We all have those family members who seem to find fun catch phrases which get repeated by friends. Then there are those relatives who say something that drives us crazy and overuse expressions. That is what we’re talking about today: catchphrases from our favorite television shows. I prepared a list of twenty phrases that caught on with viewers. What seems strange to me are expressions that come from a series or movie that were never actually said. For example, “Play it again Sam,” from Casablanca is a well-known phrase. However, that line was never said in the actual movie. You often hear someone say, “Beam me up Scotty,” but once again, it was never said in Star Trek. The closest line was only used once, and it was, “Beam us up, Mr. Scott.”
I’ll list these memorable phrases by shows alphabetically and tell you how often they were used: none, one, fun, or overdone. I also rate them: green light means I like it, yellow if it was getting close to being overkill, and red for those expressions that never should have been used at all. Here we go.
The A Team – Pity the fool
Mr. T often says this on commercials, public appearances,and as a guest on other shows, but he never said it on The A-Team. Mr. T explained how this phrase came about on the Conan show one night, “When you pity someone, you’re showing them mercy. I didn’t start this pity stuff, it was in the bible. You’ll find pity so many times in the Bible and fool so many times, so I put ‘em together. Pity the fool,” Mr. T said. He added, “Lotta guys in the Bible [were] asking for pity. And then a lot of them were saying, I did a foolish act. So, I put ‘em together.”
Not only has he trademarked the phrase, but he actually had a series developed around the phrase which was the title of the show. It aired in October of 2006 and was off the air by November 6, so I pity the fool who stuck money into it.
Rating: None, Green– I can’t really give it a light because it was never used but it was a good expression at the time.
Alf – I kill me
The Tanner family members weren’t often amused by Alf’s jokes. When no one responded or someone shook their head at him, he was often heard to say, “I kill me.”
The phrase was so popular, a poster and a t-shirt were sold featuring it.
Rating: Fun, Green – I also thought Alf was pretty funny, even when the Tanners were not as impressed.
Alice – Kiss my grits
While Flo was a warm-hearted person who would do anything to help a friend, or Mel, she didn’t take any sass from anyone. Whenever someone did something to irritate her, she responded, “Kiss my grits.”
Rating: Overdone, Yellow– Only Flo could get away with using the phrase so often, but it did become a bit too much.
The Andy Griffith Show – Nip it in the bud
Barney liked being on top of situations and being in charge.When something happened whether it was questionable behavior by Opie or a dangerous criminal activity being plotted, he was heard to say, “Just nip it, nip it in the bud.”
Rating: Fun, Green –Barney Fife was just a great character.
Big Bang Theory – Bazinga
Sheldon learned about sarcasm during season 2 of the show. Whenever he said something sarcastic or something that proved others wrong in a humorous way, he would utter, “Bazinga.” The first time he used it, it was not actually in the script, but he added it and it stuck.
Rating: Fun-ish, Green– I added the “ish” because it can be overdone some shows
The Brady Bunch – Marcia, Marcia, Marcia
Jan didn’t like being the middle child. While Cindy was the cute younger one and Marcia the pretty older one, Jan often felt left out. When she was upset Marcia was getting attention or doing something she wanted to do, she would pout, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.”
In the Season 3 episode, “Her Sister’s Shadow,” Jan said, “all I hear all day long at school is how great Marcia is at this or how wonderful Marcia did that. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!” Jan did not say the phrase much, but viewers sure did.
Rating: One, Green – I think every middle child understood what Jan meant. Apparently, viewers loved it, because it is an iconic quote for being only said one time. Actually, I always thought Jan was the cool one.
Columbo – Just one more thing
When the bad guy thought he had gotten away with a crime, Columbo would often turn around and say, “Just one more thing,” and that “thing” was usually the evidence he needed to arrest someone.
Rating: Fun, Green – Even when we knew it was coming, it was fun to see how the villain of the week realizes he has been found out.
Diff’rent Strokes – What you talkin’ bout Willis?
Arnold was the “cute” kid in the Drummond family and often made others laugh. Whenever Willis said something Arnold didn’t want to do or thought should not happen, he would look at his brother and say, “What you talkin’ ‘bout Willis?”
Rating: Overdone, Red– Ok, I know I have a bias because this was one of those Norman Lear shows my readers know I don’t care for, but I do remember at the time, it was used a bit too often on the show. There is a fine line between defining a character and stereotyping a character.
Friends – How you doin’?
Joey was definitely the ladies’ man on Friends. He was always searching for his next social conquest. When he met a girl he wanted to get to know better, he often drawled, “How you doin?” It was a basic pick-up line, but he was so good looking, it almost always worked. While it became his catchphrase, it was not used for the first time until Season 4.
Rating: Fun, Yellow – It was a fun expression that is still used today but it was getting close to being overused.
