…and a metaphor was born

By Phil Plait | September 21, 2007 4:34 pm

According to MilkAndCookies.com, today is the 20th 30th anniversary of the birth of a metaphor.

Did you know Randi was on Happy Days? I wish I had the video of it! The synopsis of the episode is online; scroll to #129, "The Magic Show".

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Humor

Comments (31)

  1. Mark

    That’d be the 30th anniversary!

  2. Greg

    That would be 30th anniversary, of course. The day shook our world.

  3. Bad Albert

    I saw the original airing of that episode where Fonzie performs the “Milk can Escape” while filling in for the drunken Randi. Thanks for reminding me I’m old.

  4. Christian Burnham

    It’s little known, but the shark went on to write fantastically original novels after this incident.

  5. Chip

    Larry David was aware of this tendency in TV sitcoms when he put into his guidelines for Seinfeld: (1.) There will never be “A Very Special Seinfeld!”

  6. Grand Lunar

    I feel confused. What is the metaphor?
    Sorry, this is before my times. :(

  7. Christian Burnham

    Grand Lunar:

    Google ‘Jumping the Shark’

  8. I remember the Randi episode of Happy Days. It was in fact the first time I had ever heard of him. Him hanging upsidedown outside a window in a strait jacket is usually one of the first images that pops into my mind when I think about him.

  9. Troy

    I remember Fonzie jumping the shark, it was the only time I went out of my way to watch happy days.

  10. bassmanpete

    I’m with you Grand Lunar, I’d never heard of it nor knew where it came from. I only ever saw about 3 episodes of Happy Days as it was always on in the UK in the ’70s when I was heading out to a gig.

    I’ll probably ruffle a few feathers here, but the Fonz came across to me as too up himself to be cool :)

  11. Grand Lunar

    Thanks, Christian Burnham! Thanks helps a lot. Hard to see that detail in the video.

  12. Grand Lunar

    Pardon my bad grammer. It should’ve read “That helps a lot”.

  13. Max Fagin

    I like the south park version more, where he doesn’t make it.

  14. This episode was in season six, which doesn’t look to be on DVD yet. Amazon has seasons 1 through 3. As soon as it comes out I’ll put it in my Netflix queue.

  15. Bo Babbyo

    Yow. I never watched HAPPY DAYS, so I had never seen the actual shark-jumping, but I had heard about it and I knew the whole Fonzie connection.

    But MAN! I never had any idea how AWFUL that sequence was or what a great metaphor the shark-jump was/is!

    Thanks for some valuable cultural enrichment.

  16. Bo Babbyo

    Oh and BassmanPete — it’s hard for me to imagaine you’ll ruffle any serious feathers with your opinion of “The Fonz.”

    I never could figure out why he was such a big deal. He was so cleaned up and watered-down that I’m amazed he had any following at all. He never had enough grease in his hair. Early in the series he wore A BABY-BLUE WINDBREAKER instead leather jacket, and when he finally DID get a leather jacket, it wasn’t a motorcycle jacket but a bomber jacket.

    How I gleaned all this info I will never know, because I am pretty sure I never watched an entire episode of this show.

    TRIVIA NOTE — Check me out on this, but I’m pretty sure the pilot for Happy Days ran as a segment on LOVE AMERICAN STYLE.

  17. It could just be me, but I’ve never heard the phrase “jumping the shark” before. Possibly not one we Brits use.

    And we didn’t get the first series of “Happy Days” until 1978 – this excerpt probably explains why it was flogged to us.

  18. bassmanpete

    Selina, when it did come to the UK it was shown in the London area first. I lived in Cheshire & used to buy the New Musical Express and Melody Maker. They had these ads on the back pages for T-shirt designs (my favourite was the 2 vultures sitting on a tree branch where one says to the other “Patience my ass, I’m gonna kill something!”) one of which was for The Fonz. I used to wonder who he was & asked others but they didn’t know either.

    It seemed like a long time after that before Happy Days appeared in the Granada region & the mystery was resolved. Anyway, at least Granada had The Beatles before anywhere else :)

  19. Rav Winston

    Oh, yeah. I remember Randi’s appearance on Happy Days. And –alas!– I also remember that “jumping the shark” episode! My (lack of) god! the show had gotten crappy by then!

  20. Bill Bones

    Although I’ll use Wikipedia to get some clue about WTH is this nonsense about, I have to say: American sometimes just are too fond of their own navel… :/

    (Anyway, if the aim was to definitively puzzle and irritate foreigners with obscure references to some American TV-pop culture idiocy, this post has been a success… now I’ll have to waste time finding out what the hell is this nonsense about else my curiosity gland will explode, but SURE it won’t be worth it… >:( )

  21. blizno

    “Although I’ll use Wikipedia to get some clue about WTH is this nonsense about, I have to say: American sometimes just are too fond of their own navel… :/

    (Anyway, if the aim was to definitively puzzle and irritate foreigners with obscure references to some American TV-pop culture idiocy, this post has been a success… now I’ll have to waste time finding out what the hell is this nonsense about else my curiosity gland will explode, but SURE it won’t be worth it… >:( )”

    Bill Bones, I can assure you that it won’t be worth it.
    This episode of the dragged-out Happy Times TV sitcom marked a historic low point for US culture. This became a cliché for a dying TV show that got so very bad that its own viewers begged for the show to be put out of its misery because they could no longer stand to watch its suffering.
    This is now a cliché for anything that once was worthwhile but is still being clung to long, long after it should have died.

  22. blizno

    AAGGHH!

    I showed my ignorance of late 20th Century US popular culture.

