Showing posts with label Catch Phrases. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Catch Phrases. Show all posts

Thursday, May 21, 2009

90s Catch Phrase Mash-Up

catch phrase Pictures, Images and Photos

In retrospect, all slang can seem archaic and dated. In modern context, it can make very little sense and contain idioms that are no longer a part of mainstream conversational currency. It can also be deeply, wholly embarrassing.

Don't even try to deny it. You used these phrases, or you witnessed them being used and didn't do anything to stop it, for which many experts consider you to be equally at fault. It was easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of hype and celebrity endorsement of certain words and expressions and abandon your principles of not sounding like an idiot. At the time, people would accept--nay, applaud--your adherence to pop culture norms. These catch phrases enjoyed a substantial heyday before being put to rest for being insanely irritating.

Let's explore some of the ridiculous catch phrases that defined a decade:

  • "Psyche!" (Variation: "Not!")
Ah, there's nothing quite like a good fake-out. That's the nature of a joke, really, to lead your audience into an assumption and then defy it with an unexpected result. When you put it like that, it sounds rather sophisticated. However, there was a simpler way of expressing this. Here's a little breakdown:

1) Make a statement.
2) Retract said statement by shouting "psyche!", thus humiliating the baited individual.

This was pretty easy to fall for, as you can imagine, and could cause extreme playground-based embarrassment.

Example: A person requests a high five, then quickly moves his hand before the slap makes contact, punctuated with a rather cruel, "Psyche!"
Example: "Hey Tiffany, I love that Lisa Frank lunchbox... Not!"

This enjoyed a slight resurgence of popularity following Sacha Baron Cohen's interpretation of it in the movie Borat.

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  • "Talk to the hand!" (variation: "Because the face ain't listening)

Image via

This was a pretty straightforward approach to avoidance. Seek to skirt confrontation? Well here's your solution! Simply align your hand vertically, palm forward toward the person's face. They will be forced to deliver their unwanted message directly to your palm, who is unlikely to absorb the full meaning or even reliably take a mesage. Even though technically faces don't listen per se (auditory functioning is probably better left to ears) it was pretty obvious that your message was going nowhere.

Maury Povich: You are the father!
Potential Baby Daddy 3: I swear, it's not mine.
Baby Mama: Talk to the hand, Cleatus, cause the face don't wanna listen!

  • "Da Bomb"

Let's clear something up: usually, a bomb is a bad thing. We're all fairly familiar with this interpretation of an unwanted explosive, and tend to use it accordingly in our conversations with others. However, that is the bomb. We're talking "da" bomb. Da bomb is different thing altogether. In fact, da bomb is the best. The greatest. Explosively wonderful. Though your instinct will deny it, 90s slang prescribed that we now craved acceptance by means of other's declaring our clogs or No Doubt CD to be "da bomb".

Example: Did you see the X-games on TV last night? Those skateboarders were da bomb!

  • "All that and a bag of chips"

In the 90s, it was never enough to simply be "all that" (that is, unless you were a kid-directed Nickelodeon sketch comedy show). No, there was so much more to describing your success. You would think if they were going to tack on some added value, these mysterious slang-starters would choose something of actual worth. Instead, they've chosen something you can purchase at a local 711 for $1.98 and that will inevitably leave grease stains on your Dockers khakis.

Example: Damn, that trapper-keeper is all that and a bag o f chips!

  • "Don't Go There!"

Don't go where, exactly? Even if someone is steering conversation to an unsavory topic, it's unlikely they're taking you to an entirely disparate destination. This was also a favorite catch phrase of trashy daytime talk show guests, usually when confronted with uninvited questions. This was the ultimate brush off, indicating the other person was in no way going to validate your prying with any sort of substantial response. This was pretty much a conversation ender.

Sally Jesse Raphael: So, Judy, do you think your difficult divorce led to your extreme weight gain of 250 pounds?
Judie (indignant): Don't go there, Sally!

  • "You Go, Girl!"

Again, with the going. The 90s certainly had an active set of catch phrases. This was the age of Spice Girls and Girl Power (excuse me, grrrrrrl power) and women were eager to encourage each other, or at least egg one another on. They also frequently took to calling one another girlfriend, as in "Hey there, girlfriend!"

"You Go, Girl" was another standard staple of trashy talk show fare, as women publicly declared their independence or confidence. In theory, it was a nice concept, but this pseudo-feminism was not quite up to par with the serious activism of past generations. Let's put it this way: "You go girl!" was to feminism as "Going Green!" is to environmentalism.

