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13 Spectacular Terms from Seinfeld

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Jerry and the gang hated a lot of things: the dreaded pop-in, incessantly barking dogs, and, of course, Newman. But one thing they loved were words.

The show about nothing had a name for everything—from really bad B.O. (B.B.O.), to the sneak who takes undeserved credit (the sidler), to various relationship maneuvers (the leave-behind, the preemptive breakup, sexual perjury). Here are 15 more magnificent terms coined by Jerry and company.

1. CLOSE TALKER

The close talker joins a litany of annoying speaking styles (see low talker and high talker) by getting way too close and personal.

Close talkers lack awareness about personal space. Instead of staying in the much more comfortable friend-, acquaintance-, and stranger-zones, they impinge upon your intimate space. While sometimes, such as on a crowded subway, there’s no way to avoid this invasion, a close talker might make such situations even creepier.

2. REGIFTER

The label-maker Jerry gets from Tim Whatley looks familiar to Elaine—that’s because it’s the same one she gave Tim. “He recycled this gift!” she cries. “He’s a regifter!”

This Seinfeld-coined word was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2009 as a derivative of regift. The word regift is much older, originating in the early 19th century to refer to giving an additional gift. In the 1940s it came to mean to give an unwanted gift to someone.

3. DOUBLE DIP

Oh George, you of shirtless BMs and eating out of the trash, it's no surprise you think double-dipping a chip is perfectly fine.

The term double dip has been around since the early 1900s but with different meanings. It could refer to something “coated twice,” like the double-dip matches manufactured in 1907 or, starting the 1940s, it could allude to the practice of holding a second job while receiving a pension from a prior one.

A June 2015 addition to the OED is double-dip recession, a recession in which a period of decline is followed by a short period of growth followed by another decline.

As for whether or not double-dipping a chip really is like “putting your whole mouth right in the dip," the answer is no. Doing so adds a little bacteria to the dip but not as much as plunging your kisser in the bowl.

4. MAN-HANDS

“She had man-hands,” Jerry says of Gillian, “Like a creature out of Greek Mythology...part woman, part horrible beast.” Man-hands are hands that look disproportionately strong and beefy on a woman. Perhaps slightly worse would be man-hands in a hand sandwich, or a handshake between two hands.

5. FUNERAL HELLO

Not to be confused with the French leave or Irish goodbye, the funeral hello is an understated, often mute greeting, like those given at a funeral. As George says, you can’t say, “Hey, you look fabulous!” (Nor would you want to say “Hellooooo!”)

6. MIMBO

The mimbo in question is Elaine's boyfriend Tony, a good-looking yet vapid man. In other words, he's a male bimbo.

Mimbo is a variation on himbo, which originated a few years earlier in 1988. As for the word bimbo, it hasn’t always meant hot and dumb. It came about in 1919 as a shortening of the Italian bambino, or “baby,” and it was used to refer to a contemptuous man. By the early 1920s, it also meant “floozie," and later that decade the word came to mean an attractive woman with limited intelligence.

7. SHRINKAGE

“Do women know about shrinkage?” George asks Elaine. “Like laundry?” she says. No, not like laundry.

Temporary shrinkage happens when cold temperatures cause blood vessels in the penis to shut down. Another culprit is stress, since it affects the sympathetic nervous system in a similar way that cold does.

8. SHIKSAPPEAL

“You've got shiksappeal,” George tells Elaine. “Jewish men love the idea of meeting a woman that's not like their mother.”

Shiksappeal describes the supposed phenomenon of Jewish men being attracted to non-Jewish or gentile women, otherwise known as shiksas. In Jewish culture, the word shiksa is disparaging and ultimately comes from the Hebrew word sheqes, meaning “detested thing.”

9. SPONGE-WORTHY

In 1995, pharmaceutical company Wyeth ceased production of the Today Sponge, and later that year Elaine bemoans the loss in the episode "The Sponge." In it, she stocks up on the contraceptive and interviews men to see if they are sponge-worthy.

Elaine would be happy to know that the Today Sponge came back in 2007.

10. KAVORKA

Kramer is told he has kavorka, Latvian for “the lure of the animal," a power which draws women to him, to be "possessed by him."

While there's no doubt that this is true, whether or not kavorka is a real Latvian word is questionable. One source says no while others have speculated that the word might be a play on Jack Kevorkian, the pro-assisted suicide physician much in the news in the 1990s, or Kaborka, a probably made-up place name from the film The Hospital.

