“Wait For Iiiiiit.” When Memes And Catchphrases Take Over Your Brain

Illustration for article titled “Wait For Iiiiiit.” When Memes And Catchphrases Take Over Your Brain

The other day, I was about to walk out of my place to go do errands or something with my kid. But my kid didn't have her jacket on yet, so she said to me, "Wait for iiiiiit."


Now, that wasn't just a request. That was a movie reference. There's a certain way of saying "Wait for iiiiiit" that mimics the crucifixion march scene in Life of Brian, where everyone is getting ready to start walking with their crosses and the party leader shouts out, "Crucifixion party…" then they all start walking prematurely and the leader holds them up by saying, "Wait for iiiiiit." It kills me every time.

Anyway, I'm a horrible parent, but not so horrible that I've actually forced my 5-year-old to watch Life of Brian, and stare at Graham Chapman's penis. But my kid says "Wait for it" like that because I always say "Wait for it" like that. I've seen the movie so many times that the line is now a part of my daily repertoire.

And that's not the only movie reference I've appropriated in such fashion. My everyday dialogue is littered with this shit. It's like a bizarre tic. If my wife asks me what the forecast is supposed to be this week and it's sunny, I always say "Sunny" the same way Claus von Bulow did in Reversal of Fortune. There's a scene where he walks into Sunny's room and finds her dead and he asks, "Sunny?" in such a highfalutin and odd way (no one talks like that without trying to talk like that) that it stuck with me, even though it's been ages since I saw that movie. And sometimes when I say, "Yes," I say it like the old hen in the Foghorn Leghorn cartoons who wants to bang Foghorn. Yessss? Yessssss! (Her name is Miss Prissy, by the way. I never knew that. Never seen a hen so hard up for rooster cock.)

Obviously, this is not a unique thing. We all take bits of pop culture and incorporate them into our everyday vernacular. If you know a guy who's seen Anchorman too many times, you're all too aware of this. I mean, it can really escalate. You see it with kids. They watch some shit on TV and then they spit it out again five seconds later, which is way cool if you let them watch Withnail & I. You're supposed to grow out of this as you grow older. You're supposed to eventually ditch all these catchphrases and references in exchange for original ideas and thoughts.

But I haven't done that. I haven't even come close. Half the time, I wonder if my brain is just some worthless five-cent pop-culture-catchphrase regurgitation device. If you comment here at Deadspin, surely you've seen a news item and instantly thought of some brilliant movie quote that complements it perfectly, then posted it (or tried to post it only to rebuffed by Nibbles the server hamster) and waited for the hosannas to arrive. It's not an original thought, per se. But hey, you were the one who linked the two together, which has to count for something. You were the Girl Talk of that particular quote from Ferris Bueller. You sampled it expertly.

But that's more a conscious decision to reference something. I'm talking about when a piece of pop culture penetrates you so deeply (tee hee hee) that it becomes part of your unconscious, and quoting it becomes a kind of involuntary reflex. I watched a lot of TV growing up, which means that I've absorbed a whole lot of shit and grafted it awkwardly onto my own personality, which sometimes causes me to wonder if I really have any personality at all. Maybe I'm just Peter Sellers in Being There, only without the charm or the ability to walk on water. Maybe I've ceded most of my brain over to LOLCATS.


And I grew up before the advent of the internet, so the massive hot beef injection of mass-produced televised dogshit I took in doesn't even compare to people who are growing up now, surrounded by virtually nothing but the culture itself. I saw a kid a while back who was around 12 or so, and virtually everything out of his mouth was appropriated from somewhere else, mostly Family Guy episodes (and those jokes almost certainly came from yet ANOTHER pop culture source). The kid was like a fucking human Tumblr feed. At some point, some asshole doctor will consider this over-reliance on pop culture a legitimate disorder and it'll be on the cover of Newsweek or something. Will my child have a meme-ing disorder? Thass Turribulimia? Probably.

I read an article recently about a guy who wrote a book that comprised nothing but quotes from elsewhere in the culture. He took bits from movies and songs and old books and strung them together into a coherent framework that communicated original thoughts, but essentially used pop culture as the middleman, which produces a disquieting effect, like the book was written by a highly intelligent computer that will crush you in chess. I watched Exit Through The Gift Shop last weekend (it's awesome), and Mr. Brain Wash makes a million bucks simply by copying the street artists he hung out with. And you see pop culture eating itself at an even quicker pace these days. They're already talking about rebooting Batman just one year after the next Dark Knight movie comes out, and that will just SUCK (the reboot, not The Dark Knight Rises).


There's always been a fine line between being inspired by something and straight up aping it. Everyone is the sum of their influences, but the idea is to take those influences and do something NEW with it. And I'm not sure I do that when I spend half the fucking day quoting Reversal of Fortune.

So I ask this as an open question to our commenters: What kind of pop culture reflexes do you have? What movies do you find yourself quoting without even realizing it? Everyone's got a personal meme compilation. Soon, maybe it's all they'll have.