Woman: So, I decided I've had enough. I'm leaving James and wringing him out for all he's worth.
Loud obnoxious friend: You go, girl!

  • "Take a chill pill!"

Try as I might to locate a prescription for these mythical chill pills, it turned my mission was for naught. Apparently, this was some sort of metaphor. It was the kind of thing you frequently heard unruly teenagers snap at their parents.

All sorts of people were candidates for medical trials on the chill pill, but it mainly applied to teachers, parents, and other authoritative incarnations of "the man". It was, however, often used inappropriately in an authority figure/subordinate situation.

Boss: Sherman, your numbers were down this quarter.
Sherman: Take a chill pill, man! I'll reign it in.

  • "Then why don't you marry it?"

This one probably applies to children in general and is not necessarily relegated exclusively to 90s children, but it was certainly widespread in its use. It's a good question, really. Why don't you? I mean, if you're so attached to something, it seems pending nuptials should be in order. It's the next logical step in your commitment. Or are you not willing to go out on that far of a limb for your Ninja Turtle action figures?

Example: "Cindy's always playing with that worthless Wee Little Miss doll. Hey Cindy, if you love it so much, then why don't you marry it?"

Stay tuned for the next catch phrase installment featuring notable quotables from TV. I have no idea when this installment will be available for public perusal, but I promise to get to it soon...ish. Uh-oh, I may have just made a faulty promise. Did I do that? (adjusts Urkel glasses and straightens striped suspenders)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Got Milk?

Without the helpful input of highly compensated celebrity endorses, how would we ever know what to like? Certainly we as consumers can't be trusted to make these sort of decisions for ourselves. Just imagine all the crazy things we would get into without the ever-sage guidance of paid spokespeople. No, we need to be told what to do from people we know from movies, sports, music, and television. They're pretty much our only reliable sources.

In 1994, the dairy industry had fallen upon hard times. Kids had tasted the forbidden sugariness of soda and it seemed that they had reached the beverage point-of-no-return. The once-ubiquitous cafeteria milk cartons had been replaced by Coca-Cola sponsored vending machines sure to fund our schools and cavitate our teeth. Our bones were brittle, our blood sugar was high, and we knew little of the beloved milk of our forebearers. Milk producers knew it was time to take action.

Milk producers knew they needed something a bit punchier than "Milk: it's Cool" Cafeteria Milk Machines

The bottom line was that kids were not convinced that milk was cool. I know what you're thinking, kids weren't won over by the glamorous lives of those in the dairy industry? Next thing you're going to tell me is that they were careless about maintaining their calcium levels. Hard to believe, yes, but milk's image was on a downswing. It was as if milk was some washed-up celebrity past her prime; once cast in great roles, she was now generally relegated to grandmother and old-version-of-young-starlet type parts. Milk producers knew they had to act fast if they were going to bring their former key player into the spotlight again after 30 years of poor management and competition from sexier thirst-quenchers.

Milk was down, but it was not out. Advertisers knew that if they could just convince the youth market that milk was hip and happening, kids would drink it up. Ripped straight from the dark imaginations of focus groups, the initial campaign focused on the horrifying consequences of finding oneself in a situation that demanded milk but where none was available. Frightening, I know. Just imagine, a mouthful of cookie with nothing to chase it down. A dire crisis, indeed. Marketers even referred to this as the "Milk Deprivation Strategy," to give you an idea of the seriousness with which they approached their dalliance with dairy.

Milk knew it needed to get by on more than association alone. Sure, cookies had reasonable child street cred, but they could only take milk so far. Advertisers knew they needed to up the ante a bit and inject some humor to hold people's interest and draw attention to their campaign. Continuing on their general milk deprivation theme, they released this television spot:

We can all relate to this situation. How many times do you find yourself, a devoted Aaron Burr historian and enthusiast, faced with the most simple question in your major area of study yet unable to answer due to unfortunate peanut butter stickiness side effects? Too many to count.

Soon, the phrase "Got Milk?" was everywhere, and as you can imagine, it did not dwindle in its humor or become even minutely annoying the 467th time you saw a t-shirt emblazoned with a "Got _________?" slogan. Endlessly hilarious.

