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Prime-time vocabulary

'D'oh' and 'strategery' have inundated everyday conversation

By Stephanie Snipes

The "Seinfeld" gang, from right, Michael Richards, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jerry Seinfeld and Jason Alexander, return to prime time in a new special.
"Eye on Entertainment" talks about the weekend's happenings on CNN's "Live Today" between 10 a.m. and noon ET Thursday.
Eye on Entertainment
Jerry Seinfeld

(CNN) -- As television heavyweight "Seinfeld" returns to prime time this week, viewers are reminded of the impact sitcoms have on pop-culture psyche -- and their contributions to our vocabulary.

Certain shows seem to be rife with addictive banter. Take "The Simpsons." The show, which can be seen Sunday nights on Fox, in reruns or on DVD, still has fans chanting, "Eat my shorts" or cheerily greeting friends with Ned Flanders' favorite, "Heididdily-ho!"

Even the folks at Oxford dictionaries are in the boob tube language business. In 2001, the definition gurus added "D'oh," Homer Simpson's famous idiom, to their online dictionary.

It's in these clever little sayings that an unexplored power exists. Why can we remember things like "Kiss my grits!" or "Homey don't play that!" when we can barely remember what we ate for breakfast?

Other shows have made indelible contributions as well, like J.J. Walker's popular "Dynomite!" on "Good Times," and the Fonz's unforgettable "aeeeyyyyyyy" on "Happy Days."

More favorites include, "Well isn't that special?" ("Saturday Night Live"), "What you talkin' about Willis?" ("Diff'rent Strokes") and "Lucy, you got some 'splainin' to do" ("I Love Lucy").

Of all the shows that tried to suck us in with their "mocklate" ("Friends") or "strategery" (Will Ferrell as President Bush on "SNL"), the show that raised the bar above all others was "Seinfeld."

This Thursday Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld), Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), George (Jason Alexander) and Kramer (Michael Richards) are back in an hourlong retrospective on the show with new interviews, highlights and bloopers.

Eye on Entertainment screams "serenity now!"


For nine seasons, the "Seinfeld" quartet and its offbeat gang of friends and family discussed close talkers, man hands, festivus, the Bro, magic loogies and double dipping, just to name a few.

For a show about nothing, they had a lot to say.

"Seinfeld" went off the air in 1998, but its signature terms have managed to stay a part of everyday language. Some would argue that reruns have a lot to do with the phenomenon, but prime-time powerhouses like "The Cosby Show" and "Roseanne" live on in syndication, and it's a rare day when you hear someone quoting Rudy Huxtable.

"Seinfeld" terminology is so popular that several dictionaries have popped up on the Internet. One site, which calls itself simply, "The Seinfeld Dictionary," defines a "close talker" as: one who speaks to a person at point blank range (usually with both peoples' noses less than a foot away from the other). Festivus is described as: a make believe holiday made up by a bitter, bickering head of a family, who uses the holiday as his/her vehicle to attack those (and their employers) close to him.

Another favorite of "Seinfeld" junkies is "hipster doofus" -- a tall, lanky, goofball who suggests to his/her friends that they should park in a handicap spot, knowing full well that it is wrong.

While some phrases, like hipster doofus, are used to describe the gang, a good chunk of expressions were created to describe their endless supply of relationship woes. Terms like shrinkage, stopping short and being the master of your domain (which shall go undefined).

Time will be the ultimate test for the fantastic foursome and their witty dialogue. Twenty years from now will fans still be "yada, yada, yada-ing" through dinner dates? Will loyal viewers still accuse their friends of being an Anti-Dentite? And, will men ever be able to resist shicksappeal? Possibly. Not that there's anything wrong with it.

"The Seinfeld Story" airs at 10 p.m. ET Thursday night on NBC.

On screen

  • As the holiday season swings into full gear, the new wave of Christmas themed movies hits theaters. In "Christmas with the Kranks," Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis decide to skip Christmas for a beach vacation, until their daughter decides to return home for the holidays, only they haven't decorated! The film opens Wednesday.
  • Oliver Stone returns to the big screen with "Alexander," the story of legendary warrior Alexander the Great. Colin Farrell, Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie and Val Kilmer star. The film opens Wednesday.
  • On the tube

  • In the "everything old is new again" category, NBC presents "A Christmas Carol: The Musical." Kelsey Grammer puts his pipes to the test as a singing Scrooge. Jennifer Love Hewitt and Jason Alexander also star. The show airs 9 p.m. Sunday night on NBC.
  • Turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and big gigantic balloons are key ingredients to successful Thanksgiving Day festivities. Macy's annual "Thanksgiving Day Parade" provides the big balloons. The festivities air on multiple networks Thursday morning. Check local listings.
  • Sound waves

  • Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel's 2 disc CD, "Old Friends Live on Stage," comes out Tuesday.
  • American Idol Kelly Clarkson's new album, "Breakaway," comes out Tuesday.
  • Paging readers

  • Parrothead fans rejoice! Margarita-drinking, cheeseburger-eating singer Jimmy Buffet returns to the literary world with his newest novel, "A Salty Piece of Land" (Little, Brown and Company), on Tuesday.
  • Clive Cussler's latest, "Black Wind" (Putnam), comes out Tuesday.
  • Video center

  • Peter Parker is back to save the day. "Spider-Man 2" starring Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst comes to DVD Tuesday.

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