“High five… Don’t leave me hanging.”
July 20, 2011

An uplifting challenge for reminding someone that, when it’s all said and done, all you need is love. And a superficial hand gesture is all you need to show it.

Jerry’s search for a new car led him to the dealership where Elaine’s boyfriend David Puddy worked. As Puddy helped him, Jerry discovered that he had to hand it to Puddy–a literal hand, that is, nice and high. Elaine refused the slaphappy Puddy’s next high five, so he added a down low…which she also refused. But he hung in there.

“Slapping hands,” as Jerry told Elaine, “is the lowest form of male primal ritual.” But this isn’t maleness Puddy is upholding here–even though the high five easily says “Hey dude….” Neither, for that matter, is it femaleness–even though Puddy tried to give Elaine five too. Putting your hand in the air…like Puddy, like you care…has something for everyone.

Got a good friend who had a bad day? The high five reminds them that the best thing about a hard day’s the night. Got a love interest with whom you think you can work it out? The high five signals, “I don’t want to hold your hand just yet, but this is something.” A major life change hit you? Without a word–just a look on your face–the high five lets those around you know that you feel fine.

And if you put that hand in the air and the look on their face says they don’t care (i.e., you’re probably going to be left hanging)…let it be. If you like the person, you might add Puddy’s “You owe me five” as you walk away. If you don’t, then just walk away. The same hand that says “hello” can say “goodbye.”*

From “The Dealership”
Episode 11 , Season 9
Seinfeld Volume 8, Disc 2
Timecode for the scene: 9:50 (here’s another five for those interested: see 2:40 for the first “High five”; 4:05 for another Puddy “High five” followed by Jerry’s “primal ritual” commentary ; 5:30 for “High five… You owe me five”; 19:51; and 21:15 for more Jerry commentary)

*It’s unclear from the Seinfeld repertoire whether the Beatles inspired Puddy here. For all we know it was the Eagles, the Bangles, or even Peter Gabriel (“Nothing seems to please…I need contact“). We’re content to contend that this was a Puddy original.

“If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.”
July 6, 2011

A logical observation for helping someone find their way when they’ve lost it, and what they need to be shown how to use is not their GPS transmitter, but their BS detector.

No job, no money, no place but my parents’ house to live, George sighed to Jerry and Elaine one day. “Every decision I’ve ever made in my entire life…has been wrong.” His direct admission led Jerry to this indirect exhortation–Do the opposite–which led George to change everything. Suddenly, life was no longer taking a bite out of George; now it was the other way around.

We, like George, often don’t learn until later that some steps we’ve made in life were the equivalent of stepping in it. We take that job. (Later: “What BS. I should’ve taken a break.”). We dated that person. (Later: “That dating service was BS.”). We pursued that degree. (“Why did I pursue this BS? I should’ve gone for the BA!”) And we should’ve seen it coming. If only we’d had a Jerry initially to point it out–to help us separate the bull from the viable.

When you use a line like this to help a George you know–that project manager, prodigal sibling, or fast-food-drive-thru worker, to name a few candidates–expect that not every one may be as receptive as George, who took to Jerry’s sage-like words like an acolyte to a mantra. (“Jerry,” George said later, euphoric from his opposite successes, “this is my religion.”) For all of its likely rewards, the opposite has its risks of humiliation, retaliation, loss of membership at the health club, etc. And that’s okay, the sage-like smile on your face will say.

You’re okay, that is, with your risk in saying this for their reward, which is that they would actually arrive at something for once in their lives…which explains why you’re quoting Jerry here in the first place.

You had to, or else you were going to lose it just listening to them.

From “The Opposite”
Episode 21, Season 5
Seinfeld Disc 4, Volume 4
Timecode for the scene: 1:38 (for Jerry telling it like it is); 12:10 (for George taking it as his religion)

“That chick’s whacked.”
May 19, 2011

A blunt observation for the language of relationships, categorized not as the kind of comment where you’re trying to make history, but the kind where you just felt like saying something like We’re history.

Puddy and Elaine broke up for the bajillionth time while Jerry was car-shopping at the dealership where Puddy was working (and Jerry was hoping to get the “insider’s deal”). When Jerry–about to sign on the dotted line for a Saab–noticed something amiss with the usually unflappable Puddy, he asked, “Did you two break up?” This was Puddy’s “flappant” reply.

Sometimes in the dating relationship a moment compels you to over(or under)state the truth to articulate an emotion. It’s a somewhat juvenile tendency that most people don’t lose when they become adults. This is why you can technically blow a samba in a televised dance contest, or fiddle with the facts in a movie you make about a historical event, and people will ardently defend you to your critics by saying, “Yes, but it was emotionally true.”

