TV catchphrases that shaped a generation:

by Lynn Connolly

Lately, we’ve started a series of blogs looking at how TV has shaped a generation – such as how Friends has affected how we live even – and generally how we’ve adopted all things telly into our real everyday lives, so today, we thought we’d take a look at which catchphrases have been so popular, most of us use one or more at some point in our lives.

For example, how many of us say Homer Simpson’s “D’oh!” when we do something dumb? I know I do! Bart Simpson’s “Eat my shorts” had parents of seven year olds pulling their hair out for a while back when the show first hit our screens and “Aye carumba” is still a much used one. The cartoon of the Flintstones issued forth “Yabba dabba doo!” which seemed to cover a multitude of happy situations…

And for us oldies, remember “Book ‘em Danno” from Hawaii Five-O or “Don’t make me angry, you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry” from the Incredible Hulk. Likewise, Kojak’s “Who loves ya baby” was popular for many years but anyone under 40 probably wouldn’t know what the hell I’m talking about!

Ditto Kenny Everett’s “All in the best possible taste!” and Different Strokes “Whachoo talkin’ ‘bout Willis!”

One I still revere is John Inman’s character’s catchphrase, “I’m free!” when he was asked to attend to a customer. Remember how he always looked around first to be sure he really was “free”? Classic stuff.

Or how about “Beam me up Scotty” for when we want to get out of an awkward situation? A friend of mine used to announce his need to go to the toilet by saying, “There’s clingons on the starboard bow” Needless to say, we didn’t take him out in public much. Talking of things sci-fi, discussions about UFOs rarely take place without someone saying, “The truth is out there.”

Since Friends became a regular part of our culture, in clubs and bars up and down the nation, you’ll hear a guy saying, “How you doin’?” as per Joey from Friends. A denial may issue the noise/phrase, “Nuh huh!” and of course, “I’m right here!” when you’re being talked about as if you’re invisible.

As to homegrown catchphrases, comedy shows have been a veritable goldmine of catchphrases; Victor Meldrew in One Foot In The Grave gave us “I don’t believe it!” and a boss I once had used to really find it hugely amusing to point out when I hadn’t done something to his liking by mimicking Roy Walker from Catchphrase saying, “It’s good, but it’s not quite right”. Once that man had hold of a joke, it was a prisoner let me tell you.

Manuel in Fawlty Towers provided, “I know nothing” and “Que?” while just one episode spawned the phrase, “Don’t mention the war”. Catherine Tate’s “Am I bothered though?” is an ever present panacea expression for not caring. The Fast Show’s “Ooooh suits you Sir” was one of my favourites.

Only Fools and Horses has blessed us with a multitude of one liners that are now daily conversational tools, such as “This time next year Rodders, we’ll be millionaires!” as well as “You know it makes sense!” “Lovely jubbly!” “Cushty” and finally, “Rodney, you plonker!”

But I think one of my personal classics is from Da Ali G Show and the immortal and very funny, “Is it ‘cos I is black?”

My son says it to me every time I have a go at him about something because he knows it’ll stop me being mad with him if he makes me laugh, and that phrase always does.

“Calm down, calm down” from The Scousers on Harry Enfield’s Television Programme was and still is very amusing but arguably the best ever – there’re even T-shirts! – is “Garlic bread: it’s the future. I’ve tasted it” courtesy of Brian Potter, Phoenix Nights.

And no refusal of a cup of tea in my house happens without Mrs Doyle’s, “Go on, go on, go on, go on, go on” while equally frequently heard in my humble abode is The Royle Family’s “My arse!”

From quiz shows, there’ve been lots of catchy phrases including Chris Tarrant’s, “Is that your final answer?” which finds itself inveigled in many conversations, including ones where that sentence is followed up by, “Thank God, that’s the last we’ll hear from you then…”

And Anne Robinson’s “You are the weakest link. Goodbye!” is a classic as was Magnus Magnusson’s “I’ve started so I’ll finish”… best not tell you in which situations I’ve often heard that one!

And lest we forget, “Super, smashin’, great” and “Look what you coulda won” from Bullseye.

That always struck me as the height of cruelty but then again at lot of the time, the big prize was utterly useless, other than to sell. It was a boat 99% of the time and if the contestants lived in Rochdale, what were they meant to do with it and how can you split a boat between the two winners??

So do let us know which catchphrases you hear on a regular basis and which are your favourites!

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.