Popular culture often has people use a specific kind of word to capitalize on a joke they've just told, or a prank they've pulled on someone.

Examples of such exclamations would include hey-oh that might follow an especially raunchy joke:

I got a powerful urge to help you out

So what's your wish? I really wanna know

You got a list that's three miles long, no doubt

Well, all you gotta do is rub like so (rubs his buttocks) HEY-O!

(Disney's Aladdin - Friend like me)

... bazinga, coined by the Big Bang Theory show:

You actually had it right in the first place. Once again, you've fallen for one of my classic pranks. Bazinga!

Similarly, there are more aggressive exclamations such as "Boom!", "Bam!", "Bang!" etc. that are sometimes used to double down on a hostile statement or action, and are meant to cause additional embarrassment and pain.

Is there a single word used to describe such "punch line markers".

I've already thought of "slam", "burn", "exclamation", "interjection", and "catchphrase", but they're either too generic, or don't work in all scenarios.


5 Answers 5


The following interjections are onomatopoeic, imitating the sound of the drum sometimes followed by the crash cymbal.

In the early 1970s, a British fox puppet named Basil Brush, popularised the catchphrase boom-boom!, which was the signal for children watching at home to laugh because the TV puppet had told a bad joke, often in the form of a cringeworthy pun.

Some comedian writers call these type of expressions a punchline indicator

Any of three words in bold would describe the phenomena in the OP's question.

  • The first two suggestions are far too hypernymic. And suggesting that 'punchline indicator' is a set phrase with the required meaning from a single example of the string is unscholarly. I suspect there are at least a thousand times as many hits for 'pink socks'. Commented May 18, 2020 at 15:13
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    @Edwin, I said "some" and I also told the community that the authority were "comedian writers". Writers, comedians, not scholars. Be that as it may, downvote it as you wish. If you could provide just one source that the phrases that signal a punchline are called "pink socks" that would be marvellous!
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 18, 2020 at 16:02
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    You need to take this website and yourself less seriously @EdwinAshworth
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 18, 2020 at 17:31
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    @EdwinAshworth you had the last word... My small contribution has three valid suggestions, all supported…far be it for me to impose my view on others. I am not qualified.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 19, 2020 at 11:41
  • 1
    I'm always encouraged to think that onomatopoeia is spelled like it sounds.
    – Elliot
    Commented Jun 5, 2020 at 14:47

The word 'sting' is used in this context. Often it refers to a 'musical sting' as others have described, but can also be used for example to describe the 'catchphrase' of Basil Brush 'boom boom'.

This is documented on Wikipedia under the entry 'Sting (percussion)'. As a side-comment, I only encountered this term this week in a Guardian article where it was perplexingly used without explanation: "followed by 30 seconds of the BBC musical news sting".

  • This certainly applies to musical indicators, but maybe not spoken ones - there's an Irish comedian who follows every joke with "It's the way I tell em" or "It's a cracker", and that's maybe not a sting.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Oct 6, 2022 at 8:46
  • The Basil Brush reference is explicitly given by Wikipedia, showing explicitly that the use of 'sting' is not confined to music. The original question is about a word. "It's the way I tell em" is not a word but an additional phrase.
    – Gerry
    Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 9:11

In performance such words following the punchline make the Applause Line or Applause Cue. As stated this tells the audience when they can laugh by letting them know there are no more lines for that joke. These are invaluable in managing the audience's attention. Pre-built lines, Bazinga for one, belonging to a character gives them great power to change the story and control reactions.

Most often such cues are quiet and subtle, designed to pace the story by allowing tension to build and release in a known pattern for both comedy and drama. Overemphasizing the punchline or the Applause Cue out of all proportion is know as Hitting it Over the Head and spoils or displaces the enjoyment of even the crudest of humor. In some shows it is that heavy handedness itself that is the entertainment. Long live Svengoolie.

