“Maybe the dingo ate your baby.”
December 4, 2015

a_cry_in_the_dark_1988_gratispeliculas dot org_CROPPEDAn outlandish observation to use on those who are beside themselves when they lose something precious to them, and they need someone to help them get a hold of themselves.

Elaine and Jerry accompanied George to a dinner party where they got stuck and she got bored. Crowd-watching from a settee, Elaine beheld a woman carrying on mawkishly about her fiancée, Where is my fiancée? “I have lost my fiancée,” she exclaimed to Elaine, “the poor baby!” As if reading a placard, Elaine delivered this “baby”-on-bored reply.

Think “the dog ate my homework.” But where “dog” is a story made up to cover up one’s own laziness, “dingo”—a type of Australian dog—is a true story, brought up here to point out another’s craziness over their “baby,” whatever it is that, when they lose it, makes them lose it (“Maybe the dingo ate your strongbox key”). Elaine’s line stems from the real-life account of an infant death in Australia at the hands—er, jaws—of…well, you get the picture. The Meryl Streep motion picture A Cry in the Dark immortalized the story.

The prospect that the “baby” of the person you’re ding-o-ing was eaten by some wild animal is, of course, so over-the-top as to be as down-under mythological as the subject of that Streep flick. That’s the point. Some mythology is obviously at work here in that person’s mind, to make them act all “Baby can’t live without me.” They must be there for baby. “Nobody puts baby in a corner.”

As with quoting a movie (even a famous one), the risk of dumb looks or backlash is high with this line, but a high five is also not altogether out of the picture. You might kill it, as they say in comedic circles about a bit well done. Or you might be killed—the bit flops.

Either way, “dingo” is worth it*, to let them know you’re killing me.

From “The Stranded”
Season 2, Episode 9
Seinfeld Volume 1, Disc 3
Time code for the scene: 07:08 (*Watch for Elaine’s smile at the scene’s end.)

Dedicated to Anthony Narkawicz  

“I don’t even really work here!”
June 27, 2015

(a note in advance of more Seinfeld-isms to come, very soon…)Ritz Crackers box_stansberrymasonry dot com

Returning here after more than two years–after I went bye-bye in 2013, after saying Helloooo!–I was tempted toward a good George-ism to capture the moment. Maybe the simple, ebullient “I’m back, baby!”

Or the subversive, Eeyore-ish voicemail he once left Jerry, “Hey, it’s George… Pfft. I’ve got nothing to say.” (BEEP)

But even Costanza comes up short here. (Sorry, George. I’m really sorry. It’s not you, it’s me.) To capture such an unexpected turnabout…I turn to the one-and-only Kramer.

In one of Kramer’s bass-ackwards falls into a legit job (Brand/Leland was the poor, unsuspecting company’s name), his boss called him on the carpet about his output. “I’ve been reviewing your work,” Leland said. “Quite frankly it stinks.”

He went on to tell the Ritz-cracker-smacking Kosmo that he must move on. I don’t even really work here! was Kramer’s crack-me-up reply.

As to why exactly that cracked me up…consider my absence, yes (I don’t even really blog here!)…but do read on.

The What-Happened

My absence was not intentional. Not even in my mind was I gone (although there is that, sometimes.) I still love this blog. I still love this show–even though some of it is not as funny to me as I near 20 years of great marriage and my mid-40s, and seriously/sillily raise 52 children.

(Actually we only have 5 but jokingly refer to “our 52 children” because, despite the joy, the laughter, all that Schmoopie…sometimes the comments, the questions, all that snap, make it seem like we have way more children than we do.) 

Still, much of Seinfeld is as funny to me now as it was when I first discovered it. Some of it is even funnier. Which is why I never meant to, in early 2013, stop adding to this Seinfeld survival guide to Life.

Around that time, in an Seinfeldishly ironic twist, Life dispatched a plane across the landscape of the Bounds family, unfurling a banner that read “Survive this”–and started dropping circumstantial bombs. We wanted to yada yada yada over the whole thing…in the George-negative, not the Elaine-positive way.

Then came a Newman-ic depressive phase. You know, where you’re denouncing vegetables and calling for shots and doing other foolish things that have people wiser than you saying life-saving things to you like you better think again, mojumbo.

The dance of Life didn’t halt, per se, during that time. It just shifted into a full-body-dry-heave kind of dance. Arms flailing, legs akimbo. Feet moving the family halfway across the country…that sort of thing.

Meanwhile, in another ironic, Seinfeldian twist during that long hiatus…this blog’s readership took off across the two years I stopped writing. See for yourself:Seinfeld-ism stats on WordPress 2010-2015

I can hear George now: Your chances of success in this blog are only hurt by you continuing to write it.

Even with that attractive power of the Opposite apparently boosting my work, I still stayed away. Then, later, an idea: If I get back into it someday, I’ll do some new material then get out. Take a bow. Cue the curtain drop.

Then, much later–nearing the debut of the get-out plan–the plan got a good-surprise “Get out!” push.

The Times

Seinfeld cracking me up over Life itself–for me and for those around me–is what led me to launch this blog-ode to the series on July 5, 2010. Five years to the day, that is, coming up here soon. The final-bow plans came up about a year ago. I crafted a Seinfeld-ism “bucket list.”

While I dabbled with the plan–fast headed to the five-year anniversary–yet another Seinfeldian twist occurred: my blog got linked in the New York Times. This week. (Scroll down to the “George’s love of cheese” line.)

I can hear Jerry now: Costanza*…Benes**…Bounds***?!

