W4W: why your Nan can’t have a catchphrase

Laurel and Hardy

Image: Pixabay


Do you ever repeat yourself?

Maybe it’s that story about the time you met George Clooney scrabbling through packets of half-priced cereal at the supermarket – you went for the low sugar muesli while George was right at the Coco-pop-loops like a terrier down a rat hole.

Or when your cousin Maudie got married for the second time – to that funny lad with the lazy eye and the ginger sideburns that looked like big caterpillars he’d trained to lie on his cheeks – and some numpty gave your Uncle Fred a glass of champagne before the speeches and he stood up in front of a 150 people said how the bride should be done for fraud for wearing white.

Or maybe it’s just a phrase that you say over and over.

Worse things happen at sea.


It’s not me it’s you.

or the classic

Please leave me alone or I’ll call the police.

Funny thing is, it’s other people who notice us repeating ourselves. Ever had an elderly relative tell you the same story for the thousandth time? While you’re yawning with boredom, they’re launching into the anecdote about how Aunty Frankie got her glass eye  as if they’re telling you for the first time.

You’re inner tedi-ometer is so high, you’re reaching for cushions, spoons, Chihuahuas – anything to plug your ears – whilst the teller is happily relating their tale as if it’s the brightest, shiniest bauble in the Christmas box.

This is almost the exact opposite of how a



A catchphrase is the repetition of a word or phrase (in fact sometimes, the more often they’re repeated, the more entertaining we find them) and seems to date from the 1830s – a phrase that ‘catches’ in the mind.

They might not be so common now on TV in the UK now, but at one time, comics, sitcom writers – even presenters – had catchphrases. We were awash with them.

Sometimes they were accidental, something a character said that the public picked up on and the writers subsequently used more and more in later scripts due to demand. But more often they were intentional, repeated over weeks and months until everyone was quoting them, from the kids skipping in the playground to the teachers hacking over their fags and tea in the staff room.

Why does something that’s so boring in the everyday bring a TV show to life and even help its popularity and longevity?

According to Psychology Today, a study into catchphrases from comedy films suggests quoting them is a short form of communication that amuses us. It cements friendships, reinforcing our relationships with other people – it’s no fun quoting a catchphrase to someone who doesn’t recognise it, after all.

So next time Granny says, ‘No offence, but …’ try and stop yourself from smothering her with one of her own crocheted cushions. Think of it as her catchphrase and laugh.


Do you have a favourite catchphrase from TV or film? Is there something other people have noticed you say often and are now too embarrassed to ever say again?

Recognise these catchphrases? Answers below – and no peeking.

(1) I have a cunning plan.

(2) Nice to see you, to see you, nice.

(3) No one expects the Spanish Inquisition.

(4) I don’t believe it.

(5) D’oh.

(6) Here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into.

(7) The truth is out there.

(8) It’s goodnight from me and it’s goodnight from him.

(9) Goodnight, John Boy.

(10) Say what you see.


With thanks as always to the lovely Kat for kicking off W4W.


(1) Blackadder.

(2) Bruce Forsyth.

(3) Monty Python.

(4) One Foot In The Grave.

(5) Homer, The Simpsons.

(6) Laurel and Hardy.

(7) The X Files.

(8) The Two Ronnies.

(9) The Waltons.

(10) Catchphrase, of course!

16 thoughts on “W4W: why your Nan can’t have a catchphrase

    1. Haha! No Catchphrase for you? You’re probably too young, though I think they brought it back to British TV a short while ago. Nearly top marks for you, then! Thanks for reading 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I love the Seinfeld ones… so much I did a W4W on “Seinfeldisms”!

    A lovely lady at the corner shop used to always hand back change with a cheerful, “Thank you very much, thank you!” which always made me smile.

    I am very guilty of repeating myself. Sometimes I think the OH will lose his eyeballs with the eyerolls I provoke.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha! I’m sure we all do it – funny, pointless turns of phrase, vocal tics we don’t hear in our own speech. Sometimes I notice how flat my own voice sounds and wonder how bored I must sound to other people! Thanks for reading, lovely X

      Liked by 1 person

  2. There was an American tv show called Alice that took place in a diner. One of the waitresses would always say ‘kiss my grits.’ Then the canned laughter would cue up, followed by the canned applause. I remember seeing Kiss My Grits on t-shirts, back in the day. Couldn’t say it at school though. Got in trouble for that. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That is very fascinating. Repeating ourselves cements our relationships. I have a Great Grandma who is about 96 or 97 I figure at her age she’s allowed to repeat all she wants. She was actually very good about it until a year ago, she’s aged well. I also think there are certain words or phrases/memories you have btw best friends or nicknames. I used to call my bestfriends in university Lyndsey-Loo and Tara-Beara. Still do sometimes lol but it’s a thing between us. Also my Mom have this thing when we are asking how old a person is we always say “oh! He/She must be eighty.” When really they’re around 55 or something like that. Just are thing. Great piece Lynn. So relatable!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Mandi! Yes, it’s these in jokes and foibles that cement relationships with people, you’re right. My husband and I have been together so long (26 years) we often find we’re about to say the same thing. Each time this happens, husband says we have to split up before we actually turn into each other – which in itself, is becoming a cathphrase, of course! I like the sound of your mum – I can just imagine that saying on age becoming a family joke – lovely 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha. That is lovely you and your husband have been together 26 years. It’s a real accomplishment and says a lot about you guys that you are able and want to work through stuff. And that you both have a wonderful sense of humour. My Mom is great. Thank you.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. A trip down Memory Lane! Earlier generations will remember different catchphrases of course. I’m not old enough for postwar radio but I do remember “Ullo, it’s me, Twinkletoes” (Bernard Bresslaw in Educating Archie) and “You’ve deaded me!” from The Goons; and of course TV is rich in these, from “Silly old moo” Till Death Do Us Part to “Stupid boy!” (frequent repeats now mean I don’t have to say where this is from). http://www.catchphrases.info/ is full of them, as the name implies!

    By the way, the Laurel and Hardy ‘quote’, it’s not quite accurate (http://www.stanlaurelandoliverhardy.com/nicemess.htm). The film Another Fine Mess is theirs, but they never said this phrase attributed to them, in this or any other film. However, they did use “another nice mess”, which is not that far removed …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, thanks for the Laurel and Hardy heads up , Chris. Funny how often quotes are misquoted, isn’t it? Catchphrases are so interesting – unifying, a shorthand to intimacy and shared experience. I’d liked some of the Fast Shows’ – ‘Today, I are be mostly eating’ being one that baffled at first and became funnier over the weeks – funny how that happens. Thanks for reading 🙂


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