(In)Famous Lines

by Christine Wells

I'm a writer of historical romance who not only loves history, but also the history and origin of words and phrases, a study known as etymology. I often have cause to look up a word to see if it was in use at the time I'm writing about and I find it endlessly fascinating to discover how everyday expressions found their way into our language.

Before mass media, expressions were often derived from famous figures of the time, from cartoons, plays or current events, and of course words were drawn into the English lexicon from other languages as a consequence of migration.

Nowadays, our expressions are more likely to be influenced by the media--advertisements, television, movies, and even books.

How many of our every day quips come from the media? In our family, we say 'Don't mention the war' when there's a touchy subject no one is allowed to bring up (Fawlty Towers) or 'I have a cunning plan' (Blackadder). An entire generation in Australia said 'Not happy, Jan' after a very successful Yellow Pages advertisement. And who didn't know the phrase 'wrapped in plastic' when Twin Peaks was on television?

I thought it would be fun to post a quiz about expressions that have leaped from media into our every day speech. See if you can guess where these are from and feel free to add some of your own.

1. Not that there's anything wrong with that

2. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!

3. Glittery Hoo-ha

4. Do you feel lucky?

5. Jump the shark

6. Just do it

7. No one expects the Spanish Inquisition

8. To boldly go...

9. Voted off the island

10. Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn


  1. LOL!! Christine...you may be my new secret twin...

    I can't be truly great friends with anyone who wouldn't say 'Don't mention the war.' Except for my lifelong best friend, but she does love 'a cunning plan.' So she's safe.

    Okay, here goes:

    1. Seinfeld
    2. The Brady Bunch
    3. Glittery Hoo-ha (?)
    4. Dirty Harry
    5. Jump the shark (?)
    6. Nike
    7. Monty Python
    8. Star Trek
    9. Survivor
    10. Gone With The Wind

    By the way, I'll be reviewing Wicked Little Game over at my place next Thursday...

  2. I knew them all except 3 & 5... love your blog -- just subscribed. Your writing style reminds me a bit of my own...

    would love you to check out my blog as well. :)

    Seriously, this is my kinda blog!

  3. Haha, Julia. I knew you were a woman after my own heart. Yup, you got all the ones you guessed right.

    Question 3 is a bit sneaky--it's from a romance novel. The other one, Jump the Shark, is more a reference rather than a quote and I'm now wondering if anyone uses it outside of Australia, but certainly the show it's from is one everyone would know. I'll be interested to see if anyone can get those two.

    I mentioned it once but I think I got away with it...*g*

  4. Hi Susan, thanks and welcome to the blog! There are quite a few contributors here--all coming at blogging from different angles, so stick around and have fun, won't you? Good luck with your blog:)

  5. Don't forget, "Where's The Beef?"

    Okay, let's see how many I get:

    1. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

    Seinfeld, the eppy where Jerry and George are mistaken for a gay couple.

    2. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!

    The Brady Bunch Movie. Yay!

    3. Glittery Hoo-ha

    ??? Maybe Scent of a Woman?

    4. Do you feel lucky?

    Dirty Harry.

    5. Jump the shark.

    Happy Days, the episode where a water-skiing Fonzie literally Jumps over a shark. The phrase came to represent anytime a movie or television show goes too far in hopes of ratings.

    6. Just do it.

    Nike commerical.

    7. No one expects the Spanish Inquisition.

    Monty Python! (Get him a comfy chair!)

    8. To boldly go...

    ST and ST:NG

    9. Voted off the island


    10. Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn

    Gone With The Wind.

    How'd I do? Now I can go look at everyone's answers.


    So far, I'm doing pretty good. Romance novel, eh? So I have no idea about that one.

    You WILL post the answers, right???

    Love this one! *grin*

    --Chiron O'Keefe
    The Write Soul: www.chironokeefe.blogspot.com

  6. LOVE LOVE LOVE your post Christine:

    1. Not that there's anything wrong with that SEINFELD (my all time fave tv show)

    2. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia! (Brady Bunch of course! )

    3. Glittery Hoo-ha (?)

    4. Do you feel lucky? (Dirty Harry)

    5. Jump the shark (Ref from Happy Days when Fonze jumps over a shark while surfing means when a TV show has lost relevance and begins to fall from grace - loses its mojo etc..)

    6. Just do it (Nike)

    7. No one expects the Spanish Inquisition (ooh I almost know this one - on the tip of my tongue! )

    8. To boldly go... (Star Trek)

    9. Voted off the island (Survivor)

    10. Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn (Gone With the Wind)

    thanks for the fun! ;D


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