Seinfeld has been very influential in transforming how Americans (and possibly other English speakers) speak, see:

What does "yadda yadda" mean?

What sayings or phrases in common parlance can be traced back to their use on Seinfeld?

NB I am not looking for a list of all the funny phrases that people have compiled elsewhere. I am looking for a list of words that don't have to be referential to the show to be useful. The "yadda yadda" link from above is a good example.

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    Isn't this a question better answered by a site about Seinfeld than one about English? (e.g. seinfeld.wikia.com/wiki/List_of_Seinfeld_sayings) Or are you seeking opinions as to which of those have becoming genuinely common phrases, and which truly originated with Seinfeld? – ncoghlan Apr 16 '11 at 16:11
  • @ncoghlan, good point. I am seeking opinions as you say. There are plenty of sayings that originated or were popularized because of Seinfeld. Take the link that I provided above to "yada yada yada", though the phrase did not originate with Seinfeld, it gained popularity enough from Seinfeld's show to be used often in conversation. Other sayings or terms are mainly repeated to reference the jokes, like "Cantstandya!". – gbutters Apr 16 '11 at 16:36
  • I'm assuming you aren't looking for words coined on the show like "Anti-Dentite", "Low Talker", "Sidler" and "Festivus"? – JohnFx Apr 16 '11 at 18:05
  • In some ways - yes, but only words that have influenced the way we talk and not necessary references for the sake of enjoying a cultural experience. "Anti-Dentite" and "Festivus", for example, are more about laughing about a shared experience. The don't have utility outside of the show as far as I can tell, but "Sidler" could have the use for describing people that creep up on you without warning. – gbutters Apr 16 '11 at 18:31
  • And don't forget my favorite "Serenity now!!!" – JohnFx Apr 17 '11 at 2:18

How about "Not that there's anything wrong with that"?

In the show it is used to disavow something without judging it. In the show they used it when George/Jerry were trying to stop the rumor that the were homosexual partners.

  • That's a good one. It always occurs after a statement which could be taken offensively by somebody present to immediately exempt the person saying it from any wrongdoing. – gbutters Apr 16 '11 at 18:41
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    One key point with this one is that it's such a useful and obviously meaningful phrase that people will adopt it and pass it on without necessarily knowing its origins. – ncoghlan Apr 17 '11 at 12:09

There are really quite a few. But I wouldn't say this influences language. Rather, as with a lot of popular entertainment, it adds cultural references that people use to form a kind of shared understanding.

"Yada yada," for example, has been around long before Seinfeld. The show gave it a comical context and elevated it to the status of a catchphrase. It means the same as "et cetera," but also connotes a desire to avoid tedium, by abbreviating the account of a routine situation. "So I had to go back to the store with the right receipt, argue with the guy about the final cost, yada yada..." Sometimes it is used to interrupt a boring story, as if to say, "yes, I understand, don't elaborate."

Making references to shows such as Seinfeld or The Simpsons operates a couple of ways. It lets the speaker or writer wink, after a fashion, at the reader or listener. The reference is a way of testing for some meme that both parties appreciate, and it can foster a spirit of familiarity when it works. Second, it can inject humor into ordinary conversation. People in group settings often repeat jokes from television shows or movies as a communal gesture.

Some speakers use these references plainly, others use them wryly. They help break the monotony of work or routine. The wry speaker is often testing the listener for alertness as well as recognition. For example, you may find a resume on LinkedIn, or on a tutorial web site, that shows a work history at Vandelay Industries, the business George Costanza claimed to have interviewed with. If you know this reference, there's a moment where you can enjoy the joke while studying how a resume is built.

  • I suppose that I am referring to terms that transcend references and are actually useful in describing people or events. Take "close-talker", for instance, at present the term is deeply tied to Seinfeld, but it has utility even without reference to the show for describing a person that gets too close to your face when they talk to you, often with the effect of creating discomfort. You are correct though that, many of the terms and coinages created in Seinfeld are only about a shared cultural experience. – gbutters Apr 16 '11 at 18:17
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    Your example is also part of a running gag. There's also had a high-talker and quiet-talker bit. Observational humor relies on pointing out small oddities that we notice in others but don't always talk about. In the early seasons, the show opened and ended with such an observation that related to the episodes. As it progressed, it seems to me they weaved them in on more levels into the story itself. The grand metaphor to it all, the Show About Nothing, – mfe Apr 16 '11 at 18:51

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