The true heart of the campaign was in the print ads we all so know and love. Originally christened with such creative and demanding slogans such as "Where's your mustache?", these teen-attracting ads were soon absorbed under the larger Got Milk? ad campaign umbrella. Celebrity models sported somewhat unfortunate-looking milk mustaches as marketing teams superimposed witty first-person copy clearly not to be attributed to the person pictured in the ad. Regardless of the falsified text, preteens adored these ads. Young girls plastered the walls of their rooms with them, as if these omnipresent magazine advertisements were rare and collectible. There was even a book published full of these ads featuring behind-the-scenes information about the mustachioed celebs. I am only slightly embarrassed to admit that I owned this book and possibly read it cover to cover, seeking the goodness of milk in light literary form.

These ads were well-targeted and smart. Marketers knew that 90s children pledged essentially undying and unwavering devotion to their celebrity role models. Despite the fact that these celebrity teen role models were generally unqualified to preach anything and would go on to make all sorts of unfortunate life choices, in the 90s their innocence was still intact:

Aren't you glad we listened to these wise, learned teen stars and drank all the milk we could get our hands on? At the time, we wanted to grow up to be just like them. Unfortunately, at the time these ads ran, these adolescent celebrities had yet to grow up themselves. The versions of them that we looked up to had yet to reach their milk-inducing potential. Nowadays, these all-grown-up former teen sensations may not be the picture of wholesomeness and stable health, but at the time we saw them as pure milk success stories.

Sure, the ads also featured real role models like triumphant Olympic athletes, but if you weren't into sports it seemed the best you could wish from milk was to end up like Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan. Now aren't you glad you listened to these good mustachioed people and drank your milk?

Check it out:
Official Got Milk? Website
MooMilk: A Dynamic Adventure into the Dairy Industry
Got Milk? Ads Photostream

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Drug PSAs

Drug Public Service Announcements: love 'em or hate 'em, they're here to stay. Drug-centric PSAs skyrocketed to popularity in the late 80s and early 90s based on research that kids, well, enjoy drugs. Luckily, adults were here to put a stop to all that to-be-expected teenage experimentation by use of scare tactics and what can only be characterized as unfair equivocations. For instance, a logical human being may not immediately associate a single puff of a joint with a future of relentless crackheadery, but alas, there was a reason they hired the "creative" types for these ad campaigns.

The themes and approaches of 90s drug PSAs were all over the place; this was certainly not a well-thought out, focused approach. No, that kind of reasoning would be too effective. Instead of banding together to fight a common cause, anti-drug groups felt it better to create a free and unfettered marketplace of anti-substance ideals in which any organization could put out any ad as they saw fit. Never ones to be outdone, all sorts of people in the entertainment industry came out of the woodwork eager to put forth their own PSAs, such as in the following Ninja Turtles' sponsored Anti-Drug Ad. We can only assume that Leonardo really pushed for this as a positive career move for our half-shelled friends, as the notion that any actual human writer with limited functional brain capacity would ever conceive of the following ad is too much to take:

Oh no! Joey's in a jam! Joey's in a jam, indeed. You have to love the way that every anti-drug ad explicitly depicts drug users as overly eager to share their expensive and limited supply of drugs with uninterested others. The way the agressor states, "I've got some stuff you've just gotta try!" you'd think he was begging someone to take these joints off his hands. This kid looks all of 12 years old, so I'm not exactly sure what his major source of income is, but I think it's pretty safe to say that he wouldn't be overly eager to share the fruits of many weeks of allowance-saving with a casual acquaintance who clearly wants no part of it.

I also love the way that they cut to the Ninja Turtles doing a Q&A postmortem on the peer-pressure scenario video segment with a random elementary school class. Usually, when I'm in jam not unsimilar to Joey's, I use my Zack Morris "Freeze!" power to assemble a bunch of random children to talk out my problem with the TMNT themselves. At least the turtles keep it light with their pizza jokes. Get real, Michaelangelo. You also have to love the eagerness with which that kid in front shrieks, "Get out of there!" With enthusiasm like this, it's fairly certain that there are no marijuana users in this classroom.

So way to go, Joey. Call him a turkey! Take that, bully five times Joey's size! And as the turtles say, drug users are dorks! Who better to trust than martial-arts trained sewer-dwelling half-masked pizza-loving mutant turtles? Who, I ask you?

If that one didn't quite jive with you as a child, there was always this more, er, subtle approach:

Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Backtrack a second. I see what you're getting at here with your extended metaphor and all, but...really? I have quite of few points of contention with this ad, the foremost of which being that it's obviously and blatantly insensitive. Of course, though, it doesn't end there! Why does the narrator insist on referring to native Africans of 400 years ago as "African Americans"? They weren't African-Americans when they came here, they were Africans. What a total shot in the dark attempt to be PC in an utterly un-PC commercial.

