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Fiction #500
(published August 19, 2010)
A Good Catchphrase
by Wayne Scheer
Stone Pernowski, often considered the most annoying man in America, delighted in popularizing the phrases people hated more than root canal. To hear him tell it, you'd think his original chalk-on-a-blackboard expression that catapulted him to fame was a stroke of genius. Knowing that his new talk show would premiere on Fox, he had lain awake the night before thinking of a phrase that would set him apart. He couldn't merely pontificate, and others already screamed, cried and spit fire. So he considered what quirks of the language annoyed people the most.

It came to him in a dream. All he had to do was combine, "You know what I mean," with "That's what I'm talking about," and—voila!—"You know what I'm saying?" was created. He'd sprinkle it in his speech as liberally as a Cajun chef employed cayenne pepper and set his viewers' teeth on edge. And it worked. The more critics and comics made fun of him, the more his viewership increased.

But once the phrase caught on, and people all over the English-speaking world began using it, he appeared bland by comparison. Worse, people stopped listening to how he spoke and began paying attention to what he said. If this continued, it could spell disaster for him and his network.

He tried to begin each sentence with, "Actually." But most of his viewers found it only mildly vexing. Whenever he made a point, he flicked both wrists and shouted, "Pop goes the weasel!" But this was considered so endearing, it was copied by a television game show host, a sitcom and no less than three candidates for congress.

Even his attempt to mix idioms, by saying things like, "You got to take the bull by the horns and run with it," and "I know what side of the bed my toast is buttered," fell flat to most of audience.

He needed a new catchphrase that people would find simultaneously profound and idiotic. Something so mundane, people would pay attention to his style and not consider his lack of substance.

Again, it came to him in a dream. He jumped out of bed and wrote it down, as if it were divinely inspired. On his next show, whenever a guest said something significant or obvious, he'd signal the camera to pan in on his face. He'd nod thoughtfully and utter, "It is what it is."

Once again, his ratings soared.

Wayne Scheer has published hundreds of short stories, essays, and poems, including, Revealing Moments, a collection of twenty-four flash stories available online. He's been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes and a Best of the Net.

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