Catch phrases, those little snippets of dialog that are delivered so well that they come to define a fictional character. Whether it be a quip that is repeated ad naseum by a television staple
Honorable Mention Optimus Prime for "Autobots, transform and role out!"
or a just a quick turn of phrase uttered once by the hero of an action movie,
Honorable Mention John McClane for "Yippy Ki-yay Mother F*cker"
these memorable phrases have a way working their way into the hearts and often onto the tongues of viewers everywhere. In fact, some of these phrases are quoted so frequently that they have become part of the modern vernacular and are still repeated several decades after their inception. In fact, I'll bet that at some point in the past six months you have used one of these phrases yourself without really giving much though to where it originally came from. So with that I welcome you to:
And I Quote
A Tribute Some Of the Most Quotable Retro Catch Phrases
#10. "This Looks Like A Job For Superman"
Bellowed By: Superman
Classic Usage: Since his 1938 premier in Actions Comics Superman has gone on to appear repeatedly in almost every type of media including comic books, tv cartoons, live actions series and five feature length movies (thee that are worth watching), and despite being over 70 years old the Man of Steel continues to appeal to the imaginations of views of all ages. During many of his earlier incarnations whenever Superman saw an evil doer up to a dastardly deed, he would always utter his famous catch phrase "This looks like a job for Superman" just before ducking into a phone booth, ripping off his tailored suit and springing into action.
And while this made for a great plot device, this transformation always brought certain questions to mind such as how would Superman function in the age of cell phones were phone booths have all but disappeared? And what was Superman's monthly clothing bill? I mean was Superman actually able to retrieve his clothing, and does a reporter make enough money to afford that many suits?
In The Common Vernacular: Fans everywhere immediately took a shine to this battle cry and began to paraphrase it so as to apply to everyday situations. For example if there was a dirty window that needed cleaning they might declare "This looks like a job for Windex!!" or perhaps a college student wanting to celebrate his buddy's birthday properly might state "This looks like a job for Captain Morgan!!" and, well you get the idea. While this beloved utterance has been omitted from most of his more recent incarnations,
just as sure as The Man of Steel will always be a part of American pop culture, so too will his classic catch phrase be fondly remembered by loyal fans for many generations to come.
#9 "Did I Do That?"
Whined By: Steve Urkel
Classic Usage: C'mon admit it, if you were between the ages of 8 and 15 in the late 80s/early 90's you spent the entire school week in anticipation of Friday nights with TGIF
and to this effect you were familiar with the next-door nerd that everybody loves to hate, Steve Urkel.
Family Matters started out as an average sitcom about a middle class African American family and almost came off as a Cosby clone. Midway through the first season, however, the producers added a new character who would forever change the image of the show. Originally intended to be a one shot deal, Urkel first appeared as a less that ideal blind date whom Carl had arranged to take Laura to a school dance. Audiences immediately responded to this character, so naturally Jaleel White was invited back for additional guest appearances and eventually, for better or worse, Steve Urkel became a regular character on the show.
While Steve started out as just a stereotypical nerd, as the show progressed he became increasingly over the top and began to take the once average sitcom to some strange places including the invention of jet packs (which once sent Urkel flying right into fellow TGIF show "Step By Step.") artificial intelligence, induced split personalities and even human cloning.
Left Urkelbot, Right alterego Stefan Urquele
I always found it odd that Steve never got any recognition for these incredible inventions. I mean considering some of the things he accomplished he really should have been a world famous billionaire. Strangely no one was ever impressed with these amazing leaps in technology. In fact even the Winslows just tended regard them as more of the annoying nuisances visited upon them by Steve.
But even if his genius did go unnoticed at least he got his own dance
Very quintessential early 90s
Despite his apparent genius, Steve was both socially and physically awkward and his inherent clumsiness often lead him to inadvertently destroy the property of other thus leading him to wheeze out his classic catchphrase, "Did I do that?"
In The Common Vernacular: Much like Urkle we all have the occasional moment of clumsiness that may result in anything from personal embarrassment minor property damage. Even to this day when people make these little snafus in order to break the tension they will hike up their voice a couple octaves and nasally whine, "Did I do that?"