*Recall George’s hand-clapping joy over a “NEW YORK YANKEES!” job.
**Recall Elaine’s hip-swinging joy over a “NEW YORKER!” gig.
***Pardon my laptop-tapping joy over a NEW YORK TIMES! nibble.

The New York Times exposure leaves me grinning a la Jerry’s “And you want to be my latex salesman” grin AND looking unfazed a la Newman’s “Hi-lar-ious” deadpan face. Not at the New York Times. At literary agents. Because back in 2010, when I started this blog, I had been trying to publish this material as a book.

The rejection-letter emails that followed (coming mostly from literary agents based in NEW YORK CITY) are best summarized by this one line from one such agent:

“I don’t think anyone outside of New York is really that interested still in Seinfeld.”

Cue the look on my face akin to Jerry’s when that Donna Chang gal he was dating used the word ridicurous.

The High Note

Scores of Seinfeld lines come to mind in witty retort to that agent’s comment. But I’ll just end where I began here and reach back into the Kramer-working-for-Brand/Leland episode. The morn of Kramer’s first day on the job, Jerry saw Kramer in a suit and tie and–dazed and Uncle-Leo-level-confused at his notoriously jobless friend now gloriously dressed for a job–Jerry said, “How long have I been asleep? What year is this?”

Have you been asleep? I wanted to say to that agent. Do you know what year it is?

Seinfeld has conquered the world!

That was 8 years ago.

Now look at Hulu.

“That people will only watch television like this in the future is so obvious,” Jerry himself cracked-wise at the April announcement to the world of the Seinfeld/Hulu duo.

Yes it is, Jerry. Yes it is.

So now I turn to George, to do as he once did and–as he learned from Jerry (“Showmanship, George!”)–get out on a high note.

Time to publish that book myself.

(Giddy-up!)

Stay tuned.

“Hellooooo!”
February 14, 2013

A jovial shoutout to insider-joke stupidity, disguised as a greeting—for when you care enough to send the veritable jest.

Jerry joked with George that, when Clare, the woman Jerry was then dating, fell asleep, her stomach stayed awake and talked to Jerry–the voice overblown and jolly, like a caricature of a human being: “Hel-looooo!” followed by “Talk to meeee!” or “La-la-laaa.” Jerry and George laughed it up with Kramer, who also picked it up (Elaine just put it down)…until Clare found out about it and, disgusted, basically told Jerry It’s me or the voice. And, just like that, Jerry’s hel-lo became a good-bye.

This is the voice of one talking behind another’s back. That someone you are talking about walks into the room right as you and a friend are talking about that someone, and up goes your voice, silly big, the “o’s” booming out of one side of your mouth, Hel-looooo! The gusto of the faux greeting will leave the butt of your joke thinking that nothing but kind things are going on here.

Don’t let one too many know what’s going on here. The fewer who are “in” on your joke, the better, as Elaine pointed out when, hearing “the voice” for the first time, she asked Jerry what it was:

Jerry: “Oh, it’s just this stupid thing.”
Elaine: “Well, I’m sure it’s stupid….”

That is to say, at some point the stupidity of your joke will be revealed. And it is at this point that, as George, Kramer, and Clare illustrated, your friends will likely abandon you. Unless, of course, that sort of thing doesn’t bother you—in which case, by all means, continue the voice, starting with those “friends”:

“Fare thee welllll! La-la-laaa.”

From “The Voice”
Episode 2, Season 9
Seinfeld Disc 1, Volume 8
Timecodes for the scenes: 1:06 (Jerry and George initially), 3:02 (Kramer and Jerry), 3:50 (Elaine to Jerry), 6:50 (George, at work, to Jerry), 9:10 (George and Jerry, at the café, to Kramer), 9:50 (Jerry to Clare), 13:24 (Jerry, again to Clare, saying good-bye), 14:20 (Jerry and George, the latter souring on the voice), 14:45 (Jerry to Elaine), 15:10 (Jerry saying good-bye in the voice to Kramer), 20:55 (Jerry to Clare, at the end), 22:05 (Jerry, George, and Kramer at the end)

“I never met a man who knew so much about nothing.”
April 1, 2012

cropped-jerry-seinfeld-stand-up-comedy-seinfeld1(another Seinfeld-in-culture note before you read on to the latest Seinfeld-isms below)

Jerry was flying first class and living it up (while Elaine suffered in coach) when this line came his way. His seatmate was marveling at a comment he’d just made about the fudge sundae they were eating (“They got the fudge on the bottom. You see? That enables you to control your fudge distribution as you’re eating your ice cream!”).

Who knows what Jerry will discuss in his “comedic distribution” this Wed, April 4, when he brings his stand-up again to Norfolk, Virginia. But I’ll be there, marveling at his comments. Marveling as I laugh, that is, at the insights of a guy whose brand of comedy is still relevant enough after all these years to play to packed houses. Even those who don’t laugh at Seinfeld–either his act or his show–have to hand it to a guy who gets a standing “o” as he takes the stage.

Let us all marvel then at more recent evidence of how Seinfeld continues to “live it up” in practically every section of our lives, from cars to politics to…

Tune in soon for a new Seinfeld-ism: a timely observation on spring (among other things) from a certifiable/smitten George.

“I don’t know what your parents did to you.”
August 20, 2011

(another Seinfeld-in-culture note to readers before you read on to more Seinfeld-isms below)

Elaine delivered the above line into George’s neurotic implosion over a date gone wrong (“She wants me to like her, if she likes me. But she doesn’t like me!”).

