How Well Do You Know These ’70s and ’80s TV Catchphrases?

Torrance Grey

Image: RichLegg / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Oh, the catchphrase! It has been a staple of television shows since long before the 1970s. Do you remember, for example, Ralph Kramden's common refrain on "The Honeymooners"? It was "To the moon, Alice!" This phrase would never fly today! It referred to domestic abuse, suggesting that "one of these days" (a not-infrequent lead-in) Ralph would hit Alice so hard she'd end up on the moon. Evidently, audiences weren't troubled by this. Neither was Alice, who usually replied, "Ah, shut up." 

Still, this underscores the double-edged sword that catchphrases posed. Too often, a black character had a stereotypically "black" phrase, rendered in slangy, misspelled style. Another objection to the catchphrase was that it was lazy writing, a way to get a cheap pop from an audience. Live studio audiences, in particular, could be relied on to erupt in applause on hearing their favorite character's signature line. For this reason, as TV became more sophisticated, so did catchphrases. On "Ally McBeal," quirky, cerebral John Cage liked to say, "I won't stand to be disparaged," not exactly something that fits on a T-shirt. Later, Dr. House of "House M.D." would say, "Everybody lies," but he only did so five or six times in eight seasons. 

Today, we're going to travel back in time to revisit famous (and notorious) TV catchphrases. Everything in this quiz is from the 1970s or 1980s (though the shows involved might have launched in the '60s or lasted into the 90s). So pour yourself a Tab, and see how well you remember these beloved TV one-liners!

Who expressed happiness or approval by saying, "Dy-no-mite!"

"Good Times" started out with a solid pedigree. Spun off from "All in the Family" (by way of another spin-off, "Maude"), it was the first black two-parent show on TV and was meant to be a slice of black working-class life. But when the character of "JJ," played by Jimmie Walker, caught on with the audience, the show increasingly focused on his absurd comic antics, not serious issues.

Whose perennial comeback was "Ayyyyy"?

Television is the land of make-believe and illusion, and Arthur "the Fonz" Fonzarelli is perhaps the ultimate example. Producers took a soft-spoken Jewish graduate of the Yale School of Drama and made him into the ultimate Italian-American "guido." Among his repeat phrases was "Ayyyy," a variation on "Hey."

Richie Cunningham wasn't as cool as Fonzie, but his classic diss was which word?

A less-friendly version of "buddy" or "pal," this one can still be fun in an ironic way. Our favorite use of it is in a "Far Side" cartoon in which a family dog at the dinner table is standing on his hind legs, pointing a gun. He says, "I'm through begging, bucko."

Which show featured "two wild and crazy guys"?

Trust us, you're going to see "SNL" more than once in this quiz. The show relies on sketch comedy, and recurring sketches have recurring punchlines. This one was brought to us by the comedy team of Dan Ackroyd and Steve Martin.

Which wisecracker often said, "Kiss my grits"?

"Alice" was based on the movie, "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore," and revolved around the life of a widow starting a new life as a diner waitress. Linda Lavin, as Alice, was often upstaged by sassy Flo Castleberry, who often let fly with her signature line.

When Flo (or anyone else) was sassing him, Mel of Mel's Diner would often say ... ?

This gruff response was usually followed by the offending person's name, or a nickname that Mel had given him or her (usually her). For example, he called dim-witted, naive waitress Vera "Dingy," and would say, "Stow it, Dingy!"

The expression "Whatchoo talkin' bout" was usually addressed to which character?

Willis and Arnold Jackson were brothers on "Diff'rent Strokes," played by Todd Bridges and Gary Coleman. Arnold's "Watchoo talkin' bout, Willis?" is one of the most memorable (and stereotypical) catchphrases of the 1970s, along with "Dy-no-mite!"

Who often called his wife a "dingbat" and his son-in-law "Meathead"?

"All in the Family" was a long-running and groundbreaking show about an old-fashioned bigot with a soft side in a changing America. Carroll O'Connor played Archie, and future film director Rob Reiner played his much-maligned son-in-law, "Meathead" Stivic, whose real name on the show was Mike.

Though this is another catchphrase associated with Fonzie, more than one character on "Happy Days" used _______ as their catchphrase.