#8 "Sufferin' Succatach"
Lisped By: Sylvester The Cat
Classic Usage: If there is any member of the animal kingdom that always gets the shaft in cartoons it would have to the common house cat. Now I'm sure many of you were expecting me to say the duck,
Honorable Mention Donald Duck for "Phooey" and Honorable Mention Daffy Duck for "You're Despicable"
and while these fine waterfowl do tend to get disrespected I honestly think that cartoon cats have it worse. Why? Well considering that cats occupy the homes of millions of people as beloved house pets, one has to wonder why in the cartoon world our lovable and affectionate companions are so often cast as the villain while the disease ridden vermin of which the rid our homes are cast has the hero. Now is this any way to say, "Thanks for the mouse fee home."?!!
Given this, it is no wonder that my favorite animated feline so often spoke of "sufferin'" when he became exacerbated. Why he attributed this hardship to a vegetable medley I will never understand,
This is succotash. Yes succotash actually is a thing
but whatever his obsession with this mediocre side dish he often used the phrase "Sufferin' Succotash" to express exacerbation, frustration or surprise.
Of course some of my favorite Looney Tunes moments were those rare occasions when Sylvester actually got the better of someone, such as these two dogs
He actually got this opportunity on two separate occasions, once with an assist from a black panther and another time when he took a potion that gave him the Jekyll/Hyde effect. Sure in the end he always got beat up by the little dog, but it was a small price to pay for finally getting to make a fool out of a bull dog, instead of just getting abused by one for trying to do nothing more than rid the world or an annoyingly cute little bird. I suppose it is a small comfort that this unsung hero of the Loony Tune world had a catch phrase that has become one of the most memorable.
In The Common Vernacular: Like Sylvester, I often hear people using this phrase too express exacerbation, frustration, or surprise for no other reason that to quote a cartoon cat. Because that's funny, I guess.
#7 "Homey Don't Play Dat!"
Shouted By: Homey the Clown
Classic Usage: If there was anything that was more anticipated by tweens (known as pre-teens at the time) in late 80s/early 90s than Friday nights with ABC it was Sunday nights with the upstart 4th major network, FOX. This harkens back to a time when The Simpsons were fresh and edgy, Ed O'Neil was the head of a not so modern family, and Jim Cary was simply known as "The White Guy." This last reference of course elucidates the urban answer to Saturday Night Live, In Living Color.
In Living Color was a sketch comedy show created by the Waynes brothers. Much like SNL this show introduced us to many memorable characters, but perhaps none so memorable as Homey the Clown. Portrayed by Damon Waynes, Herman Simpson was an ex-com who was court ordered to provide community service as a children's entertainer. Taking on the alterego of Homey the Clown, Simpson provided a not so traditional clown act as he refused to debase himself by engaging in traditional clownish behavior such as slipping on a banana peel or taking a pie to the face. He was the sort of clown who wouldn't so much make you a balloon animal as smack you upside the head with a sock full of....... well they never did say exactly what was in that sock.
Most importantly Homey was tired of being hassled by "The Man" and at the end of each sketch he would lead the children in a song that expressed this sentiment.
Therefore whenever someone suggested that he engage in classic clown antics or do anything that might constitute selling out to "the man" he would quickly inform them "Homey don't play dat!" and give them the sock treatment. One of the more memorable moments was the season finale cliff hanger where in Homey was offered a huge sum of money to do a traditional children's show to witch he responded "Homey'll play that, if you give him money." With the primere of the next season, however, we found that it was just a ruse and all part of Homey's master plan to bop The Man (and he did).
In The Common Vernacular: This phrase is often used to express disagreement. It may used to express anything from moral objection to refusal of a food one does not like. For example, is someone suggests that his friend join him in throwing water balloons at nuns, the friend might express his objection by stating "Homey don't play dat." Similarly if a person wants to go out for sushi but her friend finds the idea of eating raw fish abhorrent she might playfully voice here dislike by stating "Homey don't play that."
#6 "Isn't That Special?"
Sneered By: The Church Lady
Classic Usage: While Saturday Night Live has aired on NBC for over 35 years, the show experienced its golden age, well the golden age occurred in the late 70s with the original cast. However, the silver age of SNL occurred during the mid to late 80s when it featured such cast members as Jon Lovitz, Jan Hooks, Phil Hartman, Mike Meyers and or course Dana Carvey.
