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I've run across this phrase a couple of times recently, and was curious about its origins. I would specifically like to know:

  1. In what context did the phrase originally arise?
  2. Exactly what did it originally mean?

Today, it seems to be used in various contexts; sometimes it literally means "and the scene ends there" (for example in television synopses). It can be used slightly more figuratively to mark the end of a hypothetical situation. It is also used to punctuate a story or joke, to signal both "I am done speaking/acting" and "you should stop speaking/acting now," and with other idiosyncratic implications.

It can be written plainly: And scene; or with ellipsis: And...scene; or with a bunch of extra a's: Aaaand scene (this one is easiest to search for on the web, four a's being the most popular spelling). All of these may take an exclamation mark or period/full stop. Both the And... and Aaaand versions appear to be approximating an extended drawing-out of the first vowel when the phrase is spoken. I think in all cases the emphasis in the spoken phrase would be on the first word.

I had a vague impression of a couple of different potential origins, and have found some support for both, but nothing definitive. Below are a couple of possible theories, and some of what I've found in support of each.

Theory 1: Theatre

A director or acting teacher would use the line to cut off a scene that has either reached a natural conclusion or that is rambling unproductively.

There's a fair amount of discussion about the use of this phrase in auditions and such (often combined with confusion over whether it's "and scene" or "end scene"); lots of opinions about where it comes from, but nothing definitive. The only real consensus seems to be that it's annoying/amateurish for actors to use it to end their own scenes, but it happens. See here, here, here etc.

Theory 2: Cinema

A screenwriter, pitching a script, starts with "We open on..." and finishes with "And scene." Could also be a director describing a film.

A recent short film about three scriptwriters trying to come up with a pitch was titled And Scene! There is also an online "book club, but for films" titled And Scene. Examples of the "We open on . . . And scene!" template definitely exist, as in this description of a commercial and this episode synopsis. Also, I'm not sure I can quantify it, but the un-ironic uses of the phrase seem to be more often of the "describing a cinematic-type scene" variety than the "ending a live-action performance" variety. Similarly, the Hollywood users don't seem to Andy about whether it should really be end scene.


It could be that the phrase is used in both contexts, but I'm specifically wondering about how it got started. Of course theatre is older than cinema, so one might expect that the term originated in the older medium and was adopted into the newer, but I'm not convinced that's the case.

Note that I'm not suggesting these two theories are the only possibilities; perhaps it is something similar, like film directors originally said it to mean "cut" or acting teachers used it to set up a scene rather than to end one, or it could be something else entirely.

  • 8
    I'm more familiar with "Aaaaand action!" or "Aaaaand cut!" or "Aaaaand that's a wrap!" – rhetorician Sep 11 '16 at 18:40
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    Aaaaand lunchtime! – Drew Sep 11 '16 at 18:47
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    I think that's totally dependent on the number of a's involved – Helmar Sep 11 '16 at 20:11
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    Yes, and you've missed out one of the "a's" and the best one at that! – Peter Point Sep 12 '16 at 7:39
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    I'm confused about the objection to this question. It's a phrase in fairly common English usage, without a clear origin; I'd like to know if anyone has a more definitive answer than I've been able to find. Why the downvote? I realize the phrase itself is sometimes annoying—that's part of why I'd like to know its original usage. – 1006a Sep 12 '16 at 17:34
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I found a helpful source: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=674271

It seems that in rehearsals and improv, to signal that a scene is over, there was a word that a director would use: "Scene." But adding "And" in the beginning made it flow better and seem more emphatic.

  • +1 Thank you for looking into this! That source is actually the second one cited in the question, under "Theory 1". Clearly, my idea to streamline the question by downplaying the citations was a mistake :(. – 1006a Nov 24 '16 at 15:24
  • @1006a - I think I wasn't reading carefully enough. Anyway, the googling I did turned out to be interesting. I tried limiting the time range. I didn't see any hits (not that I looked at all the n thousands, but still) for this phrase until fairly recently. – aparente001 Nov 24 '16 at 19:39
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Definition 1:

    An attempt to retract a social faux pas, often a rant, implying, usually jokingly, that the whole thing was just an act.

Definition 2:

    Derives from auditioning on the stage, when an actor would add it at the end of a scene and mean it literally. Person 1: "I hate those Sunday drivers" Person 2: "Me too! This one guy was going like 30 MILES AN HOUR TOO SLOW and I was leaning on my horn but he was eating a donut and was all like WHY DON'T YOU WAKE UP AND GET OUTTA MY WAY!" *Crickets and wide-eyed stares* Person 2: "And... scene."

Sources:

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=and...%20scene

Hope this helps :)

  • This doesn't strike me as a particularly authoritative source for Definition 2. – aparente001 Nov 24 '16 at 6:43
  • That was all I could find online; I didn't do any extensive research into it. Maybe sites like millionshort.com will find more authoritative sources :) – Louie Bnouie Nov 24 '16 at 10:19

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