Victor Meldrew’s infamous catchphrase, ‘I don’t believe it!’, has been voted the nation’s favourite
Victor Meldrew’s infamous catchphrase, ‘I don’t believe it!’, has been voted the nation’s favourite.
The instantly recognisable saying from One Foot in the Grave saw off competition from ‘Simples’ – made famous by the meerkats of Compare the Market, which came second.
The immortal words ‘Don’t panic!’ exclaimed by Lance-Corporal Jones in Dad’s Army took third place.
The survey of 2,000 adults also found more than half of adults think the most popular expressions come from TV shows, with a fifth highlighting reality TV programmes as particularly effective producers of a pithy turn-of-phrase.
Two Love Island quotes made their way onto the list – Sherif Lanre’s ‘It is what it is’ and ‘Chill your Heinz Baked Beans’ which appeared in the 2019 series.
In fact, ‘It is what it is’ was voted the catchphrase most likely to gain traction in the English language over the next 12 months.
And ‘Beermunch’, a term to describe a snack you would have with an alcoholic drink, is also among the phrases people believe will see more regular use within the next year.
Almost a third said the pub is the place where they are most likely to use a catchphrase with their friends, where 46 per cent will enjoy some ‘beermunch’ over a pint.
Tony Thorne, language consultant at King’s College London, said: “Catchphrases are a key component of popular culture as they connect the world of entertainment and consumption with the everyday concerns of real people – their feelings and experiences, their shared pleasures and their struggles and frustrations, and especially their triumphs over adversity.
“A catchphrase such as ‘I don’t believe it!’ expresses a mix of exasperation, world-weary resignation and fatalistic humour that will be familiar from many people’s personal experience.
“Some catchphrases – ‘it is what it is’, for example, mimic a philosopher or sage expressing universal truths in simple language.”
The study also found that, on average, adults use three catchphrases a day, and three in 10 feel they have a compulsive habit of peppering them into normal conversation.
An embarrassed 42 per cent admitted to using a catchphrase with someone only for the reference to go completely over the other person’s head.
This awkward scenario could be part of the reason more than one third believe they get on more with new acquaintances if they bond over the use of a popular catchphrase.
Three in 10 also admitted to using a saying without knowing where they came from themselves, and a fifth know someone who they think uses way too many catchphrases in conversation.
Those polled put the popularity of specific catchphrases down to how memorable and funny there are, and the fact that no matter how hard you try, they just get stuck in your head.
The research also revealed the ideal catchphrase needs to be four words long and be heard four times in order to get stuck on a loop in someone’s mind.
It also needs to be clever, funny and easy to say.
Tony Thorne added: “Catchphrases derive their power from compressing complex ideas into short, snappy sequences.
“They tend to be characterised by unexpected juxtapositions and by using striking or clever combinations of sound that work just as in poetry or literature to capture the listener’s attention and stick in their mind.
“A very short expression, such as ‘beermunch’, brings two already very familiar words together for the first time and combines two short, sharp contrasting sounds.”
NATION’S TOP 50 CATCHPHRASES
1. I don’t believe it! – Victor Meldrew
2. Simples – Compare the Market
3. Don’t panic! – Lance-Corporal Jones/Dad’s Army
4. Lovely jubbly – Del Boy/Only Fools and Horses
5. I have a cunning plan! – Tony Robinson / Blackadder
6. To me, to you – Chuckle Brothers
7. I’ll be back – Arnold Schwarzenegger / Terminator 2
8. Nice to see you – to see you nice – Bruce Forsyth
9. Only me! – Harry Enfield
10. Rodney, you plonker! Del Boy/Only Fools and Horses
11. Cheeky Nando’s
12. How YOU doin’? Joey from Friends
13. Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once – ‘Allo ‘Allo
14. Computer says no – Little Britain
15. Garlic bread! – Peter Kay
16. Should’ve gone to Specsavers – Specsavers
17. D’oh! – Homer Simpson
18. Am I bovvered? Catherine Tate
19. The name’s Bond… James Bond – James Bond
20. Beam me up, Scotty – Star Trek
21. It is what it is – Love Island
22. Aha! – I’m Alan Partridge
23. What’s occurring? – Gavin and Stacey
24. I’ve started so I’ll finish – Mastermind presenter
25. It’s goodnight from me, and it’s goodnight from him – The Two Ronnies
26. I’m free! – Mr Humphries/Are You Being Served
27. Ooh Betty – Frank Spencer
28. You dirty old man! – Steptoe and Son
29. Lads lads lads – and everybody! – Ladbrokes
30. Exterminate! – Dalek
31. Live Long and Prosper – Star Trek
32. We’re going out-out – Mickey Flanagan
33. I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse – The Godfather
34. Have a break, have a Kit Kat – Kit Kat
35. Scorchio! – The Fast Show
36. Because I’m worth it – L’Oreal
37. Bazinga! – The Big Bang Theory
38. It’s good, but it’s not right – Roy Walker/Catchphrase
39. Who loves ya, baby! – Kojak
40. I ain’t getting’ on no plane! – Mr T/The A Team
41. I’m Lovin’ It – McDonald’s
42. Shut that door – Larry Grayson
43. Smokin’! – Jim Carrey – The Mask
44. On that bombshell… – Jeremy Clarkson / Top Gear
45. You are the weakest link – goodbye! – Anne Robinson / The Weakest Link
46. You’ll like this – not a lot – Paul Daniels
47. …Which was nice – The Fast Show
48. No likey, no lighty! – Take Me Out
49. Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, Willis? – Diff’rent Strokes
50. Giggity – Quagmire / Family Guy