Parents magazine delivered a Seinfeld line in a sidebar story in their August issue (p. 116) for 2010. (This isn’t the first time Parents has done this. More on that later.) The line–“Serenity now!”–is arguably one of the most memorable…and most translatable-into-real-life…to ever come out of the show. And you don’t have to be a parent to appreciate it.

What parents in particular can appreciate is the way the line came to fuller human life with two words that George’s nemesis, Lloyd Braun, tacked onto it later in the same episode:

“Serenity now. Insanity later.”

Easy to see why that one probably won’t appear in Parents magazine–never mind that it’s even more revelatory about life. You do the hard day punctuated by Serenity now!‘s to fight off the insanity, then collapse onto the couch after the kids are in bed. You’re still trying to erase the blasted look on your face that says Insanity now–like some war-like movie about the horribleness of human nature directed by Francis Ford Coppola is about to go down in your house. What do you do?

You try not to think about what your parents did to you, for one thing–that’s what you do. And if that doesn’t work, you pop in any Seinfeld involving the Costanzas (e.g., “The Serenity Now”) and think, “Well at least I don’t have it that bad.”

“I had to take a sick day, I’m so sick of these people.”
August 6, 2011

(another Seinfeld-in-culture note to readers before you read on to the latest Seinfeld-ism, below)

Like most people, Elaine loved her work and hated her work, the latter evidenced by the above comment she made to Jerry (in the episode “The Frogger”) after a particularly hard day. The difficulty? Co-workers pushing cake on her as they celebrated…yet again…somebody’s something or other.

ABC’s 20/20 thought enough of that episode to include it in a story they aired this month in 2008, about people working out while they work—using such equipment as a treadmill with a desk attached to it. “Remember the ‘cake-pushers’ from Seinfeld?” the commentator began the segment, showing the clip from the episode.

Watching Seinfeld and living it–now that’s what you call “having your cake and eating it too.”

Let’s have another piece!

“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.

“Musicians. Get a real job.”
July 11, 2011

An impromptu observation to make when someone talks so incessantly about musical things–about, say, some new song they’re plucking–that you’re thinking Yeah, you’re really plucking something there.

“So the Raisinets are eating a box of Raisinets?” Jerry asked Elaine as they rode the subway and discussed a commercial showing various candies playing in a band: Raisinets on sax, Milk Duds on banjo, etc. At one point, the saxophonist Raisinets buys a box of Raisinets from a nearby concession stand. Elaine didn’t get it either. Jerry wrapped it up with this bon mot that he got from the scene.

You love music. (Who doesn’t?) What you don’t love are people with a mere modicum of musical skill who confuse the universal love of listening to music with the personal love of discussing music. And explicating it. And tying any conceivable topic of discussion back to it. You mention Back to the Future and in seconds your guitarist friend is onto Don Giovanni.

Eddie Van Halen did the guitar in the scene where Michael J. Fox puts the Walkman on McFly? Huh. No, I haven’t seen Amadeus. That’s why Eddie named his son WolfgangFascinating, you say–your polite “crescendo” as you bow out before you’re made to feel like you need the Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Rosetta Stone for Italian, and a few other “parts in your kit” to…er…be on the same sheet of music.

Wait for this person to leave the immediate area then strum Jerry’s low note with the nearby audience–or, if you’re comfortable with your conversational talent, play this rimshot while that person has a front row seat. Don’t fret about their reaction; eventually, they’ll understand: anyone with so much time and energy on their hands for one thing clearly needs something else to do. You’re just helping them get to it.

Or, to put it in terms they’ll understand: you’re giving them a friendly kick in the arpeggio.

From “The English Patient”
Episode 17, Season 8
Seinfeld Volume 7, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 00:00 (you read that “music note” right; this scene is the prelude to the episode)

“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

“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

“I don’t like this thing! And here’s what I’m doing with it!”
November 29, 2010

A scolding observation to let someone know they made a wrong choice…but the bigger wrong would be for you to not do anything about it.

George’s depression over losing his hair finally ended in his gaining a toupee–and dividing his friends in their reaction. Kramer approved; Jerry demurred. Elaine decided to take the matter into her own two hands: one to yank the “little hair hat” (Jerry’s words) off George’s head, and the other to open the nearest window in Jerry’s apartment.

No subject–or object–is sacred here if you proceed with caution. Could you get away with tossing a loved one’s hair piece out the window? Only you know. Do something they can undo, if they want to. The point is for them to understand that they shouldn’t have done what they did in the first place–not look at you as the angel of death. Take your aunt’s tummy tuck, for example: you could point it out (“I don’t like this..!”) and then, with a smile (“And here’s what I’m doing…!”), plunk down a few Drake’s Coffee Cakes right in front of her face.

That’s giving someone the “It’s not me, it’s you” to get them to see that this thing…it’s not you!

From “The Beard”
Episode 16, Season 6
Seinfeld Volume 5, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 15:13

“You don’t think I can put asses in the seats?”
November 17, 2010

A snarky question to answer those who don’t think you can step up to the challenge–your answer here being, in so many words, You might want to stand back.

Elaine happened to overhear Jerry and George hatching a plan to find a woman to flash some cleavage at their TV show boss–to trap him in a “peek-a-boob” moment and hold it against him (because he had just caught George in a similar moment and held it against him). When Elaine didn’t hear her good friends drop her name, she dropped this chest-puffing line.

It’s curtains up every time we walk out our front door: time to perform, to put on a good show–the right face, the right words, the right clothes. Then along comes a doubting Thomas in your workplace or circle of friends who doesn’t believe you’ve got what it takes to pull off a certain something, and you’ve basically one of two options with your next choice of words:

1) Shrink from their disbelief.

2) Jolt the audience like you’re Bon frickin’ Jovi popping up out of the stage in the “Lay Your Hands on Me” video.

Elaine’s line let’s your audience know you’re not into shrinkage.

From “The Shoes”
Episode 17, Season 4
Seinfeld Volume 3, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 16:43

“Worlds are colliding!”
November 2, 2010

A striking confession to those around you when who you are (e.g., the job you work in) and who you want to be (e.g., the band you play in) suddenly attempt to occupy the same space…and you’re a little spaced out.

When “Relationship George,” the lovey-dovey life he lived with fiancée Susan Ross, unexpectedly met “Independent George,” the hang-out life he lived among friends Kramer, Jerry, and Elaine–it was like two cars passing too closely going in opposite directions. Some good eventually came of it–Susan independently retreated from George’s independent world–but at the moment of the collision it was sparks flying…a sound heard in every syllable of George’s reaction at the scene.

For most of us, who we are and who we want to be are so different that we live a double life. If we could just merge the two–the band becomes the job–that would be the best. Instead, the worlds remain separate, and we try to make the best of both.

The rub comes in the inevitable collision between the two worlds. And it is inevitable. Even the most well-funded, superbly-directed double life is bound to run into itself, as Schwarzenegger illustrated in True Lies. The question is what you do when you see your lives crash before your eyes.

And here, thanks to George, is what you do–taking his cry not as existential (Why me?!) but triumphal (Why, yes!) as you anticipate some good to come.

From “The Pool Guy”
Episode 8, Season 7
Seinfeld Volume 6, Disc 2
Timecode for the scene: 11:12 (for more on the “worlds colliding” theory, see 2:28 for Kramer’s original explanation, 5:15 for Jerry’s and George’s explanations, and 11:24 for George’s explosive summary)

Dedicated to TI

“These pretzels are making me thirsty.”
October 20, 2010

An optimistic observation to make when faced with a problem so puzzling that, even after picking at it, you’re still not sure what to do–except maybe to get something to drink.

Kramer landed a small part in a Woody Allen movie, and this was his line. Unsure as he was about how to say the line, Jerry, Elaine, and George each played the acting coach…then soon began acting out using this line–not as art imitating life, but art commenting on life.

Look closely at many of the books, movies, and TV shows we enjoy and you’ll find in those stories a pretzel to untwist–a conundrum or mystery to solve. We love problem-solving…as long as it’s someone else’s problem we’re solving. This is why a comment like What’s the problem? is so prevalent–and sounds so different, depending on where you’re directing it: a helpful, always-look-on-the-bright-side-of-life sound when addressing someone else’s “pretzels” (“Sooo…what seems to be the problem?”); a harried, sometimes insane sound over the pretzels affecting you (“What is the PROBLEM?”).

Kramer’s famous line can be just as prevalent a comment–for the pretzel-y politics of workplace or family, for example–and a far funner comment to deliver, to boot. For one thing, you’re practically laughing at the problem, which mixes comedy with your bravery–yes, brave, as you are, to still be wrestling with a problem, not letting it get you down.

Which is what you’re announcing loudly, through this comment, with a come-one-come-all kind of cheer–so others might join you for a cup of courage.

From “The Alternate Side”
Episode 10, Season 3
Seinfeld Volume 2, Disc 2
Timecodes for the scenes: 9:25 (Kramer), 9:52 (Elaine), 9:55 (Jerry), 10:03, 10:30 (George), 11:13, 11:19 (Kramer again), 18:03 (Jerry), 20:20 (Elaine), 21:12 (Kramer et al.)

“You are the doofus.”
October 2, 2010

A syllable-smacking put-down for when you must call someone’s attention to their poor performance (and there’s no better way to get someone’s attention than to call them by name).

Elaine’s sudden appointment to the head of the clothing-catalog company where she worked inflicted her with doubt about her abilities–doubt that Jerry seconded but Kramer karate-chopped with Zen-like confidence. With that confidence now her own as her business took off, Elaine got Jerry on the phone to inform him that he’d just usurped the throne of Kramer, long since crowned the “hipster doofus.”

What’s in a name? “Aloof,” “goof,” and “genius”–that’s what’s in this name. Yes, genius. Kramer’s bulb sometimes shone dimly, but it shone brightly just as well (e.g., inventing a beach-smelling cologne that Calvin Klein picked up). And that gives you total name-calling immunity with this moniker. If the recipient is a genius, you’re reminding him that he too is human–prone to doofus-ness. If he happens to be a doofus, then you’re not just telling it like it is, you’re telling him there’s hope–hope that there might be genius in there, waiting to appear. Either way you’re golden, because this isn’t “constructive criticism,” as they say; this is a critical compliment.

And all hail Kramer for giving us a better oxymoron.

From “The Foundation”
Episode 1, Season 8
Seinfeld Volume 7, Disc 1
Timecode for the scene: 16:13

“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

“How about—it sucked.”
September 3, 2010

A daring comeback for when you’re faced with something that brings up the standard “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”—and so is ugly, you feel the need to remind the beholder.

Elaine’s date suggested they see The English Patient because it was up for all those Oscars, so she went (even though she wanted to see Sack Lunch and find out what was up with all those people in the brown paper bag). Bumping into friends as they departed the theater, the friends gooed—”How could you not love that movie?”–and Elaine booed.

Ugly doesn’t get as much air time in conversation because that’s what the conversation itself might become if you go there. And this is one time when you should—go there when someone goes so ga-ga over the beauty of something, that they can’t see that everything has flaws. Flick these words like a lighter in the darkness of their thinking, and you’ll show them things they might not otherwise see. How do I love thee? they pine of that thing and count the ways. “How do I hate thee!” you interject about that thing, and count away too.

From “The English Patient”
Episode 17, Season 8
Seinfeld Volume 7, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 4:04

“You’re a great guy. I love you, but you’re a pod.”
August 30, 2010

A back-slapping shout-out to use on those people in your life who look like human beings, act like human beings, but every time they open their mouths it becomes clearer that they’re from another planet.

Thanks to Jerry, Elaine landed the chance to rent an apartment in his building–a gesture he soon regretted when he realized she’d pop in even more. After the rent deposit turned out to be more than Elaine could afford, Jerry rejoiced…until Kramer suggested Jerry lend Elaine the money. Elaine took the offer, and Jerry looked at Kramer like he was less “K-Man” than “K-Pax”–an alien being whom Jerry wasn’t sure had come in peace.

The cosmic Kramers in your life put you in Jerry’s dilemma: these people could be phenomenally brilliant or galactically stupid, you’re not sure which; you just know you’ll never really rid your world of these lovable creatures because they are your friends. Putting up with them is part of the universal pact of friendship. So is reminding them every once in a while, as Jerry did here with Kramer, that you see through their pretense of being from planet Earth.

Indeed, if any one of these people became suddenly, consistently down to Earth, you would think they’d “been replaced”: Who are you and what have you done with _________ (insert the extra-terrestrial’s name)?

From “The Apartment”
Episode 8, Season 2
Seinfeld Volume 1, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 13:58

“I would lose that.”
August 23, 2010

A decisive comeback to use on anyone who drops a tired expression into a conversation.

When a trivial conversation sidetracked Jerry and Elaine from talking to George about his piano-playing girlfriend, George cut in with a Can we cut to the chase? Cut to the chase?” Jerry mocked. “Who are you, Joe Hollywood?” George had an answer for why he said it–and Jerry told him what he could do with it.

No, we’re not battening down the hatches–we’re preparing for difficult times. Yes, we’re pretty satisfied with our station in life at the moment, but we wouldn’t describe that location as cloud nine. The list of expressions we can do without is long, but your patience with people who use them doesn’t have to be. Knit your brow at every By Jove…! or Happy, Pappy? and repeat that expression back to them.That should be enough to rid them of their idioms. Most people don’t know–or can’t explain with a straight face–the origins of such phrases well enough to defend them.

If that doesn’t work, Jerry’s four-word declaration should be enough to make them go cold turkey.

From “The Pez Dispenser”
Episode 14, Season 3
Seinfeld Volume 2, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 7:23

“We mustn’t disturb the delicate genius!”
August 20, 2010

A cutting comeback to make of those people you must deal with because they have a specialty (medicine, law, etc.), and they go and do something that reminds you they’re not that special.

A pain in George’s arm led him to seek the medical attention of Elaine’s physical therapist friend, Wendy. When he missed an appointment without cancelling within 24 hours, Wendy charged him. Then when George showed up for another appointment and she wasn’t in—the whole thing had become a pain in George’s butt. And this was how he mitigated that pain.

Their degrees hang on their walls like windows out into the rarefied air of some higher-intelligence climate. But you see through them: yes, you’re standing in their ivory tower, but these people have two feet like the rest of us—feet they trip over now and then. Cases in point: you’ve had to move your appointment, pay more money, suffer phone calls to reconcile their errors…. The insufferable list goes on; they remain high and mighty. And now, thanks to George, you’ve a line to bring them down to earth.

Telling them this would fall on deaf ears, of course—dizzy as they are from all the pressure exerted on their heads at that egotistical altitude. So you lob your comment like a roll of toilet paper at the people who serve these professionals—the people of the front offices, on the phone lines, etc. You, for example, move another appointment (“Will that work for the delicate genius?”) and they won’t mind your missive—because they are as down to earth as you are, and so will get where you’re coming from: you’re just tee-peeing the ivory tower (and you’re not sparing a square).

From “The Kiss Hello”
Episode 17, Season 6
Seinfeld Volume 5, Disc 3
Timecodes for the scenes: 3:15, 12:00, 19:15

“That seems about right.”
August 16, 2010

A hard-hitting observation to use when someone brings up a personal subject–assuming everyone will keep their distance–and you decide to hit that thing like a pinata.

Kramer’s acting gig at a local hospital–portraying different ailments for medical students to diagnose–soon landed him a role he thought was beneath him. When he later walked into Jerry’s apartment and announced “Well…I got gonorrhea,” Elaine admitted outright that she didn’t see anything wrong with this picture.

People sometimes reveal something about themselves, inviting you to comment in a discriminate way: do you juggle the subject (“Are you sure?”)?; deflect it (“You need to talk to…”)?; duck it (“I’m hungry–let’s get something to eat”)? These are the times that try men’s souls, because what you’d like to say is the truth–except most people can’t handle the truth.

Which is why, sometimes, you must speak the truth, even if it has all the effect of pulling out a bat. People may furrow their brow and stand back a little because they’re not sure what you’re going to do next. “I really dorked that up,” your cousin says; and with the four words of Elaine’s line you say not only “Yes, you dorked that up” but also “Because you are in fact a dork.”

Imagine the more meaningful conversation that would follow that.

From “The Burning”
Episode 16, Season 9
Seinfeld Volume 8, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 7:52

“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

“You saying you want a piece of me?”
August 12, 2010

A chest-puffing challenge for predicaments that call for a little diplomacy, but you’re listening to that little voice inside of you this time—and it’s saying “It’s go time.”

Discussing with Frank Costanza, George’s father, what George did to get himself arrested, Elaine said something about George’s ability to hatch such a scheme. “What the hell does that mean?” Mr. Costanza swung, his demeanor cartoonish. Elaine counterpunched: “It means whatever the hell you want it to mean.” That fired up Frank, not to defend the honor of his son or the glory of the Costanza dynasty, but to throw this sucker punch.

They went to blows, yes, but one pictures two close kids in a backyard rumble—a picture completed by Elaine’s counter-sucker-punch: “I could drop you like a bag of dirt.” This is one person’s “No, I’m not” vying with the other’s “Yes, you are,” the silly fisticuffs of family and friends. Which means you probably shouldn’t use the Costanza challenge on co-workers, cashiers, and other strangers.

But if such people should rankle you–say, they’re flouting Order and you feel like making a scene–don’t forget the cartoonish demeanor. You’re the wit holding a crowd at, say, a bar–not the nitwit starting a fight outside it.

From “The Little Kicks”
Episode 4, Season 8
Seinfeld Volume 7, Disc 1
Timecode for the scene: 21:30

“You know we’re LIVING in a SOCIETY…”
August 11, 2010

A grandstanding observation to use on someone who flouts Order, and rather than confront the person, you prefer to make a scene (and you just might win an Oscar while you’re doing it).

George tried to use the pay phone at the Chinese restaurant where he, Jerry, and Elaine were waiting to be seated. The man already on the phone ignored George’s request to use it, and when he got off, a woman got on and she wouldn’t get off–much to George’s ire. Rather than use brinkmanship in chastising the woman, George chose showmanship and chastised the World.

Take the stage with this line when you take umbrage at someone’s unruly behavior. Take the stage. This is “go to the mattresses” (minus any Godfather-ish confrontation) or “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore” (minus the Network cameras)—a line that may not endear people to your character or even move them by your message, but it’ll be entertaining to them…and cathartic for you. Few things are more entertaining and cathartic than a scene from a good movie.

And that’s all you can hope for, really, in situations like this: the good that can come out of it for you, without bringing the bad out of somebody else. You don’t ask a friend to watch your back while you dress down some stranger. You ask a friend to kick back with you over dinner while you recount your scene then wash it down—that’s how people normally act when airing their grievances.

And a particular person’s rudeness followed by your rebuttal to no one in particular—that’s entertainment.

From “The Chinese Restaurant”
Episode 6, Season 2
Seinfeld Volume 1, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 8:03

“You’re quite breathtaking.”
August 4, 2010

A flat-out put-down (disguised as a flattering observation) to use in lieu of what you really want to say…which would take the listener’s breath away–huffing at the horrible insensitivity of your comment, that is.

Vacationing with friends who had a baby, Jerry, Elaine, and Kramer finally got a good look at that baby and–Gehhh. Evidently the baby (which we never see) would have made some of the world’s ugliest leaders (de Gaulle, Golda Meir, etc.) run up a tree. Enter the handsome family doctor, Ben, who refers to Elaine as “breathtaking” and now she really likes him. When Ben then pays the baby the same compliment–Errr?–confusion builds in Elaine until Ben later explains, “Well, you know, Elaine, sometimes you say a thing like that just to be nice.”

The initial reactions of Jerry, Elaine, and Kramer to the baby–in front of the baby’s parents–said it all, about the predicament most of us face when telling others what we really think about them: Jerry and Elaine masked their repulsion; Kramer’s reaction, witnessed in another episode that included this baby, was to snap his head back as if he’d just been hit, literally, with an ugly stick.

Wish for it though we might, we can’t all be Kramer, whose life was, as George once put it, a “fantasy camp”—weekly activities that included mooching off neighbors, sex without dating…and giving opinions without repercussion. We can’t, for example, tell that micromanaging boss what Kramer once told an actor friend of Elaine’s, “Why don’t you just give up?

Dealing with people’s feelings involves a number of reactions that typically fall between two options: you might suck the air out of the room (e.g., “No soup for you!”) or you might blow smoke into it—using “breathtaking” at will, to describe what you will.

From “The Hamptons”
Episode 21, Season 5
Seinfeld Volume 4, Disc 4
Timecode for the scene: 7:20

“They’re the worst.”
August 3, 2010

A curt observation for categorically dismissing all of humanity, not because you’re having a bad day or even a “moment”–you just felt like doing it. Because they deserved it.

Jerry was small-talking with Elaine about nitwits who get on a plane and start talking to you because they’ve got nothing else to do. Elaine understood: “I will never understand people,” she said, articulating the word never like hers was the last word on the subject–and it was a good one. Jerry one-upped her–and it was the stuff of a Dickens novel.

Humanity is inherently good, they say, but we know that’s up for debate. Look no further than Newman (“He’s pure evil,” Jerry once said) to see why. Yet we also know that Newmans are few and far between (“He’s a mystery wrapped in a Twinkie,” Jerry also said) so that thickens the debate.

What should settle the debate is what we know from our interactions with people, which tend to leave one of two general impressions: It was the best of this personIt was the worst of that person. And in this Tale of Two Personalities we see in every person we meet, the best may be yet to come. But until then…it’s the worst.

You go to a movie theater–they’re there, loud and obnoxious. You’re driving down the road, minding all traffic regulations–they’re there, and they’re not minding. Even when they’re not there, they’re the worst. You head to the checkout lane and discover new meaning to the word checkout: the register clerk apparently did just that when she saw the line forming. You dart into an open lane–the lane light is on–but no register clerk is home.

Who are these people? “What is with these people?” People! Why? These are some of life’s most (de)pressing questions.

And now you have an answer.

From “The Face Painter”
Episode 23, Season 6
Seinfeld Volume 5, Disc 4
Timecode for the scene: 3:00

“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

“What is this salty discharge?”
July 29, 2010

A befuddled observation to make when life forces are compelling you to be an Emoticon–but you will remain a Vulcan.

Jerry’s girlfriend goaded him to get really mad, because she hadn’t seen Jerry show such emotion. When Jerry finally did—ranting something about having had enough flan—Jerry’s girlfriend decided she’d had enough. She departed, and Jerry started wiping his eyes. “Oh my God, you’re crying,” Elaine chimed in. “This is horrible,” Jerry replied–and discovered the context for this phenomenon: “I care.”

You may be otherworldly in your ability to hide your feelings, but even you, like Jerry, have to keep a thing or two in that glass-faced box marked “Break in Case of Emotion”–just like the rest of humankind. That bumper sticker on your vehicle that says People say I don’t care…but I don’t care is no better than the polish on that vehicle: it’s rubbish, ultimately, in the face of time and circumstance. So when those teary moments come up, rare as they may be, reach for this observation.

The sterile wording will override whatever your tears are communicating, leaving those around you with this context: OMG…he doesn’t care!

From “The Serenity Now”
Episode 3, Season 9
Seinfeld Volume 8, Disc 1
Timecode for the scene: 11:05

“And the heat—my God, the heat!”
July 27, 2010

An upbeat observation to make when someone makes you feel like it’s the end of your world as you know it…but no, you feel fine.

When Elaine confronted boyfriend David Puddy about his religiosity, he waved it in her face like a giant foam finger that said “John 3:16” and “We’re #1!” Taking a line from Puddy’s canon (“Don’t boss me! This is why you’re going to hell”), Elaine went finger-for-a-finger and poked him right back: “You should care that I’m going to hell even though I am not.” She even finger-painted a picture of how rough it was going to be (devils, ragged clothing, etc.)…just to be sure her enlightened man saw her light.

Use Elaine’s frantically silly comment when the heat is on—from the abyss of your job, the purgatory of a relationship, the living hell of that family reunion, etc.—and you will paint this picture: of course you can take it. Yours may be the only laughter here, but since laughter does good like a medicine, that means you’re saving your soul—and they should be losing their religion.

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

“No soup for you!”
July 21, 2010

A brazen shout-out for when you need to let someone down a la You’re out of luck, and you don’t mind bludgeoning their feelings while doing it.

George and Elaine fell victim to this verbal assault from the culinary genius known as the Soup Nazi, whose zeal for his craft so focused him on that craft, that normal communication was beneath him in the presence of anyone who didn’t pay his craft the respect it deserved—people who, for example, kissed on their “schmoopie” while standing in line rather than saying “One mulligatawny” and stepping to one side.

No need to substitute for “soup” another subject you want to dish up, a la No raise for you! (The approach has obvious delicious merits, but if you’re not fully committed to the blunt wording and psychotic exclamation, your substitution will only produce quizzical looks, like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli.) The universal images conjured by the word soup—ordering a favorite one in a fine restaurant, receiving an efficacious one from a friend while you’re ailing, etc.—all have to do with being provided a comfort food.

Being denied that comfort, courtesy of you channeling the Soup Nazi, is punishment enough for anyone, in any discussion.

From “The Soup Nazi”
Episode 6, Season 7
Seinfeld Volume 6, Disc 1
Timecodes for the scenes: 4:00, 8:35

“George is gettin’ upset!”
July 20, 2010

A self-explanatory observation for those times when circumstances cause you to talk in an abnormal way—referring to yourself in the third person, for example.

When George’s good friend Elaine struck up a friendship with his girlfriend Susan, George’s worlds collided. Hapless, he could only watch. Speechless he was not, however, and one of George’s replies was to take a page from an old basketball-playing friend who loved to talk about himself—“Jimmy likes Elaine”; “Jimmy’s down!”—and rewrite it to address his own pathetic situation.

Rewrite at will to make it your own: the Jimmy-George inspiration behind this observation also begat “George is losing it!”, “George is gettin’ frustrated!”, and even expressions for situations that were the opposite of pathetic (e.g., “George likes his chicken spicy!”). All of these excel at self-improvement—and make a decent contribution to society, to boot. Announcing aloud just how beside yourself you are is a courtesy to anyone within earshot. You’re just letting them know where you stand.

From “The Pool Guy”
Episode 8, Season 7
Seinfeld Volume 6, Disc 2
Timecode for the scene: 11:10

“You know, sometimes when I think you’re the shallowest man I’ve ever met, you manage to drain a little more out of the pool.”
July 19, 2010

A picturesque put-down to use on the superficial people in your life who could stand to be pushed into a pool–clothes and all, unexpectedly, right when they’re making some grandiose point.

Plunging headlong with Elaine into the classic “real or fake?” debate about a certain female body part, Jerry thought he’d ended the discussion with the upper hand. Elaine one-upped Jerry by telling him, in this indirect but illustrative way, to get real.