Note that Puddy’s emotional truism–delivered as flatly and as quickly as if he’d just told Jerry, “That Saab is a lemon”–will not work in marriage, where the integrity of the relationship demands fidelity to the facts…and subtlety in the heat of the argumentative moment. Your loved one is not “whacked” but “acting whacked,” and so on.

You could still Puddy the waters by using this line as is, but don’t be surprised if your conversational rapport with your spouse becomes, for a time, akin to Whac-A-Mole…and you’re not the one holding the hammer.

From “The Dealership”
Episode 11, Season 9
Seinfeld Volume 8, Disc 2
Timecode for the scene: 10:42

“Happy, Pappy?”
May 9, 2011

An ambiguous question to use on those who fancy themselves to be this big, bold character out of some story, and you’re just wondering Is this a comedy I’m watching? Or a tragedy, or a cartoon…?

George recalled this line to Jerry with serious distaste after breaking up with a woman who asked him this question. A tastefully silly Jerry then asked the same question of a woman he’d just gotten back together with.

Silly or serious? The listener won’t know where you’re coming from as you try, using this line, to determine where they’re at. First there’s happy, a word that denotes “positive,” “contented,” etc., yet is also one of that group of words ending in “-appy” that sounds a little insulting: sappy, nappy, crappy. (Even snappy has a critical ring: “Make it snappy!”) The next time you hear a “Look at him, he’s so happy,” note how what seems like a compliment can lend a hapless, almost idiotic quality to the person being described.

Then there’s Pappy, which brings to mind daddies and grampies and poppies and grandies…and the cartoon character Popeye, whose father was Pappy. Which also sounds nice until you realize that Pappy’s first name was Poopdeck.

Will they think they just got slapped–or crapped–on the shoulder, when you Happy Pappy them? Who knows. Who cares! Because, either way, the resulting conversation is sure to be animated.

From “The Engagement”
Episode 1, Season 7
Seinfeld Volume 6, Disc 1
Timecode for the scene: 1:06 (George) and 3:40 (Jerry)

“Fake, fake, fake, fake.”
January 30, 2011

A let-it-all-hang-out comeback for letting someone know that what they knew about you, in one particular area, was a lie. But it had nothing to do with them. Honestly.

Elaine and Jerry’s past as a couple suddenly flabbergasted Jerry when he discovered that she had, er, led him on in the bedroom. “You faked with me?” an incredulous Jerry asked. “All the time” a smiling Elaine replied. When Jerry named four things she’d done that seemed so real, Elaine reality-checked them in reply–her index finger poking the air mechanically at each fake like her body was an amusement park animatronic.

Listen to how often people use the phrase “To be honest with you…” and you get the picture: there’s a whole lot of fakin’ going on. So while you could use Elaine’s four-pronged “Fake!” to serve up quite a dish about yourself–you can also use it to poke others right out of their pretenses. The next time, for example, that a friend starts telling you why they couldn’t make it over to help you move, give them their moment…let them describe the “quandary” they were in…then Fake! them out.

Be prepared for them to yelp. Pulling back the curtain on someone’s wizardry right when they’re producing the smoke and lights is like pulling back the curtain when they’re in the shower. Lies, like nakedness, show it all to the world: “Well, here I am….”

And this is you telling them in front of the world: “Man, you’ve had some work done.”

From “The Mango”
Episode 1, Season 5
Seinfeld Volume 4, Disc 1
Timecode for the scene: 2:55

“I’m the wiz! And nobody beats me!”
December 18, 2010

A carnival-barker shout-out to clarify for those around you that you are in fact full of yourself. Because being someone you’re not is hypocrisy…and you’re not going to be one of those people who’s full of it.

Elaine’s new boyfriend had this attractive twinkle in his eye that she couldn’t explain–until a channel-flipping Jerry discovered the explanation in a tacky commercial: the guy was a local actor whose claim to fame had him in kingly garb, a goofy grin, and this bombastic line. In the end, he was the wiz, leaving Elaine to ease on down the road.

Remember who you are. We grow up hearing it because, once grown up, we easily forget it–our true identity. This line is one way to avert the infamous identity crisis: have an identity circus. Anytime you find you’re not feeling like yourself, take that one word that summarizes who you are (architect, coach, etc.) and, like the long pole in a tent, build a three-ring show around it with these six words (e.g., “I’m the professor! And…”).

Your show may be less talent than freak in other people’s eyes, but social interaction is a high-wire act for everyone, no matter who you are. So, while you’re performing, you might as well be one of the main attractions.

From “The Junk Mail”
Episode 5, Season 9
Seinfeld Volume 8, Disc 1
Timecode for the scene: 18:31 (that’s the main attraction; for the warm-up act, see 10:48 and 11:41)

“Is there a pinkish hue?”
December 10, 2010

A rhetorical question to ask anyone who admits they’re seeking someone without flaws, someone who really stands out. Yeah, you say. And you blend.

