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!

We’re going on a cave hunt… Writing Caves # 6. The ultimate Cave



Now the end is near and so I face the final cave.

Here we are, my lovelies. In Writing Caves #5 we had a wander down memory lane, a hike through cafes and beds, took a bewildering detour past my kitchen table and got lost and slightly scared in the WORST CAVE VENUES EVER.

After all that, let’s face it, we’re knackered, we’ve had enough of meandering through the dingy byways of my writing practice. What we need is a nice sit down, slippers on, feet up on a pouffe, a choccy biccy and something warm and comforting to drink. So park your bum, take a load off and listen up. Last time I promised to lead you into the world of imagination and wonder, to dream a dreamy dream of my ULTIMATE WRITING CAVE.

Now, let’s be clear. This cave has no relation to reality. It is unattainable for me. Unless I get an advance for one of my as-yet-unsold-novels of around seven figures, this ain’t never gonna happen, people. But we’re dreaming here, so let’s give it a go and take flight.

First off, let me just run through a quick list of definites my perfect Writing Cave would have.

(1) Tea and coffee making facilities. Let’s keep this real. There’s no writing without tea and if there isn’t a kettle and a mini fridge on hand, we’re not in dream territory- we’ve slipped into a nightmare.

(2) Isolation. I know, writing’s an isolating enough business as it is, but surely, to write my magnum opus or Magificient Octopus as Bladrick would have it, I need to be apart from the world, apart, above, beyond. Probably.

(3) Internet access. I write a fair bit of historical fiction: Tudor, Victorian, Ancient Roman, the Middle Ages, World War II… I’ve written short stories and novels based in all of these periods. Now until some boffin invents a time machine (come on, Stephen Hawking, what’s keeping you), I’m largely reliant on other people’s research to find out what the Tudors called their loos (privy, jakes, house of office), that Victorian milliners had sales girls called She-Barkers and that one of the main foodstuffs of the Roman Gladiator was barley porridge. Now, sometimes the best resource is still a well researched book, but for snippets of historical info (names/places/dates) when you need them in a hurry, there’s nothing like the net.*

(4) Electricity. Well how else am I gonna boil me kettle? And run the laptop, of course.

Now, that’s the basics, how about some luxuries? Comfy chairs, a heater, a few inspiring knick-knacks (Roald Dahl famously kept his own knee bone in his writing hut. I’ve still got my own knees, but I’m sure I could think of something…) How about nature? I know, I said in my last post that being outside was a pain in the backside, but I love hearing those darn bees (yes, as you’ve gathered, bees are a small time obsession of mine).

When I put all of these together, the only option, the dream Writing Cave is… ta-da-da da-da-da.


Clearly we’re not talking something knocked up by your dad from a few wooden pallets he found in a skip. We’re talking luxury wood-based accommodation with all mod-cons, somewhere you could use as a granny flat if granny was driving you particularly crackers, somewhere Red Riding Hood could any second peek round the nearest tree, where wood sprites and ancient spirits lurk, where Herne the Hunter’s your neighbour and he’s having tea with Robin Hood… and that costs tens of thousands of pounds.

Ah, well. That’s what dreams are for- dreaming.

* Of course, this is when I can tear myself away from juggling cats, giggling babies, emails, this blog…