11. MASTER OF MY DOMAIN

“Are you still master of your domain?” Jerry asks. “I am king of the county,” George says. “I’m queen of the castle,” proclaims Elaine. In other words, they’ve successfully abstained from masturbation. Related is sexual camel, someone who can survive for long periods without sex.

12. FESTIVUS

George’s father’s alternative to Christmas involves the airing of grievances (or telling your family members how they’ve disappointed you over the year), feats of strength, and an aluminum pole (which you can find any time of year when you Google “Festivus”).

13. YADA YADA YADA

What begins as a shortcut over uninteresting information quickly becomes a yada yada over “the best part,” as Jerry puts it. In George’s girlfriend’s case, the yada yada is sex with an ex, while in George’s, it’s his fiance’s demise.

While Seinfeld further popularized the phrase, variations of yada yada yada have been around since at least the 1940s. Different forms include yatata, Lenny Bruce's yaddeyahdah, and the 19th century yatter, Scots dialect for “idle talk."

Yada yada appeared in the early 1970s with the song Yada Yada La Scala by Dory Previn.

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MGM Home Entertainment
11 Fun Facts About A Fish Called Wanda
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MGM Home Entertainment

In 1988, the British heist comedy A Fish Called Wanda had audiences in the UK and across the pond rolling in the aisles. Thirty years later, the Oscar-winning ensemble movie about a clueless (but don’t call him stupid) weapons expert, a bumbling barrister, a quick-witted femme fatale, and a stuttering con artist remains a cult favorite. Starring John Cleese, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, Jamie Lee Curtis, and of course, the eponymous fish, the film is packed with smart writing, silly slapstick, and some of the strongest comic performances of its starring actors’ careers. Here are 11 facts about A Fish Called Wanda for your unreserved enjoyment (just don’t ask us to repeat the part in the middle).

1. IT WAS DIRECTOR CHARLES CRICHTON’S FIRST FILM IN TWO DECADES.

Back in the 1950s, Charles Crichton was a famous director of Ealing Comedies—a series of comedy films produced by London’s Ealing Studios—who was known for his work on films like The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953), Hue and Cry (1947), and The Lavender Hill Mob (1951). By 1988, however, he hadn’t directed a feature film in two decades (though he had worked on TV shows and documentary shorts). He came out of semi-retirement to work on what would become his final film at the behest of John Cleese.

2. CRICHTON AND JOHN CLEESE SPENT FIVE YEARS WRITING THE FILM.

A Fish Called Wanda was years, even decades, in the making. Cleese and Crichton first met and began discussing ideas for a comedy heist film, inspired by The Lavender Hill Mob, all the way back in 1969. Though they parted ways professionally, Cleese continued to look for opportunities to collaborate on a film with Crichton. More than a decade later, he finally got his chance when he found himself working with Crichton on a series of business management training videos.

Though Crichton was already in his late seventies, Cleese managed to convince the semi-retired director to brainstorm ideas for a feature film with him. For the next few years, the two met periodically to throw around ideas and work on the script. All in all, the entire scriptwriting and pre-production process took more than five years and cost $150,000 of Cleese’s own money.

3. IT WAS INSPIRED BY THE EALING COMEDIES.

Unsurprisingly, A Fish Called Wanda was heavily indebted to the Ealing Comedies, especially Crichton’s own The Lavender Hill Mob, a heist comedy which starred Alec Guinness and Stanley Holloway as a pair of bumbling bank robbers. Cleese, however, claimed the parallels between the Ealing Comedies and A Fish Called Wanda were unintentional, but embraced the comparison.

“I knew that my memory of all these great Ealing films was very present, although I wasn’t consciously trying to write an Ealing comedy,” Cleese explained. “But I do remember when we interviewed Johnny Jympson when we were looking for an editor, and Johnny’d read it, and he came in and sat down, and Charlie said, ‘What’d you think?’ and Johnny was almost nervous and he hemmed and hawed a little bit and then he said very uncertainly, ‘Well, it’s an Ealing comedy, isn’t it?’ and we both said, ‘Yes!’”

4. THE ACTORS HELPED SHAPE THEIR CHARACTERS.

Cleese encouraged Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, and Jamie Lee Curtis to contribute ideas and help develop their characters. Curtis, in particular, was responsible for major changes to Wanda’s personality. "She was a sexually brazen, cold-hearted manipulator, who simply wanted money,” Curtis told The New York Times. “I didn't find that real. I decided she didn't altogether know what she wanted, but finds a wonderful power in manipulating people and feels personal satisfaction in trying to fool them. She plays a slightly different role for each man, yet she enjoys being herself, and she's not cold-hearted, not vicious.''

