How Friday gave us "Bye, Felicia," plus 10 other expressions that originated in TV and movies
Twenty years ago, the Ice Cube comedy Friday hit theaters. And while fans can quote the script verbatim, a certain two-word phrase spoken in the film has surpassed every other line: “Bye, Felicia.” Twenty years later, it’s never been more popular, to the point that it gets used by people who have never seen Friday.
In its original context, Ice Cube’s character speaks it to dismiss the neighborhood crackhead, Felisha (Angela Means). Warning: the clip uses some NSFW language.
Appearing recently on Conan, Ice Cube, who co-wrote the Friday script, called “Bye, Felicia” the phrase "to get anyone out of your face." In 2014, VH1 even started airing a TV show called Bye Felicia. But if you’re wondering what caused it to be so popular now, you’re not alone: Google Trends shows that more and more people began searching the phrase in the last two years.
The phrase is part of the lexicon of RuPaul’s Drag Race, which began airing in 2009. But even that wouldn’t necessarily account for the phrase extending beyond the cultures that would watch either Friday, Drag Race or both. (Seriously, just look how often people use it on Twitter.) So when your square friend uses it, take a little bit of pleasure in knowing they’re referencing a stoner comedy – or a drag reality show referencing a stoner comedy – even if they have no idea.
While Friday is a rarity for having fully invented a phrase, it isn’t the only pop culture work that changed the way we talk. Here are some more surprising examples.
Today, most English-speakers would understand perfectly if they were told “You’re toast.” It’s a threat. To be toast, in this sense, is to be as good as dead. But most people would be surprised to learn that the first documented use of “toast” in this way is the original Ghostbusters, when Bill Murray proclaims “This chick is toast!” The line is even cited in the authority on the English language, the Oxford English Dictionary.
When Winona Ryder’s character first lays eyes on Christian Slater in 1988’s Heathers, one of the Heathers responds with “God, Veronica, drool much?” This ironic, “mean girl” sense of the word “much” gets used again in the 1992 Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie and even more in the TV series. Even though it came along later, it’s Buffy that gets the official OED credit for making the expression part of popular English.
La Dolce Vita
Today, the word “paparazzi” is inextricable from celebrity culture, but whenever you use the word, you’re referencing Federico Fellini’s 1959 film. One of the characters in the film is a freelance photographer (Walter Santesso) whose last name is Paparazzo. “Paparazzi,” a pluralization of the name, has stuck ever since for this type of photog.
Sure, this show has embiggened the English language will all manner of cromulent words, but its greatest contribution has to be “meh,” a three-letter utterance denoting tepid disinterest. The word, which Slate posits has Yiddish origins, gets literally spelled out by Lisa in the 1994 episode glimpsed above, and it just became more widely used from there. A 2013 ABC News article even ran with the headline "US Government Shuts Down, World Says, ‘Meh.’"
Another show that gave a lot to language, from “spongeworthy” to “double-dipping” to a thorough analysis of the phrase “yada yada yada,” Seinfeld also gave us a name for the phenomenon of passing off an unwanted gift to someone else: “regifting.” Of all the Seinfeld coinages, it’s maybe the most useful and the easiest one to forget came from the show.
“Twitterpated” is one of those beautiful words that means just what it sounds like it should: suddenly, stupidly in love. And while the “twitterpated” scene in Disney’s Bambi is one of the most famous, most people don’t realize that movie marked the first documented use of the word.
Before the original Star Trek series introduced the Vulcan mind-meld in a 1966 episode, we didn’t have that term to describe two people collaborating their mental energies together in a close, one-on-one fashion. Today, it has slipped into the casual lexicon – just picture a boss, trying think of an alternative way to suggest another mandatory brainstorming session – enough that “mind meld” merited its own OED entry.
The Money Pit
A bum real estate venture in which you invest more and more money without a realistic hope of return is a “money pit,” but that term didn’t exist until the 1986 comedy with Tom Hanks and Shelley Long. Previous to that, the term referred to a literal money pit used to stash pirate treasure.
Today, if you hear the word “cowabunga,” you’ll probably think of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And you should: Those turtles made the word a ’90s catchphrase. However, the show credited with popularizing the word is actually Howdy Doody, which debuted in 1947 and featured a faux-Native American character named Chief Thunderthud who’d exclaim the word.
When a TV show takes an unrecoverable turn – say, adding an obnoxious new character or putting a beloved character in an implausible situation – we say it’s jumped the shark. But even some TV nuts don’t realize the term originated in a famously bad episode of Happy Days, in which the Fonz (Henry Winkler) waterskis over a shark. In 2008, a similarly implausible scene in Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull inspired TIME to coin a similar phrase for movies: "nuking the fridge."