Over the years Carvey entertained us with a variety of memorable characters,
Honorable mention George Bush for "Not gone do it." Honorable Mentions Hans and Franz for "Pump, you up!" Honorable mention Wayne Campbell for "Yeah Garth, and monkeys might fly out of my butt."
but my personal favorite has always been that devout diva, The Church Lady. In these skits Carvey played Enid Scrict, a self-righteous churchgoer who hosted a talk show called "Church Chat." On her show The Church Lady interviewed celebrities who had been involved in recent scandals. While these guests were usually played by other SNL cast members, on occasion the actual celebrity would show up to portray themselves. The interviews mostly consisted of The Church Lady badgering her guests with sarcastic comments pointing out their lesser qualities and always ended in her attributing their sinful acts to "SATAN!"
One of her more memorable moments occurred when she and Sean Penn (who she "accidentally" referred to as, sin) actually came to blows because she kept insulting his then wife, Madonna by pointing out how she did not live up to her namesake and talking about her shaking her "bulbous booty."
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Another memorable moment was when she interviewed Saddam Husain and mocked his invasion of Kuwait by taking his hat and claiming that it had always been hers to begin with.
In The Common Vernacular: I often hear people quote this line to express disdain for the accomplishments of others, particularly those they don't like. For example a woman who hears that one of her high school rivals is getting married she might sarcastically state "Isn't that special."
#5 "What Ya Gonna Do When Hulkamania Runs Wild On You?!"
Growled By: Hulk Hogan
Classic Usage: Granted in the past decade the Hulkster has made headlines on several occasions and more often than not it has not been good news. Just for a moment, however, lets hearken back to a time before Hogan knew best, a time when he was a happily married man with a son who was too young to even a have a drivers license and a young daughter who's friends he did not date. Back even before "Hollywood" was part of the title. Yes, it was a time known as the 1980s, the golden age of professional wrestling when one man lead the fight against the greatest threats to America's national security such as
The Soviet Union
and of course Scotland
Wait as second, WHAT?!!! Scotland?!! Well ok maybe not Scotland, but for some reason the Hulkster's greatest enemy was Scottish. So despite recent events who among you can honestly say you don't get that nostalgic feeling way down in the cockles of your heart every time they hear Rick Derringer's "Real American" blaring forth from the radio.
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Do you not get fond images of the Hulkster proudly coming down the isle to his theme song, pointing wildly at his fans, only to proceed to the ring and perform his signature shirt rip
And of course who could forget the chilling pre fight interviews with "Mean" Gene Okerlund
where in Hogan would instruct his "Hulkamanics" to train, say their prayers and eat their vitamins, and then intimidate his opponents with his slogan "What ya gonna do when Hulkamania runs wild on you?!" or occasionally its variation "What ya gonna do when the largest arms in world are wrapped around you?!" Yeah brother, those were the days. So whether he was battling giants or amusing his "little Hulksters" on Saturday mornings, Hogan would go to any length to keep his fans entertained.
And please don't judge the Hulk too harshly; I have it on good authority from people who have actually met the man that despite his recent foibles, he is a decent guy who always has time for his fans.
In The Common Vernacular: Since the mid 80's people have been quoting this phrase whenever they wish to issue and friendly challenge to a friend, or just talk a little smack during any competition from video games to a pickup game of b-all to, well, wrestling. The one problem is that people take this as an invitation to take any word and apply "amania" to the end of it. For example a man named Steve might say ".....when Steveamaia runs wild on you?" Uh, that can be annoying but still the original phrase will always be a classic.
#4 "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father prepare to die."
Walked up a said by: Inigo Montoya
Classic Usage: Back when I was a kid on Friday nights my mom would frequently pick up movies for my brother and myself to watch during the weekend. While she was generally pretty good at discerning a young boys' taste in movies, one fateful Friday in 1988 she brought home a movie with a rather precarious title, "The Princess Bride." I immediately turned my nose up at this selection wondering how a boy could possibly want to watch a movie featuring a princess. I mean honestly, when in the history of the world was there ever a movie staring a princess that men actually liked?!!
Ok, fine! But anyway the title of this movie just didn't seem promising. However, there was not much going on that night so we decide to go ahead and watch the movie and from that day forward it has remained on of my top 5 favorites. I mean it had fencing, fighting, true love, Andre the Giant, villains, wizards. As the tag line states, it was not your basic, average, ordinary, everyday, run of the mill, ho-hum fairy tale.
