Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Hellmouth Much?

In certain ways, in most ways, I had a sheltered childhood during which I learned about the world mostly through popular culture. If I didn’t see a given movie or read a given book, I wouldn’t know something, unless the thing in question somehow related to sheep, apricots, New Zealand or one of the few other things I learned about through actual experience.

So when I first heard the phrase “X much?” I didn’t know what the hell I was being asked. You know what I’m talking about — “Excited much?” to someone who is clearly overenthusiastic, “Hair gel much?” asked to someone with statement hair, “Have bark much?” asked to a tree. Eventually I figured it out. Asking “X much?” is an ironic way to point out either that a person is, does or has too much X or, in some cases, doesn’t do X enough, as with “Walk much?” being asked to someone who just tripped. (I realize I sound like an academically minded 90s-era drug-dealer with all this talk of having and doing X. Just go with it.) Late last year, I saw a Language Log post that detailed the origin of the phrase. As far as anyone can tell right now, the first documented use of “X much?” seems to a 1978 Saturday Night Live “Nerds” sketch in which Todd (Bill Murray) asks Lisa Loopner (Gilda Radner) “Underdeveloped much?” to imply that she’s flat-chested.

That notwithstanding, the OED cites other pop culture references in its entry for this use of much, all of them equally close to my heart (thought none of them being things I’d be exposed to until at least mid-high school. According to the OED, the phrase first appears in 1988’s Heathers — “God, Veronica, drool much?” and later as “Jealous much?” — but was popularized by the 1992 Buffy movie — “Excuse much! Not rude or anything.” The post also notes that it’s used in the TV show’s 1997 pilot, “Welcome to the Hellmouth,” in a line spoken by Cordelia — “Morbid much! I didn’t ask!” — in response to Buffy wondering if a recently deceased person had vampire marks on his body.

I know Buffy played with language a lot, but it makes me particularly happy that it, SNL and Heathers have a place in the OED. I’ll eagerly await the next edition to see if chatter in the cafe, fuck me gently with a chainsaw or schwing eventually get their due.

Pop culture and words, previously:

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