Communal Language: Movie Edition

I sometimes wonder if I’ve done a dreadful, dreadful thing in raising my children to love many of the movies that my husband and I love. My younger daughter famously went to school one day in 3rd grade, talking enthusiastically about a film the family had watched the night before, only to find that none of her classmates had ever seen Casablanca. Even today, I suspect they sometimes get blank looks from the less media-steeped of their friends.

My family’s conversations are peppered with lines from movies. So much so that after the kids saw Casablanca that first time, the older daughter said, in tones of disgust, “I thought you guys were clever, but you were just quoting.”*I think the kids were aware when we were quoting the Marx Bros., because Danny cannot resist dropping into his Groucho voice. Or me using my best imitation of the magnificent Jean Hagen playing Lina Lamont in Singin’ In the Rain (“An I cyaaaaaan’t stan’ im.” -So- useful.)

There are also lines that passed into family usage that are not particularly interesting on their own. In the Shirley Temple Heidi, there’s a bit where Klara, disabled and in a wheelchair, and who has been secretly practicing walking with Heidi, greets her father by walking five or six steps toward her father, saying, as she goes unsteadily across the floor, “Merry… Christmas… Papa!” before falling into his arms. When my older daughter was about five, she dislocated her shoulder; she lay very still on her bed while I called the pediatrician, and Danny went in, all solicitude, to see her. And as miserable as the kid was, “Merry… Christmas… Papa!” issues from her lips. At which point the pediatrician was probably wondering why I was giggling as I described my daughter’s pain.

There are other ways in which my family has shared, and incorporated, our various passions into our conversation. My kids are both very musical–a trait they got from both of us–but they’ve inherited their father’s love of pulling a song apart to figure out why it works. There have been moments when I walk into a room when they’re talking music (particularly the Beatles) and have retreated quietly because I’m not up to that level of neepery. Both of the girls quote from things they’ve read, or we read to them (oddly enough, occasions on which “I’ve always wanted someone to count my teeth**,” comes in handy are more than you’d think).

But film–because we’re all watching it together, and laughing at the same things–is the easiest medium from which to draw material. And most of the people I know do this, which means we all have a common language: SBK, as my husband says. A TLA for Shared Body of Knowledge. I don’t know about you, but there are occasions in my life where all I want to say is “THIS EPISODE IS BADLY WRITTEN! WHOEVER WROTE THIS EPISODE SHOULD DIE!” On the other hand, there are times when “I’m just jazzed to be on the show, man.”

How about you? What phrases from film have made their way into your conversational repertoire?


“Julie, if you don’t do your homework you’ll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life.”

**the big hungry alligator from No Fighting, No Biting. Needless to say, counting his teeth is not advised.

Posted in family, Film permalink

About Madeleine E. Robins

Madeleine Robins is the author of The Stone War, Point of Honour, Petty Treason, and The Sleeping Partner (the third Sarah Tolerance mystery, available from Plus One Press). Her Regency romances, Althea, My Dear Jenny, The Heiress Companion, Lady John, and The Spanish Marriage are now available from Book View Café. Sold for Endless Rue , an historical novel set in medieval Italy, was published in May 2013 by Forge Books


Communal Language: Movie Edition — 8 Comments

  1. Well, the first one I can think of is from a movie: “I’m getting too old for this shit.”

    But the second is from a commercial, and props to you if you can remember which one: “Who am I? Where am I? Why did I cut my hair, I look like a squirrel!”

    And of course: “Remember, if they catch us, you’re deaf and I don’t speak English.”

    • What commercial is that? I thought I had memorized almost the entire canon of American ads back to 1960.

      And sometimes what becomes a catchphrase is a reaction to the ad: like an advertisement for an antidepressant commercial where the voice over keeps insisting that depression hurts family, loved ones, friends… while showing a shot of a trust Golden Retriever looking bewildered. “DEPRESSION HURTS THE DOG!” my family would shriek. Except the dog, who didn’t get it.

      • It’s a Johnson’s Baby Powder commercial!! You can find it on YouTube. It’s silly, but I fall all over myself laughing when I see it.

  2. We tended to quote from Howard’s comedy routines and at the opposite end of the quality line, Shakespeare. Also, IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, which was made into a film, so that should count. 🙂 Unfortunately, one of the most appropriate lines was always “not even for ready money”, of which we were generally short.

  3. My dear younger brother used to love “My boy can eat fifty eggs.”

    Another popular one around here is “You had ONE job.”

    But really, the most quotes batted back and forth tend to be book over film.