  • It would be good to find some references. I've found "applause cue" used by magicians as well as comedians. (There are also singers and performance poets who finish every song/poem by saying something as simple as "thank you" to indicate they've stopped and the audience can start cheering and clapping.)
    – Stuart F
    Commented Oct 6, 2022 at 8:48

(Verbal) Rimshot/Rim shot (n.)

Rim shot (n.)

  1. A ba-dum-tss drumbeat used to signal the humor of a joke—and it's usually corny humor!

  2. A drumbeat where the tip of the drumstick hits the rim of the drum.
    Tara Lazar; Absurd Words: A kids' fun and hilarious vocabulary builder (2022)

Rim shot (n.)

A drum beat in which the shaft of the drumstick strikes the rim of the drum at the same time that the tip of the stick strikes the head. M-W

Rimshot (n.)

A drum stroke in which the stick strikes the rim and the head of the drum simultaneously. Oxford Languages

In my view, the epanorthosis here is intended, as is Sceparnio's in Rudens, as an ironic "rimshot" pun calculated to elicit a groan: ...
Michael Fontaine; Funny Words in Plautine Comedy (2010)

You might recognize: "Try the veal," "Drive safely," or "badum-bum" (i.e. the verbal rim shot).

In vaudeville and burlesque, performers used the verbal rim shot as a positive acknowledgement of where the joke or line had humorously taken the audience. It was a comedic punctuation, if you will.

However, the public has made it a weak, flabby punch line with less depth than a Miley Cyrus song without understanding the history and dimensions of its usage.
M.P. Ziegfeld; Breaking out of Show Business (2015)

If the meaning of a groan can be ambiguous, however, the verbal rimshot—commonly phrased as some variant of “ba-dumpbump!” and often pantomimed with imaginary drumsticks—is never mistaken for anything but sarcastic criticism.
John Pollack; The Pun Also Rises (2012)

Boom boom!

Verbal rim shot, used by comics to drive home the punch line of a successfully delivered one-lines or, even more commonly, to act as a lift-support system for a gag that expires the instant it was uttered. Most associated with Basil Bush, a puppet fox who has proved one of the BBC s most durable comedy stars.
Jonathan Bernsteain; Knickers in a twist: A Dictionary of British Slang (2007)

He repeated the name “Savoy” throughout the lyric as a kind of verbal rim shot.
Michael Lasser; America's Songs II (2013)

I laughed and even gave him a verbal rim-shot, not at the inherent funniness of the line, but because it was an instance of his trying to make me laugh with what was my own material. Steve Allen; Die Laughing (1998)

Lucky you, the VP [Vocal Percussion] Rim Shot is another simple sound to make, and one that will prove useful for the remainder of your VP or beatboxing career!
Brody McDonald; A Cappella Pop (2012)

This is an awkward point to make on paper, but it may be enough to draw attention to the rhythmic implication of McKay's placement of the demonstrative "so" in the second line quoted. This is in effect a sharp rimshot on the offbeat—a stroke that illustrates "keeping time" by deliberately failing to to so, and thus a clue to the poem's rhythmic freedom.
Laurence Breiner; An Introduction to West Indian Poetry (1998)


How about catchphrase? From Cambridge:

catchphrase: a phrase that is often repeated by and therefore becomes connected with a particular organization or person, especially someone famous such as a television entertainer

This seems to capture exactly what you describe in your question (although you did say it's too generic or doesn't work in all situations).

  • 2
    "Catchphrase" doesn't seem to work for generic punchline markers such as "hey-o!" or the cymbal "ba-dum-tish!" (as appositely brought up by Mari-Lou) that are not associated with one person in particular and could be used by anyone. It does fit some other more personalized interjecitons such as "Bazinga!" or "Bonk!", so thanks for suggesting it. Also, most catchphrases are longer than one single word and don't normally follow punchlines.
    – undercat
    Commented May 18, 2020 at 5:55
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    Aren't "hey-o" and "bazinga!" perfect examples of catchphrases? What seems to happen in many cases is that people appropriate for their own use the catchphrases used by comedians, for example, and the connection back to the source can be lost over time. They're still the original catchphrases though. Commented May 18, 2020 at 13:29

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