Sunday, January 18, 2009

Bird Imitations and Other Non-Sequiturs

Every now and then, my dad will respond to something by saying, "That's it? Bird Imitations?" For a long time this response completely bewildered me, but, not wanting to be rude, I would just smile and nod. Finally, I learned that this baffling response was actually the punch line to a joke my dad knows, and that, in the context of the joke, it is used to express an underwhelmed attitude toward something rather extraordinary.

My dad is not alone in making references to outside material in everyday conversation. I've noticed that I do it a lot. Most of these references are to movie or television lines, and it is always delightful when an opportunity to fit one of these lines into conversation arises. Bubba and I have several lines we frequently use. Among our favorites: "That's why he's the judge and I'm the law talking guy", "You'll make a fine little helper, what's your name?", "It's already won the Pulitzer Prize, and it hasn't even been pooblished", "That just happened", "60 percent of the time, it works everytime", "Your mom goes to college", "Milk was a bad choice", "He's proud of his town."

If you recognize any of these lines, I bet you're smiling right now. If you don't recognize these lines, you're probably bored out of your mind. And that's the danger in incorporating an outside reference in everyday conversation - context is important. If your audience doesn't understand the context of the line you're quoting, confusion is inevitable.

This is why, on a trip to the grocery store with my in-laws, it wasn't wise of me to use the tag line from a Tostitos commercial when we were discussing where to meet up. For whatever reason, the situation prompted me to throw out the slogan "Meet you at the Tostitos," even though I had no intention of converging in the chip aisle. When Bubba suggested we head to the chip aisle after we had purchased our groceries, I knew I had violated a cardinal rule of quoting a line in a conversation.

The moral of this post: quote carefully, and know your audience.

That being said, what are some of your favorite lines?


Connie said...

Kim I love your blog! One of our more recent and favorite lines although probably not very appropriate is "that's what she said"

Molly said...

I'm laughing out loud right now, because even before reading the comment from Connie, I was going to put that one!! "That's what she said" is used around here but now that Liam repeats so much of what we say, we have to be careful! Especially if you've seen the most recent video on our blog. LOL Good to see you and Henry're looking great!!

chelsea said...

we love your mom goes to college too. we also use "just come down here and try to hit me" a lot. i'm sure there are others because i love the randomness of it all!

The Beckstead's said...

Some of our favorites are: Hey Tina you fat lard come get your food! - Too harsh, maybe, but we only do it out of love. That's what she said is another good line but I also know we drop the phrase - What is this, a center for ants?

Stacy and Mike said...

I admit, I do a lot of smiling and nodding because most of the time I have no idea where these lines came from and what makes them funny. Lucky for me I married a pop culture guru who knows them all and most of the time can fill me in.
Mike uses lines on me and I think he is hilarious,inventive, and it was meant just for me only to learn that someone such as Will Ferrel said it on SNL or something.
Lines I do know are usually from Seinfield and of course "that's what she said" as well.
In other words I would have met you in the chip isle for sure!

sarahbclark! said...

"conditions are perfect"- from flight of conchords song "business time"
actually, there are lots that T and i used from flight of the conchords songs, but i won't bore you by listing them all.
i am curious about the ones you mentioned!

janel said...

Are those from Anchorman? Mark is very good to put up with my family when we quote our own home videos! I know, the audacity to think we are so funny that we need to quote our five-year-old selves.

jdm said...

I use to say things like 'Don't have a falling down.' Did you ever see that movie? Not many did but the main guy has an absolute melt down so we use to use that line all of the time.
We also use to say that if you loved something or someone they were your bag. If you hated them they were your bagger.
I don't know why.