In recent years I've heard, and come to use myself, the phrase Jumped the Shark to describe projects and ideas that have gone off the rails.
Eventually, being me and having a fascination with the entomology of words and phrases, it occurred to me to examine the origins of "jumped the shark" and I was amused to discover its source.
Do you know it?
It's a colloquialism that originated with TV critics and fans to describe what happens when a long running and once quality TV series makes a sudden and dramatic change of rudder and veers into the absurd and ridiculous in an effort to maintain its ratings and viewership - following which, the show is doomed.
The actual term itself comes from the 70's sitcom Happy Days, and specifically the three-part season five opener entitled "Hollywood," where Fonzie in swim trunks and trademark leather jacket jumps a shark while water-skiing (and to be perfectly clear here, Fonzie was the one on skies, not the shark). Though the show produced another hundred episodes following Hollywood, the quality declined significantly, the jokes became old and tired, and the audience gradually lost interest - and we ended up with Joanie loves Chachi and that wasn't good for anybody.
Recently a new phrase has emerged to replace the Happy Days term, i.e. Nuke the Fridge. Which comes from the movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and describes a scene where Indy, complete with his version of Fonzie's jacket - the trademark Fedora, survives a nuclear test blast in a lead lined refrigerator. He emerges from the fridge unscathed to the audience's disbelieving groans, after flying literally miles through the air at supersonic speeds and slamming into the New Mexico desert, bouncing end for end across the rocky sage. Personally, having my suspension of disbelief and a big bucket of popcorn firmly in hand, I loved that scene and still do - but, I'm in an insignificant minority here, others found it much less entertaining. Hence the emergence of nuke the fridge.
I'm going to stick with shark jumping, nuking the fridge doesn't have quite the same ring to it for me. But others are welcome to turn the phrase as they see fit.
Another recent phrase that has entered the common American vernacular, at least in the minds of one political inclination, is Pulling A Palin, meaning that when questioned directly, a person responds not with an actual answer, but with random things they happened to be thinking about at the time (Which is essentially what I'm doing with this post - as my mind is elsewhere at the moment and I'm penning things I hope you'll find amusing or at least distracting and not notice that I don't, in fact, have a point). The origin of the term comes from a hilarious comic strip face-off between XKCD's Randall Munroe and The New Yorker's Farley Katz (Science + Booze = String Theory, I nearly ruptured an intestinal wall over that one). The origin of Pulling a Palin should be obvious to anybody with a pulse and a TV set.
I've also heard Doing the McCain, which is where the answer to any question, shouted in an angry whine, is "I was in the Navy, damn your eyes!" or alternatively "I was in Hanoi at the time, you draft dodgin' hippy!" This is a replacement phrase for Doing the Reagan, which is best described as waving, grinning, then putting your hand to your ear and shaking your head in response to shouted questions - then you climb into Marine One and fly away.
Or the Obama, which is where you respond to the question by giving a stirring speech on the economy or race and emphasizing how things need to change. Then you shake a lot of hands and smile. This is a replacement phrase for Doing the Carter, which nobody remembers anyway.
There's Doing the Donohue, named for the Catholic League's Bill Donohue, where you answer every question by blaming the Jews or atheists.
Me, I'm coining the phrase Doin' the Wagner, where the response to any question is to blame everything on micro-black holes created by advanced particle accelerators and to dismiss the question by claiming expertise in unrelated fields and/or by pinning on faux titles.
Remember kids, you heard it here at Stonekettle Station first. Repeat as necessary.
What's your favorite new phrase? Feel free to make up a couple if you like.