In the tame world of prime time broadcast television, you have to read between the lines of what characters are saying. "Sit on it" was most likely meant to be a variant of "sit and spin," an expression in which you're supposed to visualize the upraised middle finger. Obviously, no one could say *that* on '70s TV.

"De plane! De plane!" couldn't have been said by anyone else but Tattoo of ______.

Proving that you didn't have to be black or Italian to become a comic stereotype on 1970s TV, Herve Villechaize's Tattoo character was a grown man who seemed perpetually trapped in a childlike frame of mind, thanks to being a little person. If a planeload of guests arrived every week, on a set schedule, how did he keep getting so wildly excited, each time? We'll never know.

After the guests had disembarked from "Fantasy Island's" plane, Mr. Roark would famously say what?

Mr. Roark is the TV figure that still haunts our nightmares. Why on earth, we always wondered, should his new guests smile? Everyone who came to Fantasy Island had a hair-raising experience in which their dream became a nightmare, sometimes nearly killing them before it was over. It all served to underscore the show's message: "Be careful what you wish for."

We still wince when we remember Vinnie Barbarino's famous line on "Welcome Back, Kotter." What was it?

John Travolta went on to do much more ambitious work in feature films, notably as a hitman in Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction." But his breakout role was Vinnie Barbarino on "Welcome Back, Kotter," whose "rubber hose" was endlessly parroted by the would-be cool kids in grade school and junior high.

On which show would you hear "You wouldn't like me when I'm angry"?

Long before the role of David Banner/The Hulk was passed around from Eric Bana to Edward Norton to Mark Ruffalo, there was Bill Bixby. His line "Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry" was a classic of understatement.

One "The Brady Bunch," whose exasperated line was "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!"

Jan was the middle sister who sometimes chafed under all the attention that older, golden-girl Marcia got. Whether this outburst really qualifies as a "catchphrase" is debatable, as she only said it once ... but it certainly stuck in America's consciousness! To this day, if someone quotes the "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia" line, they are accusing someone of feeling jealous and overshadowed.

Who liked to say, "Just one more thing ..."

Columbo's little game was to pretend to be a sleepy-eyed, average-IQ flatfoot ... until he said, "Just one more thing ..." and then broke the case wide open. Years later, "Monk" would follow a similar formula, with the socially-awkward, obsessive-compulsive Monk posing little threat until he'd say, "Here's what happened" and explain how a murder was committed.

Archie Bunker also liked to silence those around him with what one-word command?

Archie Bunker's command of the English language wasn't as good as it could have been! Though he understood the basic meaning of the word, he didn't realize that "stifle" always takes an object. You "stifle" a response, exclamation, cough, etc. You don't just generically "stifle."

On which show would you hear the phrase, "Nanu nanu"?

Though few people remember this, "Mork and Mindy" was a spin-off of "Happy Days," on which Richie Cunningham first met the alien, Mork. "Nanu nanu" was a greeting and goodbye in Mork's native language.

Who was always being instructed to "Book 'em" on "Hawaii 5-0"?

There was a "Duke" later in the show's run, but "Danno" was rookie Danny Williams. In 2010, during a wave of classic-TV remakes, "Hawaii 5-0" was rebooted with then-hot actors like Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park.

Charming alien Mork also used what word when he was angry or frustrated?

"Shazbot" made its way into English for a time, especially popular as an "imitation" swear-word among kids too young to get away with swearing around adults. "Frak" was "Battlestar Galactica's" substitute for the F-word, introduced in the 1978 original and freely used in the 2003 reboot.

The eternally famous phrase "Heeeeere's Johnny!" preceded which talk show?

Johnny Carson had a run on "The Tonight Show" that might never be equalled; he hosted for 30 years. Every night, Ed McMahon announced Johnny in exaggerated style, creating a virtual rule that late-night hosts' introductions have to be drawn-out and almost distorted.

In the 1970s, if you heard the word "Candygram," should you have opened the door?

"Candygram" was what the land shark on "Saturday Night Live" said to get people to open the door. The "land shark" bit was a response to the "Jaws" craze, which had people afraid to swim even in lakes and rivers! SNL lampooned this fear by creating a shark that walked on land, knocked on doors and spoke to potential victims.

On "Hill Street Blues," Sgt. Esterhaus would often say "Let's be ______ out there."

