April 8, 2004

Take One

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A recent article in The Salt Lake Tribune noted that “firing is one of the worst, most emotionally draining parts of [executives’] jobs, [and] the phrase ‘You’re fired’ is one of the most loaded in the English language, ranking up there with ‘I don’t love you anymore’ and ‘You have cancer.'” Well, like it or not, the phrase “You’re fired” is the newest catch phrase in America, and thanks to Donald Trump and NBC’s reality show The Apprentice, it likely has employees across the nation even more terrified of the dreaded phrase.

When “the Donald” says it, he even delivers a characteristic hand motion, accentuating the two words. You know the one. You’ve probably even practiced it when you’re by yourself. Or maybe that’s just me? The property tycoon has even filed a copyright request with the US Patent and Trademark Office, as the famous expression will reportedly appear on t-shirts and toys. I would ridicule this if it were not for the fact that I admittedly once owned a t-shirt displaying the well-known Jerry Maguire catch phrase, “Show me the money!” Certainly, television and film have always given us popular slogans or phrases. While we all know that such mediums of entertainment influence fashion, violence, smoking, and self-images, celebrities also affect the way people talk, and, as you’ll see later, even the names people give their babies.

Game shows have universalized the phrases “Survey says … ” and “Is that your final answer?” Jim Carrey gave us “Alrighty then,” Speed gave us “Pop quiz, hot shot,” and who hasn’t made an out-of-context, inappropriate use of boxing referee Mills Lane’s slogan, “Let’s get it on!”? Thanks to the now famous Verizon commercial, one might say, while on a cell phone, “Can you hear me now? Gooooood.” Rodney Dangerfield coined, “I get no respect anymore,” and Emeril Lagasse’s simple exclamation “Bam!” has found its way into many a kitchen. When we were younger, a group of cartoon turtles popularized “Cowabunga!” while Bart Simpson had kids everywhere imitating his lines “Don’t have a cow, man” and “Eat my shorts” (or was that just me again?). More recently, television has popularized the words such as “metrosexual” and “punk’d,” which, thanks to Ashton Kutcher, means “to be tricked,” and has provided a celebrity twist to the more traditional Candid Camera-type shows. Viewers of HBO’s uproarious comedy series Curb Your Enthusiasm often experience “Larry David moments,” as Bob Costas recently called them, such as when we find ourselves averse to doing a “stop and chat” with someone we would rather avoid. And let us not forget the many catch phrases of the famous characters of Saturday Night Live. It’s not just catch phrases that television and film give us; people may do it subconsciously, but trends in baby naming, of all things, reflect names heard on television. It is surely no coincidence that, after Friends character Rachel named her daughter Emma, the name Emma skyrocketed to the second most popular name for girls. This is not the first time that a memorable character has influenced baby naming trends; after the release of The Matrix, there was a striking increase in the name Trinity, and the name Aidan wasn’t even remotely near the top 10 until Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw dated one, after which the name ascended to — survey SAYS — number 14. Similar dramatic increases have recently been observed for William, for boys, and Grace, for girls. See the TV connection there? And after both Reese Witherspoon and Heather Locklear named their daughters Ava, the name Ava suddenly jumped from 744 to 83 on the most popular names list for girls. The same thing happened to the boys’ name Cody, after Kathie Lee Gifford chose that name for her son, and proceeded to talk about him every single day. Did you know that the name Adrien went up over 100 spots on the list from the year before Adrien Brody won the Oscar to the year after? While celebrities tend to increase the popularity of names, some prominent politicians do the opposite. For example, the name Richard became extremely unpopular following the Watergate scandal in the early 1970’s.

I honestly wonder if people in late 16th century England left a production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and thought, “Wow, I just might name my son Fortinbras.” Perhaps, but thanks to the persuasion of television, I’m going to go buy one of those “You’re fired” t-shirts. Maybe on next week’s season finale of The Apprentice, which I encourage you all to watch, Trump will start a new trend by saying, “You’re hired.” And who knows? Maybe we’ll even see an increase in the name Donald.

Archived article by Avash Kalra