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May 31st 2014 at 1:40:14 PM •••

Meaning of Catchphrase

There seems to be some confusion as to what is and is not a catchphrase, and way, way too many phrases given that designation. A catchphrase has to be something that catches on, not just something that is said a lot by a character.

Joey saying, "how you doin'" on "Friends" is a catchphrase, Sawyer saying, "son of a bitch" on "Lost" is not, it's just something he says a lot. If you say "how you doin'" to someone in a funny way, they know what it is; they think of Joey, even 20 years after the show began. If you say, "son of a bitch," no one thinks of Sawyer or "Lost." (Monica saying, "I know!" on "Friends" also wasn't a catch phrase, it's just something she said a lot, and it wasn't even funny).

"Come on down" on "The Price is Right" is a catchphrase. "The points don't matter" on "Whose Line is it Anyway?" is not, in fact, it doesn't even mean anything. If you said, "come on down" to someone they would instantly know what you mean; if you said, "the points don't matter" they'd look at you like you were crazy. ("actual retail price" also isn't a catchphrase, it's just part of the game)

Jerry Seinfeld saying "hello, Newman" is a catchphrase. Pete Campbell saying "a thing like that" on "Mad Men" isn't.

There should be another category for things that are said frequently on shows but that don't rise to the level of catchphrase. You have "Beam Me Up Scotty" and "Memetic Mutation" as subtle variations on catchphrase, it seems there would be a place for catchphrases that just aren't catchphrases.

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