"Hill Street Blues" marked a change in the way police shows were written and acted, with an emphasis on investigative work over gunplay, and ensemble casts over one "gifted maverick" character. "Hill Street Blues" usually began with a daily briefing. At the end of that briefing, Lt. Esterhaus would say, "Let's be careful out there."

If you watched "The Waltons," you'll undoubtedly remember the line, "_______, John-Boy."

Nobody on "The Waltons" would be so rude as to say "Stuff it!" This loving Appalachian family said a round of "Goodnights" to each other every night. "John-Boy" Walton was the show's central character, the oldest of seven siblings.

On "The Facts of Life," which character frequently "just had another one of my brilliant ideas"?

Blair Warner was the classic blonde trust-fund baby on "Fact of Life," a show about an all-girls boarding school that spun off from "Diff'rent Strokes." Almost needless to say, Blair's "brilliant ideas" often ended up in mishaps.

Which "Star Trek" character regularly said, "Make it so"?

It's hard to believe that this classic expression belongs in a quiz about '70s and '80s television, but "Star Trek: The Next Generation" really did premiere in 1987. The character of Jean-Luc Picard has had real staying power, as the upcoming series "Picard" proves.

On which show did B.A. Baracus "pity the fool"?

Actor Lawrence "Mr. T" Turead is so associated with this phrase that it's often attributed directly to him, not to his "A-Team" character. After all, "The A-Team" didn't last terribly long, but Mr. T is a cultural icon. Fun fact: Lawrence Turead grew up poor, and gave himself the nickname "Mr. T" so that the respectful title, "Mister," would be built in with how people addressed him.

At the advent of cable television, what channel's slogan was, "I want my ___"?

These ads urged cable subscribers to demand Music Television, or MTV, from their providers. The slogan was based on one from British television, in which a child says, "I want my Maypo!" (a breakfast cereal).

On "Masters of the Universe," He-Man would often declare, "By the power of ______!"

"Masters of the Universe" was a cartoon show in the '80s. Today, "By the Power of Greyskull!" is used in ironic fashion before performing any sort of "feat," even if the triumph is something as simple as wresting the remote control from a roommate and changing the channel.

Which comic duo wanted to "Pump (pause to clap) you up"?

These Austrian personal trainers were a staple on the late-'80s "Saturday Night Live." They were played by Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon (neither particularly ripped in real life), on a spoof fitness show called "Pumping Up with Hans and Franz."

"Holy macanoli" was the signature line of what tween character?

Although the name "Punky Brewster" seems like one that emerged from an extensive workshopping process to find the cutest possible name, the character was named after a real person, Peyton "Punky" Brewster. NBC head Brandon Tartikoff had a crush on the real Brewster as a child.

Which classic show began each episode with the phrase, "Gentlemen, we can rebuild him"?

Lee Majors landed the role of a lifetime in "The Six Million Dollar Man," the story of an astronaut who, after a near-fatal accident, is rebuilt with the latest technology to be superhuman. If you couldn't get enough of electro-mechanically enhanced humans, there was soon a spin-off, "The Bionic Woman."

When Fred Sanford said, "I'm coming to join you, Elizabeth," what was he doing?

Colorful and irrepressible, Fred Sanford of "Sanford and Son" often tried to get out of trouble, or responded to news he didn't like, by faking a coronary. Few people, especially his level-headed son Lamont, were fooled.

Who liked to say, "Well ... isn't that special?"

Dana Carvey, who grew up Lutheran, based the Church Lady on women he'd known who never missed church, always sat in the front row, and looked at his family entering as if to say, "Well, the Carveys have decided to join us. Isn't that special?" "Church Chat" was a wildly popular sketch on "Saturday Night Live."

On which show did Judy Carne ask castmates to "Sock it to me"?

"Laugh-In" introduced Goldie Hawn and Lily Tomlin to larger audiences, but Judy Carne had the repeated "Sock it to me" line, after which she'd suffer some sort of mishap. Richard Nixon gave his straitlaced image a small shot in the arm by delivering the line (as a question) in a 1968 episode.

On which show would you hear the phrase, "I've fallen, and I can't get up!"

It wasn't a TV show, but a commercial for Life Alert emergency pendants, that brought us this classic phrase. It was meant to be a serious warning about the elderly and mobility, but Americans re-purposed the line to apply to the stock market, failing sports teams and more.

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!

Explore More Quizzes