Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Turn 'O Phrase

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.


  1. I don't know if you're an Arrested Development fan or not, but one of the classic meta/inside jokes on that show is a scene in which attorney Barry Zuckerkorn--played by Henry Winkler--is walking along a wharf and has to jump over a shark that some fishermen have brought up.

    Later in the series, Zuckerkorn is fired and the family hires Bob Loblaw to replace him--of course, Loblaw is played by Scott Baio.

    You really should rent those DVDs if you never saw the show.

  2. I've got a couple of problems with doing a Reagan. First of all the percentage of the population who can board Marine One is infinitesimal...and doesn't include me. Second of all, the current definition of doing a Reagan involves laying down and holding your breath for a few years.

  3. I'm going to do the timewarp. Again.

    Arrested Development. Sigh...

    I actually wrote Fox a letter pleading for them to not cancel it, pointing out that I was in the coveted 18-35 demographic, my family income was in a fairly ok range (I used real numbers), and I was exactly the sort of person they wanted to be marketing to. Alas, it was all for naught.

    Buster, the hand chair, and losing his hand - the foreshadowing when he finds his chair and the Ron Howard voiceover says "You never realized how attached you are to something until it's gone", and a few episodes later he loses his hand to the seal. Much love for Arrested Development.

  4. Some of my favorite phrases?


    (That gets used constantly. Came from "The Wild Wild West".)


    (That is funny if you saw "Singles"; "Are my breasts too small for you?" "Sometimes?")

    "This one goes to eleven!"

    "Look! Trollops!"

    (I do live in a college town.)

  5. "This one goes to eleven"

    One of my very favorite movies and phrases.

  6. "OOO I'm Dying again" Need I explain another Bugs Bunny reference regarding the transport of a Penguin (Penguins are pracitcally Chickens) to the South Pole and later to Hobokin, NJ.

  7. From Star Trek:

    "He's dead, Jim."

    "Beam me up, Scotty."

    "Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated."

  8. See, our Star Trek ones are far geekier:

    "What flavor did you choose?" "Scotch."


    "Your soulless minions of orthodoxy!"

  9. When I said 'we', officer, I was referring to myself, the four young ladies, and, of course, the goat.

    Honest officer, the dwarf was on fire when I got here.

    Falling in love doesn't kill people. Landing does.

    Love thy neighbor as thyself, but choose your neighborhood.

    Madness takes its toll. Please have exact change.

    You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say will be misquoted, then used against you.

    Out testing time machine, be back yesterday.

    Life isn't fair. It's just fairer than death, that's all.

    Being normal is just a figment of everyone else's imagination.

    Mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other to extinction. Let us pray we choose correctly.

  10. Can I just submit the whole script to The Princess Bride appropriately marked up with arrows and (grin)'s?

    I regularly quote "ours goes to e-leven -- that's one more than ten" in my Physics classes, complete with accent.

    And speaking of Physics, you cannot "nuke the fridge". (1) A refrigerator will not fit in a microwave oven. (2) Even if it did, the combination of a device which heats food with one that chills food would result in a megalopizillion explosion of devastating disasteriness. (sorry for the technical speak, but it's Physics) (3) Microwave ovens don't nuke anyway. So the whole phrase makes no sense. (grin)

    Dr. Phil

  11. I have no recollection of that event, Senator.

  12. "Out of the way, peck!

    I used to use this phrase on Ensigns and other such junior officers blocking a shipboard passageway. (go on, name that movie)

  13. "What do you make of this?"
    "A hat, a brooch, a pterodactyl!"

    And since I wear hats a lot, it's often just the second line.

  14. StarTrek has so many.

    "For god's sakes Jim(Bob, John, Steve), I am a developer not a (make up a position here)"

    "He's dead, Jim"

    "I can't do it captain, I don't have the power"


    "Mmmmmmm, Donut (insert anything you heart desires"

    Ace Ventura.

    "do NOT go in there!"


  15. "Leaf Taper!"

    Which is a reference to the appalingly bad winner of Writer's Digest's genre story competition last year, in which the female protagonist tapes all of the leaves back onto a maple tree to show her continued commitment to the guy she lives with. We throw it around in the office to refrence anything bad.

  16. "Out of the way, peck!"

    Love that movie! So many good lines too. I also like "Mumbo, Jumbo, go get me some eggs or something." and "Ooh, I'm really scared. No! Don't! There's a- a peck here with an acorn pointed at me!"

  17. Great post!

    I'd like to point out that "Nuking the Fridge" isn't intended to replace "Jumping the Shark", but is rather the "movie/film" version meaning the same thing.

    May the Fridge Be With You!
    Beth Russell

  18. Well, now you've just ruined the whole damn thing, Beth. I hope you're happy. ;)

    Oh, I could have done that dive... if I didn't have this diarrhea.

    (ok, go on, name that movie)

  19. Matt, Willow is one of my favorite movies - I'm soft in the head for Joanne Whalley, especially in that movie.

    Personally, my favorite is:

    "Not a woman? NOT a woman! ahhhhhhh! kill!"

    "Gentlemen, meet Lunk"

    And then all hell breaks loose

  20. Willow is great and now I want to go watch it. I can't remember the exact line but one of my other favorites is when the Brownies have Willow tied up and one of them threatens to break his nose.

  21. Office Space is another repository of awesome quotes. One of my favorites being the distinction between "white-collar resort prison" and "Federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison," which is an actual technical distinction between two types of facility. :-)

  22. Ah! I just watched Office Space (now, with flair!) last night.

    "you've been missing a lot of work lately"
    "Well, Bob, I wouldn't exactly say I've been missing it..."

    "I hate my job, I don't think I going to go any more"

    God, I love that movie.

  23. I'll not get this right, but...

    "The captain would know what to do."

    "But he's dead."

    "Let's go ask him anyway." ...

    "Commander Powell?"

    "You never come to see me anymore. It's so cold in here and I'm so-ooo lonely..."

    Dr. Phil

  24. Dr. Phil for the win. My favorite line from that movie may be, "When I brought you on this ship, I thought you were cute," just because of the perfectly wounded way Dan O'Bannon delivers the line.

  25. "Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid."

    Hans Solo to Luke Skywalker
    The first (& still the best)
    Star Wars

    Can't let the brother-unit (Dr.Phil-Physics) beat me at this even if I did get here late. It's a sibling thing...WendyB_09

    Liea - "I'd rather kiss a Wookie!"
    Han - "I can arrange that!"

  26. Don't give me any of that intelligent life crap, just give me something I can blow up.

  27. Don't make us bite you in hard-to-reach places!


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