"How <adjective> is that?"

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kj

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Nov 6, 2005, 4:19:36 PM11/6/05
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Sometime in the 90's expressions of the "how <adjective> is that?"
(e.g. "how cool is that?", "how stupid is that?", etc.) came in
vogue in the US. What's the history of this development? Somehow,
I want to link it to the TV show Seinfeld, but maybe it was already
quite established by the time that Seinfeld used it.

More generally, what are good resources for questions like this
one (i.e. about the histories of language fashions)?

Thanks!

kj
--
NOTE: In my address everything before the first period is backwards;
and the last period, and everything after it, should be discarded.

R H Draney

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Nov 6, 2005, 6:45:59 PM11/6/05
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kj filted:

>
>Sometime in the 90's expressions of the "how <adjective> is that?"
>(e.g. "how cool is that?", "how stupid is that?", etc.) came in
>vogue in the US. What's the history of this development? Somehow,
>I want to link it to the TV show Seinfeld, but maybe it was already
>quite established by the time that Seinfeld used it.

I think Jerry Seinfeld was using the form in his standup act long before he got
his own TV series...where it came from before that, I haven't a clue....

>More generally, what are good resources for questions like this
>one (i.e. about the histories of language fashions)?

Large trade paperbacks in the "entertainment" section of any mass-market
bookstore...look for books with titles like "The Insiders Guide To <name of
series>"....

If you find anything on "walk much?" as a comment on someone stumbling, let me
know....r

Fred

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Nov 6, 2005, 8:48:54 PM11/6/05
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"kj" <so...@987jk.com.invalid> wrote in message
news:dkls18$h4u$1...@reader2.panix.com...

>
>
>
> Sometime in the 90's expressions of the "how <adjective> is that?"
> (e.g. "how cool is that?", "how stupid is that?", etc.) came in
> vogue in the US. What's the history of this development? Somehow,
> I want to link it to the TV show Seinfeld, but maybe it was already
> quite established by the time that Seinfeld used it.
>
> More generally, what are good resources for questions like this
> one (i.e. about the histories of language fashions)?
>
> Thanks!
>
> kj
I don't know about "how silly is that?' But remarks like "How silly can you
get?", seem to have been with us for a very long time.


Salvatore Volatile

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Nov 7, 2005, 9:55:51 AM11/7/05
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kj wrote:
> Sometime in the 90's expressions of the "how <adjective> is that?"
> (e.g. "how cool is that?", "how stupid is that?", etc.) came in
> vogue in the US. What's the history of this development? Somehow,
> I want to link it to the TV show Seinfeld, but maybe it was already
> quite established by the time that Seinfeld used it.

Can you provide any evidence that this usage appeared on any _Seinfeld_
episode? It's certainly possible, but I don't particularly associate it
with _Seinfeld_ (as opposed to some other 1990s TV shows).

The assertion that a television show is primarily or significantly
responsible for a particular slang or other popular usage is a
controversial one. To my knowledge there are only a few proven cases of
such a thing having occurred, to wit:

(1) _Happy Days_ and the revival of dormant slang "cool"
(2) _Happy Days_ (with some subsequent help from _Saturday Night Live_)
and the revival, if it can even be called that, of slang "nerd"


R J Valentine

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Nov 7, 2005, 11:39:57 AM11/7/05
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Cf. "green-car syndrome" (you never notice a green car until you own one;
then you see them all over). (I used to have a green 1964 [Mercury] Comet
convertible. I bought it from a little old lady schoolteacher who hadn't
driven it much.)

--
R. J. Valentine <mailto:r...@theWorld.com>

R H Draney

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Nov 7, 2005, 1:03:55 PM11/7/05
to
Salvatore Volatile filted:

>
>The assertion that a television show is primarily or significantly
>responsible for a particular slang or other popular usage is a
>controversial one. To my knowledge there are only a few proven cases of
>such a thing having occurred, to wit:
>
>(1) _Happy Days_ and the revival of dormant slang "cool"
>(2) _Happy Days_ (with some subsequent help from _Saturday Night Live_)
>and the revival, if it can even be called that, of slang "nerd"

Sweeping generalizations're bad, m'kay?...within certain subcultures, phrases
from such television shows as "Get Smart", "Star Trek", "Laugh-In", "Mork &
Mindy", and "Saturday Night Live" have been embraced and have found their way
into everyday conversation having nothing to do with their respective shows...a
popular drinking game of a few years ago took its name and premise from the
frequent greetings of "hi, Bob" on one sitcom...it even happens with lesser
shows; I've been known to report the equivalent of a "brain fart" by saying "the
Leap swiss-cheesed my memory"....

Allow cartoon programs into the mix and, heavens to Murgatroyd, there's no end
to it....

Heck, even "Happy Days" itself is the primary reference for the common
expression "to jump the shark"....r

Ben Zimmer

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Nov 7, 2005, 2:28:11 PM11/7/05
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Salvatore Volatile wrote:

> kj wrote:
>
>>Sometime in the 90's expressions of the "how <adjective> is that?"
>>(e.g. "how cool is that?", "how stupid is that?", etc.) came in
>>vogue in the US. What's the history of this development? Somehow,
>>I want to link it to the TV show Seinfeld, but maybe it was already
>>quite established by the time that Seinfeld used it.
>
> Can you provide any evidence that this usage appeared on any _Seinfeld_
> episode? It's certainly possible, but I don't particularly associate it
> with _Seinfeld_ (as opposed to some other 1990s TV shows).

http://seinfeldscripts.com/TheBris.htm
George: Hey look a this - boy are you lucky - another spot - right in
front of the hospital. In an emergency yet! How lucky is that? Is that
unbelievable? How unbelievable is that?

http://seinfeldscripts.com/TheCartoon.htm
Sally: I got recognized the other day. How weird is that.

Evan Kirshenbaum

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Nov 16, 2005, 2:39:18 PM11/16/05
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Ben Zimmer <bgzi...@midway.uchicago.edu> writes:

I don't have a date on the second one, but the first claims to have
aired in September, 1993. The first Usenet hit for "How cool is
that?" is 5/28/92, so the phrase was already established. (It shows
up five times before 9/93.) Since there are no mentions between 8/93
and 3/94, I suspect that the Seinfeld episode didn't start a fad. On
the other hand, there are four mentions in March, 1994 (13th, 14th,
19th, and 31st) in different groups and the frequency seems to have
gone up, so perhaps something happened just before then.

Broadening the search, "How stupid is that?" first shows up in
5/27/93, again on 8/1/93, and there are a couple of others in late
'93. And there's a "How sad is that?" on 2/11/93.

--
Evan Kirshenbaum +------------------------------------
HP Laboratories |Specifically, I'd like to debate
1501 Page Mill Road, 1U, MS 1141 |whether cannibalism ought to be
Palo Alto, CA 94304 |grounds for leniency in murder,
|since it's less wasteful.
kirsh...@hpl.hp.com | Calvin
(650)857-7572

http://www.kirshenbaum.net/


nancy13g

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Nov 16, 2005, 4:41:05 PM11/16/05
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I'm wondering whether the whole "how <adjective> is that?" convention
might have evolved from Johnny Carson and his monologue on the Tonight
Show, where he'd say something like "It was so cold last night ..." and
pause, which was the audience's cue to shout "How cold WAS it?"

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