    I wrote “…Happy Times TV sitcom…”.
    Every patriotic, red-blooded American knows that should be “…Happy Days…”.

    I’m so embarrassed…
    I’m going to turn in my flag, my SUV and my gun collection. I don’t deserve to be an American…

  23. Quiet Desperation

    Man, even as a kid when it first aired, I turned to someone and said, “Isn’t he ruining that leather jacket?”

    Even then I was a skeptic. :)

    >>> I’m going to turn in my flag,
    >>> my SUV and my gun collection.

    Can I have the guns? actually, I could use a new flag, too.

  24. Bo Babbyo

    “. . . .This became a cliché for a dying TV show that got so very bad that its own viewers begged for the show to be put out of its misery because they could no longer stand to watch its suffering.
    This is now a cliché for anything that once was worthwhile but is still being clung to long, long after it should have died.”

    And, as is the case with a number of clichés — “game not worth the candle”, “lock stock and barrel”, “carrying coals to Newcastle” “motorman’s holiday,” doubtless there will be many who use the term without knowing what its initial meaning is/was.

    I’d have to say, “jumping the shark” fills a gap in meaning that isn’t quite satisfied by “contemptuous by familiarity” or “stale” or “past its sell-by date” or even “clichéd”. There are, after all, reasons why a cliche’ becomes a cliché.

    (And by the way, how did you get the actual é with the accent ague character? I cut-and-pasted yours I was so jealous.)

  25. StevoR

    Metaphor birthed 30 years ago the day you posted it. Hardly metaphotr methinks dates back – along with simile (spelling?) to ye olde English times or even before that all the way back to the cavemans’ early gruntings – a picture on teh wall pof amammoth is arguably ametaphotr for theactual animal … a-n-y-w-a-y …

    What you meant (I think) was the birth of a specific metaphor ie “jumping the shark’.

    Well, I was never a big Happy Day’s fan before or after I heard of it. But I grok the idea anyway. There are a whole lot of TV shows that I think “jumped the shark” – a sizeable number in their pilot episode! ;-)

    I could be controversial and suggest that the way the ‘Star Trek’ franchise jumped the Shark with the series after ‘The Next Gen’ is a classic example tho’ ..

    Come to think of it, I just have! ;-)

  26. StevoR

    Oh and for a new flag I suggest Americans replace the old ‘Stars & stripes’ with a giant bloody Swashtika combined with a Crucifux and the Star of David along with these words in blood-red :

    “In Dubya Bush’s warped interpretation of God we trust”

    with perhaps a row of barrels of oil or skulls symbolising the various states …

    It’d certainly be an apt if sad and no doubt enragingly accurate reflection to most of the world about how you’ve changed and what sort of a nation you’ve sadly become.

    BTW. Despite my strong anti-Bush feelings & political outlook, I’m actually very much pro-USA – its smarter, better, more inspirational side exemplified by Martin Luther King & Isaac Asimov – & Phil Plait & the good folks here that is; NOT its fundamentalist, hypocritically prudish*, arrogant, ignorant neo-con one exemplified by George the Second.

    I discern a battle within America right now and I wish I could say the side of good and hope for the future was winning, the sideof science and democracy and civil liberties NOT the side of the Religious Wrong & Neo-Conservative fascists out for “full spectrum dominace” over a planet they donm’t understand and care only about getting themselves rich from regardless of the suffering.

    If you’re going to give away you’re guns and SUV’s, well, the rest of the planet would be very grateful ..

    * Ie the sort of thing where Janet Jackson’s 1/4 sec. part-breast flap has folks foaming at the mouth yet a President lying his country into the war crime of invading Iraq and thus murdering hundreds of thousands of innocent people gathers nowhere near even a tenth that same outrage ..

    —————————————
    Hmmn .. now all that that is going to be controversial – albeit very true.

  27. J. D. Mack

    For those who don’t understand why Fonzie was considered cool, you actually understand the concept perfectly. Fonzie started out on Happy Days as mysteriously cool, and then over the course of the show, he was revealed as more and more human and just like everyone else. I always thought that that was the point.

    J. D.

  28. Quiet_Desperation

    >>> Oh and for a new flag I suggest Americans replace the
    >>> old ‘Stars & stripes’ with a giant bloody Swashtika

    Stuff it. I hate Bush, but we’re not the ones declaring the destruction of Israel and all Jews as part of our national policy. You are trapped in an ideological singularity.

  29. blizno

    “(And by the way, how did you get the actual é with the accent ague character? I cut-and-pasted yours I was so jealous.)”

    It’s easy and fun, Bo Babbyo.
    With numlock turned on, hold down the alt key while typing the decimal ASCII code on the number pad. The character will appear when you release the alt key.
    é is alt-0233.

    Here’s a table of ASCII codes that work in Mac and Windows:
    http://www.4d.com/docs/CMu/CMU10121.HTM

  30. Irishman

    StevoR said:
    > Metaphor birthed 30 years ago the day you posted it. Hardly metaphotr methinks dates back – along with simile (spelling?) to ye olde English times or even before that all the way back to the cavemans’ early gruntings – a picture on teh wall pof amammoth is arguably ametaphotr for theactual animal … a-n-y-w-a-y …

    >What you meant (I think) was the birth of a specific metaphor ie “jumping the shark’.

    Um, yes. What Phil said was “the birth of a metaphor” (emphasis added), not “the birth of metaphor”. See the difference? English, you might try it some time. You might also try typing. (“metophotr”, “teh wall pof amammoth”, etc).

    I mean, if you’re going to be hypercritical, at least don’t screw up yourself.

    (I now invoke Gaudere’s Law. So there.)

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »