The Worst Word in Any Script


I’m usually pulling a video or picture from somewhere else to feature on Unreality, but every so often a text article comes along that’s worth sharing. I found this piece from the New York Times to be particularly interesting, as it chronicles the rise of the word “Really?” as a hugely overused comedy trope and lame punchline. Think about it, how many bad shows have relied on it for a laugh when they didn’t know what else to say? How many good ones?

“The pilot of Showtime’s “House of Lies” last winter wasn’t four minutes old when Don Cheadle’s character, a high-priced consultant, spat a “Really?” at his father after Dad had criticized his child-rearing skills.

The military too. Last week’s premiere of ABC’s “Last Resort” had barely begun before a high-ranking officer threw a “Really?” at two subordinates who were goofing around. No wonder the whole submarine is now in the middle of a nuclear crisis.

And, yes, the plague has reached the highest levels of government. In the season finale of the HBO comedy “Veep” in June, what did Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s Selina, the vice president of the United States, say to a staff member who had prematurely sent out a news release about his own promotion? “Really?” John C. Calhoun and who knows how many other oratorically inclined former vice presidents turned over in their graves.”

I highly recommend giving the entire thing a read. What’s that? You’re too lazy to read article more than 300 words long? Really?

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  1. Well, it is a really common word and that is a really common usage for it. To make dialogue sound natural, it’s necessary to throw in things that people occasionally say IRL and “really?” is definitely something I hear quite a bit so it’s not really going to phase me when a fictional character used the same term of exasperation.

  2. I’m so glad I wasn’t the only one who found this annoying. It seems less annoying on Archer, but still overused. Now that everyone is doing it, yeah, instant turn off.

  3. It’s not that everybody is just now starting to use that phrase as a response but it has been around for who knows how long. I don’t find it annoying and on the contrary I will agree with trashcanman and say it’s a casual thing for people to say and the more life like characters are the more like the public will relate to them even if it is something common and overused. But I can also see where it can mean a lack of imagination on the script writing aspect too. I never thought it was worth pointing out but apparently people are annoyed after they nit pick at something and then they constantly see it happening after that but before they noticed it the first time they were oblivious that it was happening so frequently.

  4. Yeah, I’m gonna go ahead and keep using “Really?” in everyday conversation, because that’s how it’s used, and therefore its appearance in popular culture is justified, and this editorial is basically trying to make a weirdly specific pet peeve into some kind of generalized critique of modern film and television.

  5. This is as stupid as the “no adverbs” thing. The only rule is to do it confidently and do it well. Or, as William Goldman says, “Nobody knows anything!”.

  6. t’s iused to make a point, I dont see any issue with it. If anything, what is even more annoying is that the Newyork Times has nothing else to write about but a potienially over used word. Shows much apathy.

  7. It’s a fad, hopefully it goes away soon.

    People who use the “Really?” or “Seriously?” response are twits. Picking up fads to use in conversation is weak.

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