Seinfeld’s 25 greatest contributions to the English language
This story is a reprint from the New York Post Article of July 1, 2014, by Max Gross.
Twenty-five years ago this Saturday, “Seinfeld” debuted on NBC.
It didn’t do particularly well at first, but it slowly began gathering viewers and then — yada yada yada — it permanently changed the way that we, as New Yorkers, talk.
In honor of those 25 years, here are 25 things that “Seinfeld” added to the popular vernacular over the course of its nine seasons on the air (1989-98).
Jason Alexander, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards and Jerry Seinfeld starred in the iconic “Seinfeld.”
Photo: Everett Collection
Close talker, low talker, sideler, two face
Among the many terms and phrases invented by “Seinfeld,” four stand out.
The “close talker” (n., kloz-tokr), anyone who stands too close when he speaks to you.
The “low talker” (n., lo-tokr), the quiet person who murmurs their questions and traps you into doing crazy things. (See shirt, puffy.)
The “sideler” (n., sid-ler), an underling who sneaks up alongside you to take a share of credit for your work.
And, of course, the two face (n., too fas), the woman who will look attractive one minute, ugly the next.
When a low talker asks you a question, don’t just smile and nod. You might end up wearing a loose-fitting white blouse — like the ones pirates used to wear — on national television. At least this is the garment Jerry wore on the “Today” show.
When John Travolta starred in the made-for-TV movie “Boy in the Plastic Bubble,” the idea of a young man with no immune system inspired tears and pathos.
But a “bubble boy” became a whole new concept in “Seinfeld’s” hands. The characteristics of this bubble boy were rudeness, a raging libido, violence and glibness. (His glibness was justified — it was the Moors who invaded Spain in 711, not the Moops.)
As any reader of Philip Roth knows, many Jewish men fall victim to the siren song of the non-Jewish woman (a k a the shiksa). What is it about the shiksa that holds such allure? We don’t know — but “Seinfeld” named it “shiksappeal.”
Sure, Elaine might like a guy enough to jump in the hay without thinking twice, but when the Today Sponge went off the market and Elaine bought up the last case in the city, she learned to be a little more discriminating. Hence, the standard all future boyfriends had to meet was sponge-worthiness.
Some might think this is something one says to a horse. But for Cosmo Kramer, it was a general exaltation. And among the various grunts and stammers out of the weirdo neighbor, this was probably the most normal.
The term “yada yada” could be viewed as a succinct way of cutting a long, boring story short — or a way to gloss over the one-night stand you had last night with an ex-boyfriend. Either way, this term has proven exceptionally useful, and we have George’s jailbird girlfriend, Marcy, to thank.
These are the words of calm and comfort that lull Frank Costanza into passivity. Of course, only a lunatic would take lessons in how to unwind from Frank.
Perhaps any mantra repeated by the Costanza patriarch, no matter how innocuous, would have driven him to madness. Just remember: Serenity now — insanity later.
These pretzels are making me thirsty
There was a time when Kramer fully intended to be an actor. His big break was a Woody Allen movie where all he had to do was utter the immortal line: “These pretzels are making me thirsty.” It became an occasion for each of the Seinfeld quartet to offer their own interpretation.
Die-hard Seinfeldians can no longer request a drink with their pretzels and not think of these words.
It’s not every TV show that can claim to have invented a holiday, but for those anti-Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanzaa types, there is the Festivus for the Rest of Us.
This is the December 23 holiday invented by one Frank Costanza, dedicated to the airing of grievances, feats of strength and, of course, the aluminum Festivus pole. If you’re going to give a gift, may we suggest a donation to the Human Fund.
It’s true, Jerry Seinfeld might have been the pickiest person on the planet, but it’s also true that we’ve seen certain hands that don’t seem to go with a dainty feminine frame. We’re speaking of the dreaded “man hands.”
Before “The Label Maker” episode of “Seinfeld,” people certainly smiled when they got a crappy gift, quietly rewrapped it and gave it to some other poor sucker.
But when Tim Whatley regifted, then de-gifted, and used an upstairs invite as a springboard to a Super Bowl sex romp, he coined the term for the rest of us.