Full House – Have mercy
Typically, it was Uncle Jesse who said, “Have mercy,” but occasionally another character would use it. He says Garry Marshall always told him he needed a catch phrase. He took on “Have mercy,” and it was probably one of the most-used phrases ever during the run of the show.
Rating: Fun, Green– I can still hear the exact tone of his voice whenever he used the line.
Get Smart – Missed it by that much
Maxwell Smart often messed up a spy mission, and 99 always saved the day. Often when the bad guys were put away and he was analyzing what had gone wrong, he would say, “Missed it by that much” which usually meant he was nowhere near to taking care of business.
Rating: Fun, Green– Everything on this show was fun and there were enough catch phrases that none of them took over.
Good Times – Dy-no-mite!
The Evans were a close-knit family who lived in the projects. JJ was an artist and the class clown. His favorite expression was “Dy-no-mite!”
He revived his catch phrase in several Panasonic commercials in the mid-1970s.
Rating: Overdone, Yellow– Sorry, it’s my Norman Lear bias again, but I feel like not only did JJ Evans overuse this phrase, but you heard it from viewers everywhere you went. I agree that imitation is the sincerest from of flattery, so it worked, and people liked it, but I thought it was overdone.
Happy Days – Sit on it
I think every cast member used the phrase “Sit on it” at one point or another. It was said when someone said something or insinuated something a character didn’t like.
Rating: Overdone, Yellow– This was a fun phrase when it started but it was overused and overused by everyone on the show.
Hawaii Five-O – Book ‘em Danno
The original Hawaii Five-O would end each arrest with Steve saying “Book ‘em Danno.” They did not resurrect the phrase for the current Hawaii Five-0. However, if you were watching the November 30th episode in 2018, you saw the conclusion of an older cold case homicide and a comic book created the ending to the mystery and in the book, McGarrett did say, “Book
Rating: Overdone, Green– It was over used although it did not occur on each episode, but I gave it green because it worked and fit the situation when it was used.
Hogan’s Heroes – I know nothing
Sargent Schultz began saying “I know nothing” when he didn’t want to answer questions Hogan asked him. He realized Hogan could always get him to talk by offering him food of some type. Later, the prisoners were not afraid of telling Schultz things they were doing or planning to foil the Nazis’ plans, and whenever he heard them talking about an upcoming mission, he also emphatically said, “I know nothing.”
Rating: Fun, Green– Schultz said it a lot but that was fitting for his character.
The Honeymooners – Bang, zoom, to the moon, Alice
This particular phrase is quoted a lot. Actually, Ralph Kramden had many similar expressions such as Bang, zoom” or “To the moon Alice,” but they all had similar wording and inferred that he was threatening her. The phrase would not go over well in a show today. However, Alice was never worried. She knew Ralph loved her and was all bark and no bite. Of course, one of the expressions he also used in a lot of shows was “Baby, you’re the greatest.”
Rating: One, Red – I only saw one episode that used the exact wording that has become a quote of the show. While I know it was innocent fun back then, I can’t say I was ever fond of the expression.
I Love Lucy – Lucy, you got some ‘splaining to do
Lucy always had some type of scheme in the works to get something she wanted. Often, it was something her husband had forbidden her to do. When he found out what she was up to, he often said, “Lucy, you got some ‘splaining to do” in his Cuban accent. Like Ralph Kramden, he rarely said this exact phrase; instead, he would tell her to “splain what happened” or “try to splain why you are here” or something along those lines. Viewers picked up on the exact wording that gets repeated still.
Rating: One, Green – Desi used similar words but not this exact phrase. However, when he used it, it was always an appropriate use because Lucy had done something that did need to be explained.
Laugh In – Sock it to me
Because so many people on the show say, “Sock it to me” started by Judy Carne, it has become a famous line. Of course, the celebrity who got the most attention saying it was Richard Nixon.
Rating: Fun, Yellow– It was still fun because it was used in different situations and with different celebrities but if the show had continued, it might have been overdone.
Lost in Space – Danger Will Robinson
Even kids who never heard of Lost in Space, quote “Danger Will Robinson” when they want to warn someone about an issue. The funny thing is it was only said one time on the show, but like The Brady Bunch, viewers have made it their own and it is now part of our lexicon.
Rating: One, Green– Although it was only said once, viewers have made it into a well-loved expression.
Welcome Back Kotter – Up your nose with a rubber hose
This was probably one of the most unusual catch phrases. The Sweathogs gave the image that they would not put up with nonsense and they made the rules. One of Vinnie Barbarino’s favorite insults was “Up your nose with a rubber hose.”
Rating: Fun, Green– I was not a huge fan of Welcome Back Kotter, but the phrase fit Barbarino, and he had enough other expressions, it was not overused.
I hope you had fun looking back at some of the expressions we grew up with in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. It’s interesting to think about what current shows will produce catch phrases that kids will still be using in 2050.