There are quite a few examples of idioms, phrases, or even single words, specially coined for a movie scene or a television sitcom. When adolescents hear these new expressions and find them interesting, they incorporate them into their vocabulary. That tends to be short-lived, though. Here are a few examples:

  • "Check out the big brain on Brett!" If you saw "Pulp Fiction", the movie, you probably remember the scene when Jules and Vincent ask Brett "what do they call a Quarter Pounder with cheese in France?".

  • Fred Flintstone's "Ya-ba da-ba doo"

  • Monty Python's "upper-class twit"

They are not exactly slang phrases. Is there a word or phrase for these temporary acquisitions?


The term you're looking for, I believe, is catchphrase, and there are whole reference books dedicated to cataloging, defining, and tracing them. A second categorical name might be "famous [or perhaps ephemerally popular] quotations." Anna Farkas, The Oxford Dictionary of Catchphrases (2002) has this entry for yabba-dabba-doo:

yabba-dabba-doo! Most probably originating with scat singing, a popular form of singing with nonsense syllables, it has become known as Fred Flintstone's trademark cry of glee on the Hana-Barbera TV cartoon series The Flintstones (1960–6). ...

Farkas does not include any of the other three phrases cited in your question, but it has entries for "I'm not dead yet" (from Monty Python and the Holy Grail), "Go ahead—make my day" (from Sudden Impact), and "Beulah, peel me a grape" (from I'm No Angel), among others.

Charles Mackay, Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, volume 1 (1841) devotes a chapter to this type of saying, under the heading "Popular Follies of Great Cities." Though Mackay is unable to trace most of them to an original source, he identifies such specimens as "What a shocking bad hat!" and "There he goes with his eye out" and "Flare up!" and "Has your mother sold her mangle?" Why Monty Python never resurrected any of these nuggets is beyond my comprehension.

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  • A very good answer, yet under-rated. – Centaurus Oct 21 '15 at 12:17

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