Jerry offered to set George up with a friend of Elaine’s, which set George to politely grilling Jerry about this woman–his questions revealing a wish list that no woman short of a Marisa Tomei (a dream woman of his) could fulfill. This question about cheeks (“Does she have a good cheek? I like a good cheek”) showed his true color.

We’re all guilty of wanting a real winner in something, or someone, when the truth is we all have a bit of George in us…a bit of the loser that admits (if only, quietly, to ourselves) I’m such a loser! Catch someone in this hypocrisy–a bald guy, for example, carrying on about the criticality of dating a woman with “thick, lustrous hair”–and you can conk them over the head with this inquiry.

Their answer is irrelevant. The question shows how ridiculous they’re being with their line of questions–looking for someone who, it sounds like, just stepped off of Mount Olympus, when they themselves are one step removed from their cousin Vinny.

From “The Fix-Up”
Episode 17, Season 3
Seinfeld Volume 2, Disc 4
Timecode for the scene: 9:03

“You should just do it like a Band-Aid: one motion–right off!”
October 10, 2010

An acute challenge for those times when someone’s bugging you over some big decision they must make, and you don’t mind chiming in on what they should do–so long as it hurts them more than it hurts you.

George wrung his hands over how to break up with the woman he was dating (“Can’t I do it over the phone? I have no stomach for these things”), and the good Dr. Jerry was there–speaking from all of his medico-relational experience–to tell him how to do it.

This isn’t so much about mitigating pain as it is about making decisions–and decision-making is painful, when you think about it. Making up one’s mind means taking sides, which makes even a mere “Yes” or “No” a big deal. You’re not stepping into the fray with an “I don’t care” or “I don’t know.” But step out there with a good solid decision–say, an “I am breaking up with you“–and you’ll hear the impact from recipient (“That hurts”) and bystander (“That had to hurt”) alike.

So don’t be discouraged if the recipient of your Jerry-inspired advice doesn’t listen. Like a good doctor, you did what you could.

From “The Ex-Girlfriend”
Episode 1, Season 2
Seinfeld Volume 1, Disc 2
Timecode for the scene: 2:35

“It’s gonna be rough.”
September 24, 2010

A deadpan observation to use when someone you know gets all worked up about something, and you take it upon yourself to bring them down.

A car radio preset for a Christian rock station had revealed to Elaine that boyfriend David Puddy was not only a man who loved him some Arby’s–he was also a man of some piety. After his silly condemnation of her (“You’re the one who’s going to hell”) and her silly resignation over it all (“The heat–my God, the heat!“), Elaine tried to change the conversational tune: a little less “Highway to Hell,” a little more “How’s It Going to Be.” So Puddy obliged her.

If you obliged all the people in your life who needed to bend your ear over their insufferable situations, things would get bent, all right: your mind, for one thing, and eventually your entire life. Think of all the woe-is-me chatter you’ve endured from relatives, for example, how they bent you out of shape. This is why you need a little something to end their suffering in your ear–a little channel-changing comment. You need a little Puddy.

And here it is. To the Elaines in your life who turn up the heat of discussion–wanting to get on with a real conversation–you bring up Puddy’s line to dismiss it and get on with an Arby’s night.

From “The Burning”
Episode 16, Season 9
Seinfeld Volume 8, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 17:36

“Well, now we’re gettin’ somewhere!”
September 20, 2010

A buoyant observation to make when someone or something moves you forward several spaces in the game of Life, and that just makes you feel like high-five-ing yourself.

Sitting on the couch in front of the TV one night, Jerry and Elaine shifted from gabbing about random things to strategizing about how they might hit the bedroom…then hit the couch again for more TV or hit the road or whatever–so long as it didn’t require being with each other. And Jerry rejoiced.

I’ve arrived. This is what we’re shooting for–arriving Somewhere, whether that’s a status, a location, a collection of toys, etc. We start the journey early in life, throwing it out there like a roll of the dice: “I’m really going Somewhere someday.” Then we spend years getting up each day, trying to get ahead…to get Somewhere. And now, here we are, we’re gettin’ there

The little joys that come your way, along the way–mark them with Jerry’s line, nice and loud, with a childish lilt in your voice. Not because you might spend your whole life getting there, which is true (and better than going Nowhere fast). But because, more importantly…whoever dies with the most joys wins.

From “The Deal”
Episode 13, Season 2
Seinfeld Volume 1, Disc 4
Timecode for the scene: 5:29

“You’re Schmoopie!”
August 13, 2010

A chameleon-like comment (observation, put-down, etc., depending on the context) to use on people who’ve really opened their hearts for their loved ones, and–Moses smell the roses–it’s one of those heart-shaped box of chocolates.

