Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Rise of "Really?"

This morning I was wondering why the interjection "Really?" has become so prominent in the last couple of years. Most recently, Bachelor host Chris Harrison invoked it to shame women who were piling onto Michelle during the "Women Tell All" installment. His "Guys! Like, really?" moment (visible at around the 6:35 mark in this clip, which is a stunning and revealing document of just how cruel women, or girls, can be to each other) echoes last year's Windows 7 phone ad, the title of a New York Times health column, an SNL Weekend Update sketch, and any number of conversations I've had or overheard lately.

It seems like there is so much over-the-top behavior out there, and so many dubious claims, that we as humans now need a phrase to distinguish the merely commonplace or entertaining craziness from that which crosses into complete disconnect from the rest of humanity. And apparently this line-crossing is happening so much that we often spend our time in sheer disbelief at what we are witnessing. We literally need to ask if things are real.

It's actually perfect that this latest language trend (which, to me, is a successor to "Oh no you di-ent" and "Get out" before that, only with more subtlety and cynicism) is in the form of a question, like so much of our speech now, especially among the kids today.

It's such a dead-on expression of how I feel so much of the time that, naturally, I'm now starting to apply it to all kinds of disappointments. The other salient aspect of our society right now, especially in the United States, is that we want everything to run smoothly and this minute. So when some piece of technology or service acts up on me -- a normally functional application starts delivering errors, or a doctor's office number goes to voicemail multiple times, or Amtrak stalls not once but thrice en route to New York -- my utterance is "Really?"

It's a response that somehow rolls childhood, adolescence and adulthood all into two bitchy syllables. We're incredulous, petulant and jaded all at the same time. We can't believe it. We're amazed all the time, but only in an OMG WTF LOL #fail sort of way, because if we were to react at the full throttle to the sheer volume of shit that demands our reaction on a daily basis each day, we would implode.


  1. Michael Y. Park3:53 PM

    I was just complaining about this the other week. I figured it came from that SNL segment. I blame Tina Fey.

  2. So I guess that was the genesis, huh? I guess it's been around longer than I thought, but it seems to have reached critical mass lately.

  3. My four year old is very concerned with reality. So we are hearing a lot of "Really?" lately. But in a different context, e.g. "Is this milk really real? Really?" (My child development book tells me this is normal for four year olds.)


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