcomic Sexy Losers popularized the onomatopoeic sound effects "fap" and "shlik" as words for male and female masturbation respectively.

    Web Original 
  • TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Vocabulary. Give it time and it will ruin that of your peers as well. Warning: may cause Beige Prose and short, choppy sentences.
  • 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.

    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.
    • "Embiggen" is occasionally seen, such as below an image linked to the full file: "Click to embiggen".
  • 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 was probably popularized by 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'note  or 'you are one seriously crazed-up fruit loop'. Coincidentally, both were originally describing Vlad.
  • 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."
  • Despite being used occasionally in the series that inspired it, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood popularized the phrase "Ugga Mugga", a word meant as a way of showing someone you love them.

Alternative Title(s): Sein Language