Oh, voiceover, what gem of wisdom will you share with us next? Oh wait, if I am of African American descent and use drugs, I'm directly dishonoring my ancestors and reenslaving my people? You were always one for subtlety, disembodied voice.

If you still weren't off drugs forever after watching that sobering ad, you could always wait a couple of years to be influenced by this one:

N*Sync, your light and playful tone will surely deter heavy drug use, especially among alternative kids. I don't know if it ever occurred to somebody that N*Sync fans may not be the population most heavily correlated with drug use, but here they are telling us what they're into. And boy, do they have some hilarious fake hobbies! Oh, scriptwriters, have you got these boys pegged. As a former synchronized swimmer, I may have to take some offense to JC's jab, especially because the other lines they give him ("baroque minimalism!") implies that synchronized swimming is in some way wacky and insane (if you are unaware, it's not). You have to enjoy the pre-outed Lance Bance shrieking effeminately, though. At least they had the wisdom to throw some foreshadowing in there for good measure. Oh, and to have him say he's into acting. Touche, scriptwriters. I guess those girls are in the ad to illustrate how desirable N*Sync is. I can't really fathom any alternate explanation for their presence. If anyone was yet to question N*Sync's crediibility and/or masculinity as musical artists, I think this ad probably sealed the deal.

Of course, there was also the more serious (some may say, depressing) approach:

Cue up the maudlin music and watch an adorable inner-city black kid with the hi-top fade haircut dodge the drug pushers. As in the first ad we saw here, it's fair to assume that all drug users are out to force their expensive fare on us. They will not rest until every pocket-moneyless child is forced to try their limited supply of drugs free of charge.

Unfortunately, my favorite-ever anti-drug commercial from 1998 has been forever exiled into the black hole of internet obscurity. Despite an inordinate amount of time spent searching for my once-beloved animated anti-drug PSA, it seems to be completely absent from an otherwise well-stocked video cyberspace. Lucky for all of you, I took a memorization class in gifted summer school in 2nd grade* and have the words forever branded into my once-impressionable childhood brain. It goes a little something like this:

I'd rather eat a big old bug! Than ever take a stupid drug!
Drugs aren't cool, they can mess you up at school,
Drugs are a pain, they can hurt your body and your brain!

A big ol' bug with an ugly mug, is better than any stupid drug!

They make you sad, they make your parents mad,
Drugs are dumb, they make you clumsy, slow, and numb!

I'd rather eat a big old bug...

(Bug interjects:) Don't do drugs!

Than ever take a stupid drug!

There are a lot of confusing elements of this anti-drug jingle, so I'll try my best to break it down for you. First off, are we to believe that the size and age of a given bug are inversely proportional to its desirability relative to drugs? In which case, a young, small bug may not hold the same anti-drug message. Very interesting. And what a kind, selfless bug he is. Even though he knows his life to be at stake with such an anti-drug proclamation, he can tell right from wrong. You just don't see that sort of self-sacrificing sprirt in animated insects these days.

And another thing! Drugs can mess me up at school? My parents will be mad? Whoa, whoa, whoa, slow down, anti-drug commercial. I'd never considered any of these outcomes before, I was only thinking of the joys of ingesting plump, juicy insects as a healthy alternative to drug use. Now that you've shown me the light (or darkness, of it may be) of drug use, I will dutifully chomp down on this animated bug sandwich to do my part to deter childhood drug abuse. Thanks, Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

For any of you out there (and I assume you are!) thinking to yourselves, "But what of all my favorite non-drug related PSAs from the 90s? Are they doomed to never see the light of Children of the 90s?" Well, I'm sorry to cause you that brief moment of anguish and withdrawal, but fear not; as God as my witness, those PSAs will be here for your enjoyment in a multi-part series I like to call, "Educational Advertising in the 90s is Completely F-ing Insane." Stay tuned!

And if you don't, the drug dealers from that last videos will most likely hunt you down and force it upon you unprovoked. True story.

*This fact is embarrassingly and unjustifiably true

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up!"

Looking for a surefire way to guarantee that no one will respect the precarious health of the elderly and to diminish the legitimacy of their tenuous medical state? Well, you're in luck! The Life Call corporation has already done it for you and has made it available in convenient late 80s/early 90s daytime television commercial slots. As the Life Call people sat around musing what was the possibly the way to least seriously depict the grave dangers associated with solo-dwelling senior citizens, they stumbled upon a foolproof formula for endless mockery and derision. How could we make light of such a tragic and serious risk? Well, I'll tell you how.

