Our Daily Bleg: British TV Only, Please

Our resident quote bleggar Fred Shapiro, editor of the Yale Book of Quotations, is back with another request. If you have a bleg of your own — it needn’t have anything to do with famous quotations — send it along here.

Now, before you consider Fred’s latest request below, just ask yourself: Are you having a laugh?

Thanks to the many who responded so enthusiastically to my blegging last week for suggestions of famous post-1980 TV catchphrases. Bobby Budnick, or whoever posted #224 in those comments, I am waiting to hear from you about the promised $50.

Here’s one directed at those Brits and/or Anglophiles among Freakonomics readers.

Another bias in my list of television catchphrases in The Yale Book of Quotations is toward U.S. television shows. I largely ignored the rich area of British television catchphrases. For the next edition, I would like to include at least the dozen or so most renowned British TV catchphrases from all time periods. Can readers suggest which phrases might merit inclusion in that select group?


Fawlty Towers:
"Is this a piece of your brain?"
"Don't mention the war."
"I know. I know. Oh, I know."
"I can speak English. I learn't it from a book."
"Is not rat, is Siberian Hamster."

Young ones:
"Right on!"
"Coke - symbol of free west"
"I look at life like this." (while squinting and tilting head to the side)
"That's white man's electricity you're using there."

Little Britain:
"Computer says no."
"I'm the only gay in the village."

Are You Being Served?:
"I'm free."
Mrs Slocum's pussy must be a "catch object"

Some Mother's Do Ave'em:
"The cat's done a woopsy"


The one that first springs to mind for most brits, I'm sure, is ....

'Nice to see you, to see you nice' : Bruce Forsythe.

Anyone who suffered through his many different game show incarnations of the 70s 80s and 90s must have this catch phrase tatooed on their frontal lobe forever. It's so wierd when you think about it.. to see you nice?


"Are you my mummy?"
- Doctor Who


"Apparently." Coupling


"You're nicked - get yer trousers on!" -The Sweeney.

"Are you ready for a Ruddles?" -Vivian Stanshall, Ruddles beer ad.

Obnoxio The Clown

"Check please"
-- Goodness Gracious Me


i'll use the one i used last bleg:

"Be seeing you."
"And you."

from The Prisoner.

"I am not a number, I am a free man!"


"Contender READY! Gladiator READY!" - Gladiators

"Can I have a P please Bob?" - Blockbusters


"I'm on probation!" - Ideal

Conor - Ireland

Just a few I've noticed not mentioned -

'...and our survey says, [then make a buzzer noise]'

Family Fortunes (quiz show)

'Hear me now!', 'Is it cause I is black?'

The Ali G Show (extra funny cause Ali G was played by the Jewish, clearly non-black, Sacha Baron-Cohen)


Let's Off Road! (Fast Show)


You might very well say that - I couldn't possibly comment (House of Cards)
I know nothing! (Fawlty Towers)
Rene! ('Allo 'allo)
Olio-oo! (Ready, steady, cook)


"I can do science, me."

"She Who Must Be Obeyed" ... "the Portia of our chambers" and "a bottle of Chateau Thames Embankment" from the TV adaptation of Rumpole of the Bailey.

Likewise any number of Sherlock Holmes lines, like "The game is afoot" or "Elementary my dear Watson."

From Keeping Up Appearances, my favorites are "Do be careful, Elizabeth, dear" immediately before Elizabeth drops/spills her tea and the description of the brother in law as "bone idle."

Oh, and a friend assures me that on Spanish TV, Manuel is from Italy, not Barcelona.


"You're my wife now Dave." -League of Gentlemen


"Don't panic!"
"They don't like it up 'em! They do not like it up 'em"
"Permission to speak sir"
"You stupid boy"

All from Dad's Army


Yeah but, no but, yeah but, not but, yeah but


I think to be a catchprase it has to be something that was said many times. Some of the comments above give very funny and memorable extracts but they aren't catchprases.

My votes would be for:

"I have a cunning plan" - blackadder
"i shall say zis only once" - allo allo
"Good moaning" - allo allo
"Rodney, you plonker!", "lovely jubbly", "mercee bo-coupe" etc - only fools and horses
"I've started so I'll finish" - magnus magnusson
"Mind the pedestrian" - keeping up appearances
"Here's one I made earlier" - blue peter etc
"He's from Barcelona" - fawlty towers (and "He's from Mexico" in the version they broadcast in spain!)



More from 'Allo 'Allo:
"You stupid woman" [in French accent] (every time Rene is caught in flagrante, and denies it was what it appeared to be)
"Good moaning" (British airman, speaking with dodgy accent)

And Blue Peter's "Here's one we made earlier" is a classic.

Al Marsh

"I have a cunning plan" - Blackadder

"No one expects the Spanish Inquistion" - Monty Python

"Don't mention the war (I mentioned it once but I think I got away with it)" - Fawlty Towers

The latter isn't technically a catchphrase, as it was only used in one episode, but it has since become one of the most famous comedy lines and is often said in daily conversation, even now, 30 years after the show.

Epathea Litmer

"The computer says no."
Carol Beer character from Little Britain