Soon after Jerry and Shiela, his latest love interest, took up this sugary manner of addressing one another, they strolled unwittingly down their Candy Land lane until George and Elaine nearly vomited from all the gumdrop comments that kept falling on their heads. When Jerry clued them in that he and Shiela might be on the outs, George couldn’t help upchucking all over the schmoopie-ness: “People who do that should be arrested!”

People who do that (i.e., the die-hard romantics) demand that others tolerate their greeting card life–where words rhyme but have no reason–and schmoopie is their piece de resistance. People who can’t stand that (i.e., the saccharine-intolerant) can learn from George and Elaine’s derision: call out the schmoopie. You witness a couple locking lips like their ship is going down and you interrupt: “Hey–Schmoopies. Would you mind….”

Just be careful not to overextend yourself in calling out the schmoopie–and don’t focus so much on any one person or couple that your calling-out becomes a “death to schmoopie” campaign. You may end up dating or even marrying one of these people someday.

From “The Soup Nazi”
Episode 6, Season 7
Seinfeld Volume 6, Disc 1
Timecodes for the scenes: 00:45, 1:10, 15:15, ad nauseam

“Maybe I can get an extension cord and hang myself.”
August 9, 2010

A lighthearted observation to drop on those close to you, during those times when you’ve had enough of them standing so close to you.

Jerry’s weekend getaway with a woman he’d recently started dating turned quickly into a weekend he wanted to get away from. Jerry had thought it would take their relationship to “Phase 2,” never mind that George had warned him it was a “phaser” set to stun (“…you’re going to be with her 72 hours? That’s a dating decathlon“). Talking to his date at one point during the Lost Weekend, Jerry began talking to himself–thoughts we get to hear–when this bright idea arose.

Forget saying this one to yourself during, say, your Lost Week with the family for that annual summer vacation. Keep it to yourself, but on your tongue, ready to drop at the moment you feel like you’ve had enough. Subtlety born of peace at any cost–so common to many families–is not good for anybody at this point. Don’t even bother trying to be funny (e.g., “When you said ‘Beach-front sort of hamlet for the weekend RSVP,’ I didn’t know you meant ‘Near the ocean this year for all the Shakespearean drama, BYOB'”). Just let it all hang out there with this line.

No house is big enough for two (or more) families, they say–what you might call a precursor to this observation of Jerry’s. We don’t know who “they” are, but we’re betting they’re not hanging around with family that much anymore…and they’re probably happier for it.

From “The Stock Tip”
Episode 5, Season 1
Seinfeld Volume 1, Disc 1
Timecode for the scene: 17:42

“Because I was goood.”
July 30, 2010

A smiling comeback–or observation, if you like–to use on those so dumbfounded by your talented performance, you can’t help but draw even more attention to it.

Jerry thought he knew one particular thing about Elaine from their dating times of yesteryears. At one admission from Elaine, however–in a conversation with Jerry and George about that “thing”–Jerry realized that all he’d known was jack. “How could a guy not know that?” was Jerry’s unwitting introduction to Elaine’s revelation. 

Waiting for the How could _____? from, say, a co-worker is fine, if being pulled onstage at a concert is analogous to how you like your opportunity to brag. If, however, you prefer your own show–the constant touring, the waiting crowds, the “ooo”-“ahh” pyrotechnics–then set the stage by putting up your own rhetorical question: You know why I _____?

The wide-eyed smile on your face when you play the funky muuusic of this line should make your audience fear that you’re about to start dancing too.

From “The Mango”
Episode 1, Season 5
Seinfeld Volume 4, Disc 1
Timecode for the scene: 3:05

“Thin ice, George, very thin ice.”
July 16, 2010

A clever observation to make–insinuating a warning–to those who don’t need you to tell them bluntly “Don’t go there” or “Retreat!” They need you to paint a picture for them of the idiocy of the move they are about to make.

George wandered into hazardous territory with Elaine–the subject: a woman Elaine had set him up with–and his good friend Jerry was there to warn him. Jerry had been there before. Indeed, the Warning was one of the primary functions of Jerry’s part of the George-Jerry friendship. The Observation and the Put-Down were two other functions, one of which usually came on the heels of George not heeding the Warning.

This warning works wonders even in a strange crowd, because the people who have no idea what it is you’re waving your friend away from–they will still get the image you’re conveying of your friend’s unfortunate position: arms flailing, legs akimbo as he or she wobbles out onto the conversational ice. If that friend is any true friend of yours, he or she will probably ignore your Warning and fall through, leaving you in a most fortunate position–no Observation or Put-Down required.

Laughing with others at another’s expense because of something you said–that’s about as good as an “icebreaker” gets.

From “The Baby Shower”
Episode 4, Season 2
Seinfeld Volume 1, Disc 2
Timecode for the scene: 2:00

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