Yes, the Life Call people decided against working the "this is a serious life-saving product and should be presented as such" angle and instead opted to hire the campiest, chintziest elderly actors to produce embarrassingly low-budget dramatizations for their television advertisement. At least at the beginning, the fine print in the lower right-hand corner reads "dramatization". Whew, that was a close one. I was concerned that that woman had actually fallen and couldn't get up, and we were all just sitting around casually observing her in her dire state. At best, it was as if Life Call had raided a retirement home community theater troupe. Obviously, they had already blown their whole legitimate actor budget to hire concerned-looking family members and friends of the injured party. Thankfully, those characters had no lines or maybe we would have taken this thing less lightly.

Here is the ad, in all its glory:

Less widely mocked was the first guy, Mr. Miller, who acts his heart out (possibly, literally, considering his supposed ailment) describing his chest pains. However, our real heroine was Mrs. Fletcher, oh great utterer of redundant and unintentionally humorous phrases. The fictional Mrs. Fletcher croaked out a line that exceeds nearly any quote out of Bartlett's in immediate recognizability.

"I've fallen...and I can't get up!"

It was probably that second part that did in poor Mrs. Fletcher. Laying on the floor of her questionably empty room, walker askew, we could all clearly deduce that she had indeed fallen. Her apparent need for the Life Call system suggested to us that she was also likely unable to get up. Otherwise, she probably would have called up and said, "I've fallen! ...Oh, no, I'm fine, I'll get myself up in a jiffy. I just wanted someone to talk to because I'm lonely and live alone and can only communicate with my children, neighbors, and doctors through third party Life Call employees." But no, Mrs. Fletcher knew better than that. She had to do more than just explain that she had fallen, that part was clearly evident to any impartial observer. She needed to fully elucidate her situation by pointing out that not only had she fallen, but that she was at the same time unable to get up. Well, bless her heart, she certainly sold that line. Unfortunately, to children growing up in the 90s, it was probably the funniest thing that they had ever seen and/or heard.

We had all been told dozens of time to respect our elders. Parents and teaches explained to us that most senior citizens are viable and capable and deserve to be treated as human beings. We all bought that for about ten minutes, or at least the time elapsed between receiving that explanation and our initial viewing of the Life Call commercial. Though the commercial was marketed toward seniors as a tool to encourage their independence, to us it only cemented their status in our eyes as highly dramatic, accident-prone victims.

As if Life Call hadn't hammered the point home enough already with their melodramatic dramatizations, they also relied on the cheery host of the commercial to explain to us what we had just seen. "See?" She prompted condescendingly. "Protect yourself with Life Call and you're never alone!" For those of us unable to understand the complex plot twists and the nuanced acting of her preceding ad castmates, we could always rely on our Life Call pendant-sporting pal to restate the thesis of the commercial. And wasn't she recently "deathly ill"? Why, she looks great! We can only imagine that if it hadn't been for been those dashing pseudo-cop outfitted Life Call operators, her deathly illness would have led to, well, death.

Obviously at some point, Life Call realized their gaffe and sought a new direction with their advertising campaigns. No longer were they going to be victims of endless mockery. They were going to take a hard line with customers and depict true stories of Life Alert's life-saving capabilities:

Wait a minute. Didn't she just say she wasn't an actress? Well, then why is she being played by one in the dramatization? We thought you had seen the error of your ways, Life Call, but this dramatization of supposedly real-life events featured the same catchphrase as the original. Are we really to believe that this real live woman had seen the Life Call commercial so many times that she instinctively uttered their trademarked line to operators? Also, are to we to buy that someone with the foresight to purchase a Life Call Emergency Alert System was engaging in such irresponsible fall-prone behavior as reading a book and walking? At the same time? And another thing! Aren't those the doctor and telephone operator from the first commercial? Are you telling me we're using stock footage because we couldn't even afford to hire some new actors? You can even hear the choppy way they cut off the "Mrs. Fletcher" part of the operator's line to accomodate this allegedly new true story. Way to go, Life Call. You really caught yourself with that one.

Then again, their intention was not to catch themselves; it was to catch poor clumsy Mrs. Fletcher, or this new supposedly real-life non-actress knockoff of Mrs. Fletcher.

After all, they were the ones who had fallen.

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