Curtis told The New York Times she reveled in the rare opportunity to shape her own character: ''Most films, one person is in charge, and you're afraid even to raise your hand with a suggestion,'' she explained. ''That's frustrating if you're a bright person and trust your instincts. But this was totally a collaborative effort, and I'm afraid it's spoiled me.'' She was, apparently, so enthusiastic a contributor over the course of a two-week rehearsal period that Palin gave her a shirt that read, “Wait, I have an idea.”

5. KEVIN KLINE’S CHARACTER WAS INSPIRED BY A LOS ANGELES SELF-HELP GURU.

In A Fish Called Wanda, Kline’s Otto is a pseudo-intellectual who constantly misinterprets everything from the teachings of Buddhist philosophy to the writings of Nietzsche. According to Cleese, his character was inspired by the real-life self-help guru Zen Master Rama, sometimes called the “yuppie guru.”

“I got the real key to the character out of Los Angeles Magazine,” Cleese explained in an interview. “I found a double-page spread for a guru, and I’m pretty sure his name was Zen Master Rama, and he looked about 32 and very unsure of himself, and he had a funny sort of hairstyle like a dandelion at the end of September. But the key thing was the line across the top of this two page advertisement for the seminars he ran at weekends, which was ‘Buddhism gives you the competitive edge.’ And I thought this was unbelievably funny.”

6. CLEESE’S CHARACTER WAS NAMED AFTER CARY GRANT.

Cleese named his character Archie Leach after movie star Cary Grant, who was born Archibald Leach. Though Cleese’s bumbling lawyer has little in common with the famously debonair Grant, Cleese explained that he chose the name because he and Grant shared a hometown, and because it was the closest he would ever get to “being Cary Grant.”

7. THE ORIGINAL ENDING WAS MUCH DARKER.

A Fish Called Wanda started off as a much darker comedy, but test audiences in America were apparently uncomfortable with the film’s cruelty, and lack of romantic payoff, so Crichton and his cast went in for a few re-shoots. In addition to softening Palin’s character a bit, they ended up re-shooting the film’s ending three times.

“We played the whole movie with this very sort of dark intent—it was a very black comedy—and of course, when they tested the movie in America, it tested very funny, except that people didn’t like that there was no real love story,” Curtis said, further explaining:

“The original ending of the movie was much darker. The costume designer and I had a really great time costuming this character, and in a department store in London on sale, we found a pair of shark shoes, and we bought them because we just thought, ‘Well, she’s just a shark.’ And we wore them in that last scene, and literally the last shot of the movie was going down my leg and freeze framing on the shark shoe. And right then, you knew she was going to take him for everything. The minute they got off the plane, she was going to bop him on the head, take the stuff, and leave.”

8. CLEESE CUT A BIG CHUNK OF THE CATHCART TOWERS SCENE.

In addition to changing the ending, Cleese cut several minutes from the film’s penultimate scene, in which Archie tries to get the stuttering Ken (Palin) to telling him where Wanda, Otto, and the diamonds are. Ken, whose stutter gets worse under pressure, can’t seem to utter the two words “Cathcart Towers.”

Initially, the scene was a Monty Python-esque series of increasingly absurd stunts—Ken attempting to sing the words (which remains in the final film), Archie trying to feed a tissue through a typewriter, Ken writing in toothpaste on a window—but Cleese worried the scene, which arrives at the climax of the film, was overly long and dragging the plot down, and so deleted most of it.

9. ONE AUDIENCE MEMBER LAUGHED HIMSELF TO DEATH.

Ole Bentzen, a Belgian audience member, was so tickled by the scene in which Ken has French fries stuck up his nose, that he actually laughed himself to death. The scene reminded him of a similar experience at a family dinner, in which his family had shoved cauliflower up their noses to great comic effect. He began laughing so hard, his heart rate escalated dangerously, causing a fatal heart attack.

10. IT WAS NOMINATED FOR THREE OSCARS.

Comedy movies rarely fare well at the Oscars, but A Fish Called Wanda was an exception. The film was nominated for three awards: for Best Original Screenplay (for Cleese and Crichton), Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor for Kevin Kline, who took home the statuette.

11. IT WAS THE TOP VIDEO RENTAL OF 1989.

A Fish Called Wanda beat a number of higher-budget blockbuster movies, including Die Hard (1988) and Coming to America (1988), as well as the Oscar-winning Rain Man (1988), to become the top video rental of 1989. Its success was due, in part, to an advertising partnership with Cadbury Schweppes, which plastered grocery stores for weeks with ads for the film.

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