While Inigo may only be second best when it comes to sword fighting you've got to hand it to the guy who has the most quotable line in one of the most quotable movies of the 1980s. Inigo was of course a man who's father, Domingo Montoya had been killed by a six fingered man and who had spent the past 20 years seeking revenge for his father's death. When the movie opens he, along with a giant named Fezzik, is in the employ of the criminal Vicini
Honorable mention Fezzik for "Anybody want a peanut?"
Honorable mention Vicini for "Inconceivable!"
and the trio has been hired to start a war. However, these plans are thwarted by a mysterious man in black.
As the events of the story unfold we find that that six fingered man is none other than Florin's own royal kiss ass, Count Rugen.
Thus, Inigo and Fezzik join forces with the Man In Black, after bringing him back from being mostly dead with the help of a Jewish miracle man, and storm the castle in hopes of finding Rugen.
During this castle onslaught Inigo is finally able to confront the six fingered man where he repeats his famous line again and again and again. After returning every wound which Rugen had inflicted upon him, Montoya is finally able to dispatch the digitally enhanced Count and finally have his revenge. Oh and I think there is also something in there about The Man in Black rescuing a princess from an evil prince or something like that. But anyway Inigo finally gets his revenge, becomes the next in a long line of Dread Pirate Roberts' and they all live happily ever after.
In The Common Vernacular: Really none, it is just commonly quoted. I mean very, very, very commonly. I mean we are talking a Monty Python level of quotability.
#3 "And Knowing Is Half The Battle"
Pontificated By: Various GI Joes
Classic Usage: As I'm sure all of you know the men and women of the armed forces are out their defending our rights freedoms everyday. However, I bet you didn't know that in their off hours they take to the streets to teach random children lessons they can live by such as why you should never pet stay dogs, go swimming during a thunderstorm, or use the stove when your parents aren't home.
And the moral of the story kids, never take advice from a guy dressed like this
There was even one somewhat creepy incident where a kid was feeling bad and was going to take some meds from his parents' medicine cabinet when Doc showed up at the window to explain why this is dangerous. And while Doc gave the kids some solid advice and possibly saved their lives you have to wonder why Doc was looking in their bathroom window in the first place.
Life saving advice from a perv
I was always kind of disappointed that the coolest Joe of them all, Snake Eyes, could never participate in a "Knowing is Half The Battle" for obvious reasons
After all, ninjas are known for being wise so I'll bet he had some good advice to give.
Still it was always comforting to know that highly trained military forces were out there every day distributing million-dollar advice to the children of America and conclusively proving that knowing is indeed half the battle
In The Common Vernacular: Pretty much used as a response every time anyone dares to say "and now you know."
#2 "What You Talkin' Bout, Willis?"
Inquired By: Arnold Jackson
Classic Usage:: The scene, Harlem, NY 1978. A young African American mother lies in bed stricken with a terminal illness. Knowing that she will meet her untimely demise all too soon she makes her one dying wish, that her two young sons be raised and cared for by her employer for whom she had worked as a housekeeper for several years. Overcome with pity for the plight of the young mother and her children the kindly billionaire readily agrees and makes arrangements to adopt the two boys. This is the premise that brought us the beloved sitcom Different Strokes. Its sweet, its heartwarming, and it would never happen, not in a million years. First off, who leaves their children in the care of their employer? I mean seriously, no family, no close friends? The only person this woman has left in her life is her freakin' boss? Secondly, what employer is actually going to agree to this? I mean I get along well enough with my boss, but I can just imagine the look on his face if I told him that upon my death I would like him to raise my children. Nope, unless you happen to work for you own father this just isn't going to happen. Nonetheless, however unlikely an occurrence in this case it did happen and that how eight year old Arnold Jackson and his ever militant twelve-year-old brother, Wills came to be the sons of the very Caucasian billionaire industrialist, Phillip Drummond.
While young Arnold was all too willing to accept life in the lap of luxury, his older brother had other ideas. For Wills the transition was much more difficult and being ever loyal to his family, race and borrow he felt out of place in the Manhattan high-rise and believed that he and Arnold belonged back in Harlem. Thus Willis quickly made plans for the pair to return to their home neighborhood.