There’s a word for the gorgeous female airhead: the bimbo. But what of the male bimbo? Jerry came up with the term “mimbo” for Elaine’s boyfriend Tony. We think it fits.
Jerry Seinfeld always looked thin, neat, well-adjusted and happy … but underneath it all was a festering, unapologetic anti-dentite. Jerry was perfectly comfortable with the idea that dentists should have their own schools. He was not above snide comments.
And when he was told the heartbreaking rates of suicide among dentists, the raging anti-dentite inside Jerry spit: “Is that why it’s so hard to get an appointment?”
Women are not the only ones who need certain support. In place of the bra, Kramer and Frank Costanza ingeniously coined the term “bro.” And from there they took it to the next level with the manzier.
We’re only sorry that this potentially brilliant concept got derailed at the last minute.
Before this episode — when George emerged from a cold swim to reveal that his family jewels had been somewhat, uh, deflated — the word “shrinkage” might not have meant much to female viewers.
“Like laundry?” Elaine asked, innocently. Noooo. Something that happens to men after exposure to … well, just watch the episode.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that
In the 1990s, at the height of America’s PC mania and obsession with cultural sensitivity, the world thought Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza were lovers.
Not that there was anything wrong with that. But they weren’t.
So they decided to firmly tell the world once and for all that they were straight — with the caveat that it would be perfectly OK if the opposite were true.
The jerk store
When George was gleefully eating shrimp at a business meeting, another exec cruelly taunted him: “The ocean just called — they’re running out of shrimp.”
Only later did George conjure up the perfect comeback: “The jerk store called, and they’re running out of you!” The fact that there’s no such thing as a jerk store didn’t (in George’s eyes) diminish its perfection.
“No, you’re the shmoopie!” It induces both nausea and hilarity at the same time.
Shmoopie was the name that Jerry gave to an overly affectionate (and not particularly intellectual) girlfriend named Shelia. And it launched a million unbearably schmaltzy imitators.
The phrase still rings in our ears: “No soup for you!” These words came from the Soup Nazi, a character based on a real guy — Al Yeganeh, a dyspeptic purveyor of soup who became a celebrity in his own right, parlaying his fame into The Original Soup Man.
Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi had a Stalin-like mustache, he ordered customers around and his bans for the disobedient lasted a week, a year, or until the end of time.
Hello, Newman (and everyone else)
Before he was Walter White, Bryan Cranston was Tim Whatley, the gas-breathing, religion-swapping, regifting dentist to the stars.
And that name — Whatley — sort of stuck, just like a lot of the others in the “Seinfeld” pantheon, like “Crazy Joe” Davola, Babu Bhatt, Bob Sacamano, The Drake, Poppy (who was a little sloppy), O’Brien and Murphy and (of course) renowned architect Art Vandelay.
Not many people can claim to have broken up a funeral by getting into a fight with one of the grieving relatives — but George Costanza did that when he double-dipped a chip.
And while this might not be worthy of fisticuffs, we have to agree — double dipping is like putting your whole mouth right in the dip. Next time, George, just take one dip and end it.
Big salads, Pez, babkas, Snapple and other goodies
Food was clearly on the minds of the “Seinfeld” writers, be it a Junior Mint tumbling into an open chest cavity mid-operation, a Drake’s coffee cake, or a unifying/divisive black-and-white cookie.
They also liked their healthy foods, like the Big Salad. All of these foods became associated with the show. But our favorite food to be attached to “Seinfeld” has to be the marble rye.
In the vault
This is Seinspeak for keeping something secret. Although plenty of things went into the vault, they never managed to stay in the vault long.
Elaine’s combination, for instance, was well known (peppermint schnapps).
Master of my domain
It didn’t come up as often as “yada yada” or “Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” but there was no mistaking what Jerry, George, Kramer and Elaine were talking about in “The Contest” when they decided to see who could abstain the longest from a certain recreational activity.
In its white glove (and yet completely filthy) way, it’s the all-time-funniest Seinfeldism that has seeped into the popular lexicon.