‘And now for something completely different’ — favorite British comedy catchphrases

Photo: BBC

A catchphrase is officially defined as a short phrase or expression recognized by its repeated utterance and one that has gained usage over time beyond its initial scope. Catchphrases can pop up in any number of outlets, British comedy might just be the leader when it comes to establishing a catchphrase that has a long-tail life after the series it was first used ceases production. Experts say the perfect catchphrase is four words long, has to be heard at least four times to register in the brain and must be easy to repeat as well as funny.

Tony Thorne, language consultant at King’s College university, said: “Catchphrases are a key component of popular culture as they connect the world of entertainment and consumption with the everyday concerns of real people – their feelings and experiences, their shared pleasures and their struggles and frustrations, and especially their triumphs over adversity.”

To some, British humor can be a bit of an acquired taste which, in some cases, either doesn’t translate well to other languages or being just too British for those countries that speak English. For those that call the UK home, it may be a different story. According to the King’s College London study, Brits on average use a catchphrase three times a day and three in ten admit to adding well known phrases from their favorite shows to their conversations.

According to Richard Harris, a psychology professor at Kansas State University who studied why people like to cite films in social situations, using film quotes in everyday conversation is similar to telling a joke creating a way to form solidarity with others.

People are doing it to feel good about themselves, to make others laugh, to make themselves laugh“, he said. He found that all of the participants in his study had used film quotes in conversation at one point or another. “They overwhelmingly cited comedies, followed distantly by dramas and action adventure flicks.” Horror films, musicals and children’s films were hardly ever cited. When asked about their emotions while quoting films, most people reported feeling happy, the study found.

Photo: BBC

Can you identify the British comedy series that made these classic catchphrases a part of today’s conversation? Email your responses to Tellyspotting where the winner will get something from a mystery British comedy bag of tricks.

  • Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once
  • Have you tried turning it off and on again?
  • Such fun
  • I’m free
  • He’s from Barcelona
  • And Now for Something Completely Different
  • You plonker
  • I’ve got a cunning plan
  • I didn’t get where I am today…
  • Don’t mention the war
  • Don’t panic

These quickly came to mind when I started thinking about classic catchphrases. Can you think of any others?

In: Comedy,Odds & Sods