The Catchphrase Of the Week, or CotW

Have you noticed that a lot of shows now seem to concentrate less on coming up with catchphrases, and more on finding what might be called “catchphrases of the week?” These are lines, words, sounds that are used as a catchphrase for one episode and then dropped; they might come up again in a later episode, but only as a callback to the earlier episode.

Tonight’s 30 Rock made “Twist!” its CotW, and they seem to have a CotW about every other week, “I Want to Go To There” being the most famous (one that became so popular it almost took on full-fledged catchphrase status). South Park, which used to have real catchphrases (“Screw you guys, I’m going home!”) has dropped most of them, but has had a bunch of CotWs in the last couple of years, like the “I’m not your buddy” routine.

I think Seinfeld has to be given much of the credit for popularizing the CotW, since they were always actively trying to come up with them and actively highlighting them as CotWs, encouraging us to quote them. The good thing about a CotW, from a writing standpoint, is that it’s much easier to come up with than a long-lasting catchphrase. Most good catchphrases happen by accident (you’ve probably heard the story that Gary Coleman was given the straight line “What are you talking about?,” read it in a weird way, and a catchphrase was born), manufactured catchphrases usually sound lame. But the CotW is kind of supposed to sound lame and contrived, and that’s part of the hipster joke.

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