The analogy takes a monochromatic put-down (“You are so shallow”) and colorizes it with sarcastic flair. Substitute “shallowest” and the “pool” part with any number of similar put-downs that give rise to suitable analogies (e.g., “Just when I think you’re the loudest person I’ve ever met, you manage to stack a few more speakers on the stage”).

Just be sure to properly fit your put-down into the shallow/pool construction, or the analogy for your situation will be the classic throwing yourself from a stage and into the pool of a crowd—who promptly sidestep as you face-plant onto the floor.

From “The Implant”
Episode 19, Season 4
Seinfeld Volume 3, Disc 4
Timecode for the scene: 6:00

“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

“Boutros-Boutros ‘Golly.’”
July 15, 2010

A brilliant observation to express childlike wonderment when you’re faced with something so stunning that coherence escapes you.

When Jerry, Kramer, and Elaine encountered a half-naked woman on the beach where they were vacationing, the first words out of Jerry’s mouth were “Boutros-Boutros Ghali.” (The last word pronounced “golly.”) Momentarily awed, like a schoolboy peeking into a beautiful neighbor’s bedroom window in a 1980s’ movie, Jerry didn’t say, “Wow, look at those….” No “Hubba hubba.” Not even a “Breathtaking.” Just the name of the Egyptian man who served as the sixth Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1992 to 1997.

Golly evokes the younger days of talking for hours on end—“What do you think of this?”; “What about that?!”—but your vocabulary only filled five minutes with original material. Translated from the adolescent tongue, it means “I don’t know what to say but I’m working on it.” Boutros-Boutros “Golly,the adult version of golly, will leave people around you nodding. If they are as smart as you, the name drop will also leave them thinking, “That reminds me of a Trivial Pursuit question I once had….” This is a win-win situation either way.

You don’t know what to say but you’ll come off sounding like you do.

From “The Hamptons”
Episode 21, Season 5
Seinfeld Volume 4, Disc 4
Timecode for the scene: 4:00

“The fabric of society is very complex, George.”
July 13, 2010

An encouraging observation to offer those around you who are obviously in over their heads, and the best thing for you to do under the circumstances is to give them a palm-smack to the forehead disguised as a pat on the back.

Elaine suggested that she, Jerry, George, and Kramer bring vino to the dinner party they were headed to. “Why?” George retorted, his blockish expectations thunking up against the wine bottle-shaped entrance to this little social scene. Jerry’s observation about society helped get George–puffy coat, puffing cheeks, and all–through the door.

The pleasant tone softens the coarse insight: you’re not telling your friend that he or she is out of touch with the world; you’re observing that the World is untouchable to us all–no one can get a grip! The tack works because the fabric of friendship is very simple, one thread of which is this: pulling one over on a friend every once in a while is for his or her own good, if only because it makes you both feel good.

From “The Dinner Party”
Episode 14, Season 5
Seinfeld Volume 4, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 1:56

“Tell us more, Mr. Science.”
July 12, 2010

An easygoing comeback to use on those who rear their heads mightily in conversation to show that they know so much more than you do.

While George, Jerry, Kramer, and Elaine were vacationing, Jerry’s date walked into a situation that gave her a little hunch about the real George Costanza, and she couldn’t help saying something about it to George’s date. Trying to dispel their false notions about his true dimensions, George later illustrated his point by discussing what laundering does to a t-shirt. Elaine promptly popped his bubble.

Adjust Elaine’s comment—Mr. Medicine, Mr. Sportscaster, etc.—to fit whatever bulbous head is struggling to find its way through the neckhole of your finely-knit conversation.

From “The Hamptons”
Episode 21, Season 5
Seinfeld Volume 4, Disc 4
Timecode for the scene: 15:35

“Kudos, Elaine on a job…done.”
July 7, 2010

A massive shout-out to use on those who foul-ball on a job you asked them to do–and you weren’t even asking them to hit it out of the park, just get it on the field.

J. Peterman, Elaine’s boss, had just returned to the helm of his adventure-chic clothing-catalog company after leaving Elaine in charge while he got over a little case of Office Space. When he saw that Elaine’s biggest decision precipitated fashion disaster, this was his summary reply–delivered in the same room-filling, syllable-smacking voice he used to say just about anything (e.g., “Elaine…you’ve got to see The English Patient“).

Fill the room with your voice when you say it–the more flourish, the better, to give it that Peterman-ian flair–and don’t forget to give a full pause between the words “job” and “done.” Volume is not the point here; calling attention to the one word you’re leaving out of this universal courtesy is.

From “The Money”
Episode 13, Season 8
Seinfeld Volume 7, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 15:44

“Well then I was WAAAY off!”
July 6, 2010

A boisterous comeback to use on those who come to you for advice then it backfires on them–and now they are looking at you, with the flames of that backfire in their eyes.

Kramer did this to Elaine after she questioned her abilities as the newly-crowned head of her clothing-catalog company. Kramer exhorted her and she ate it up, the slack-jawed audience to his motivational speaker. On the winds of Kramer’s inspiration, Elaine soared…with all the aerodynamics of a flying candy apple. “You told me I could run the company!” she turned on Kramer, after her crash and burn. Kramer countered with all the subtlety of a man with a bullhorn.

Use with confidence on anyone who listens to what you had in mind and now they’d like to give you a piece of their mind. To acquaintances and strangers, this is the confidence that says “It wasn’t my advice, it was your failure!” To family and friends, this is the confidence that says “Why did you listen to me in the first place? You know me!”

From “The Foundation”
Episode 1, Season 8
Seinfeld Volume 7, Disc 1
Timecode for the scene: 20:20

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