It was this difference in attitude between the brothers that lead Arnold to so often exclaim "What you talkin' bout, Willis?" While Willis did eventually adjust to his new situation, as the years went on Arnold continued to question the intentions of his big bro as well as many others including adoptive sister, Kimberly, the various housekeepers employed over the years,
the bank robber who held them all hostage and even Mr. D himself. This was always predicated with "What you talkin' bout [insert name]?"
This is the first sit-com that I can remember watching regularly, though as a young child I was completely oblivious to the social and racial issues addressed in this show. I was really just in it for the goofy antics of Arnold, the most memorable being when he drastically altered his appearance to emulate one of his heroes
Honorable Mention Mr.T for "I pity the fool!"
In The Common Vernacular: Even 30 years after it was first uttered people continue to use this as a common response to anything they consider to be bad news, an ill conceived idea or that just comes as a surprise. For example say your friend Dave walks up and says, "I just won the lottery!" In your surprise you might respond "What you talkin' bout, Dave." Or say your friend Scott saunters up and says "You know, it would be fun if we went down to the nursing home and whip some donuts at old people." You think this is a bad idea (hopefully) and might express you disagreement with a "What you talkin' bout, Scotty?" Moreover, this catch phrase was so influential that Gary Coleman even got a few opportunities to revive both the character and catch phase as he and Mr. Drummond appeared as prospective buyers of the Banks house in the series finale of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" (1996) where upon being told the house was haunted he responded with "What you talkin' bout, Will?" Later he was Simpsonized for that show's 1999 Christmas special where he reprises his classic line multiple times
What you talkin' bout, everyone?
#1 "What's Up Doc?"
Drawled By: Bugs Bunny
Classic Usage: While Bugs may have developed a reputation as a trickster and tormentor the truth of the matter is that he was just a mild mannered, if somewhat zany rabbit who wanted to mind his own business and do typical rabbit things such as munch carrots, stroll through the forest and hang out in his rabbit hole. Unfortunately, this wascally wabbit had a tendency to inadvertently run afoul of others as it seemed that everybody wanted a piece of his humorous hare. Be it a speech impaired hunter
Honorable mention Elmer Fudd for "Be very quiet, I'm hunting wabbits."
devious ducks, extra terrestrials, Tasmanian terrors
the rootinest, tootinest bobtailed wildcat north, south, east or west of the Pecos
Honorable mention Yosemite Sam for "I hates you, rabbit."
or one of a myriad of others, whether motivated by greed, sport or plain old predatory instinct they were all out to get Bugs.
Pete Puma, Beaky Buzzard and Witch Hazel a few of Bugs' less appreciated antagonists
But not to worry, Bugs was always up to the task. Whether or not Bugs was aware of their malicious intentions he would always nonchalantly saunter up to his would be assailant, take a bite of his carrot and casually inquire, "Eeeeeh, what's up, Doc?" Not the sort of rabbit to run and cower in the safety of his borrow Bugs though it better to teach the perpetrator a lesson by leading them on a wild goose chase during which he subjected them to any number of zany tricks and physical prat falls.
Upon occasion Bugs' zany antics went beyond mere self-defense as he would actively engage his rivals when he knew that they were up to no good. The most prominent examples being when he posed as a rival suitor when he knew Yosemite Sam intended to marry Granny only for her money or when rescuing Haunsel and Gretel from becoming Witch Hazel's dinner.
In The Common Vernacular: This has to be the most quotable catch phrase ever dreamed up in the history of fictional characters. This phrase has so completely penetrated the collective subconscious of western society that it is absent-mindedly used as a casual greeting. Just pay attention and you will probably hear it used on a daily basis. Particularly if you happen to be a physician.
And there you have it; these are what I consider to be the ten most quotable retro catch phrases. I have to wonder, when William Goldman first put pen to paper, when Mel Blanc decided to throw his voice did they really know what they were starting?
When Gary Coleman got it in his head to take up acting, when the Waynes brother started a sketch comedy show and a young Terry Bollea signed on with Vincent Kennedy McMahon and the WWF did they realize that the things they said would be repeated by loyal fans over and over and over again? Whatever the case I'm sure that we had not heard the end of these phrases nor will we anytime soon.
With so many quotable catch phrases out there I'm sure to have missed a few. So while you're making you comments please take a moment to share some of your favorites.