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I am looking for a word or phrase to denote such a unique phrase that somebody habitually says. This phrase could for example fill the following gap:

My buddy Bill always exclaims “oh wow” whenever he is surprised. “Oh wow” is a _____ of his.

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    I was tempted to say swan song of his - but a swan song is not merely an expression but a typical argument of someone. I think I would just say that it is a favourite expression of his.
    – WS2
    Dec 24, 2016 at 9:12
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    Sorry, but this is not correct. A swan song is a last performance before an artist dies or retires. I would suggest "catchphrase". Dec 24, 2016 at 9:59
  • Is this a cliche ?
    – Autistic
    Dec 24, 2016 at 10:52
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    @KateBunting catchphrase seems very close but more common when the subject is a famous person.
    – k1eran
    Dec 24, 2016 at 13:55
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    What about something reusing the words in question - Oh wow” is a habitual saying|expression|phrase of his
    – k1eran
    Dec 24, 2016 at 14:04

5 Answers 5

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This can be a catchphrase. I think this is most commonly applied to fictional characters, who often have very distinction catchphrases (such as Sheldon's "bazinga" on The Big Bang Theory), but it could conceivably apply to actual people if they have similar ideosyncracies.

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Perhaps you would say "Oh wow" is a favorite line of his.

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"Hallmark," in that context conveys something unique and dignifiable.

"Bird call," might be slightly contemptuous instead.

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How about signature saying or signature phrase?

For example, here are several signature sayings/phrases used by President Barack Obama:

  • “Let me be clear”

  • “Make no mistake”

  • “Here’s the deal”

  • “It will not be easy”

One could also call these catch phrases, but the addition of signature ties them to the person who uses them habitually.

OD:

signature: a distinctive pattern, product, or characteristic by which someone or something can be identified

Your example:

My buddy Bill always exclaims “oh wow” whenever he is surprised. “Oh wow” is a signature saying/phase of his.

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  • I think mannerism is usually used to refer to movements or ways of speaking, not the specific words spoken.
    – Barmar
    Dec 26, 2016 at 17:53
  • @Barmar Now that I think about it, and reread the definition, I think you're right. I'm going to delete. Thanks. Dec 26, 2016 at 18:25
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Might I suggest Leitmotif

'Oh wow' is a leitmotif of his.

Though it's more commonly used in terms of music but I think it can work in this situation. I came across this site, it would be helpful too.

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