Catchphrase!

I briefly considered the word catchphrase today.

Not for too long, because its etymology is pretty clear. It seemed to clearly be a modern enough word, referring to a phrase that catches your attention. A catchy phrase, if you will (though strictly the idea is that it catches in your brain).

Nothing amazing there, but it did make me think of the British game show Catchphrase. Here’s a video of an old episode, if you want to get a sense of what it’s like:

Basically, the game involves pictorial representations of… let’s just say expressions for now. You’d think that’s the kind of thing I’d like. And I often involve drawing pictures of… expressions in classes. But there’s one thing that’s annoyed me about the game show on the occasional times I’ve seen it.

Obviously I get annoyed when I know the answer and the contestants don’t, but that’s the kind of thing I’m generally used to in life. No, it’s not that.

Let me explain. You see, most of the expressions depicted are idioms: a heart of gold, cold feet etc. Sometimes they’re proverbs, but they’re generally idioms.

So why is the programme called Catchphrase then!? Even worse, sometimes contestants give answers that aren’t idioms or proverbs at all. And as if that weren’t annoying enough in itself, the host (of the modern version at least) will then get exasperated and shout No, the answer is a catchphrase! Like dark horse, or blind as a bat!

Sigh.

Though ironically enough, him constantly saying It’s a catchphrase about things that aren’t catchphrases is effectively a catchphrase, making the title unintentionally logical.

Of course I get why they couldn’t call the programme Idioms, or Idioms & Proverbs. We all use idioms all the time, but how many of us actually know the word, or at least use it regularly? And of course idiom sounds like idiot, so it’s hardly going to be an attractive title, is it?

Still though: it has nothing do with catchphrases!!!!

Sorry. Just needed to vent.

Let me leave you on a positive note, with an interesting fact. I think what made the word catchphrase come to mind was seeing publicity for the film Stan & Ollie. Oliver Hardy had a famous catchphrase in the duo’s films, which was…?

No, it’s not, Well, here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into!

It’s actually, Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into! (or slight variations)

OK, it’s not so different, but it’s another nice mess example of how we tend to misquote those we love the most.

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