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.


3 Answers 3


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'. 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
    May 18, 2020 at 16:02
  • The point is that ELU is about standard usages. Someone may read this and quote this as proving that 'punchline operator' is a standard term. I'd think less than 1% of comedians have used it more than once. I've never offered 'pink socks' as an answer. May 18, 2020 at 16:26
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    You need to take this website and yourself less seriously @EdwinAshworth
    – Mari-Lou A
    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
    May 19, 2020 at 11:41

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.


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
    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. May 18, 2020 at 13:29

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