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What's up with the current craze for ending a sentence with an incredulous "really?"
March 16, 2010 12:04 PM   Subscribe

"Really?" I see this added to the ends of sentences a lot lately, generally as an expression of exasperated disbelief. As in, "You think that comment was appropriate? Really?" Is this something that came from a popular TV show or famous person? Or did it just start showing up a lot on Metafilter for no real reason. In other words, what's up with the current craze for ending a sentence with an incredulous "really?"
posted by Outlawyr to Writing & Language (48 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I know Rachel Maddow uses it all the time, and I'm pretty sure that's why it spread through my liberal-lesbian circle of friends.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:06 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think we are all looking for a succinct and polite way to get others to rethink mistaken ideas.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:08 PM on March 16, 2010


I've seen it spike up a little bit lately, perhaps as a result of Maddow, but it's by no means new - I've heard it for ages. I associate it with a rise in Jon Stewart-esque incredulous frustration with blatant bullshit.

Also, a bit on SNL used it last week, which might have contributed.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:08 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


SNL popularized it on a Weekend Update segment ("Really?" with Seth and Amy) over the past couple years though I'm sure it didn't originate there.
posted by bondcliff at 12:09 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Really?" is/was a segment on SNL's Weekend Edition for some while, wherein Seth (and Amy) question the statements or actions, starting with the question Really? and then going into the rest of their criticism.

Perhaps because of those segments, I don't see it as either succinct or polite, but rather emphasis for serious doubt in a previous statement.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:12 PM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's a quicker way of saying "Motherfucker, is you fo' real?" Well, to me anyway.
posted by mokeydraws at 12:15 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I wonder if the rise in popularity might have something to do with the O RLY? meme from a few years back.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:17 PM on March 16, 2010


Oh, and I think it just comes out of more conversational writing. People want to sound on paper the saem way they sound in person, or at least hold on to some of the verbal inflections.
posted by mokeydraws at 12:18 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


My friends and I have been doing it at least five years, we live on the other side of the world and have never seen SNL. I don't know where it comes from but it's pervasive and not terribly new.
posted by shelleycat at 12:18 PM on March 16, 2010


I'm not entirely sure how to articulate this because it's not exactly a "thing" as much as it's a common use of the word "really" and people have been saying that for as long as I've lived (I'm 25, though). As others have pointed out, there have been gags centered around it and Maddow says it more often than most people, but when I read it somewhere or hear someone say it, I never connect it to those things because it's not a kind of slang or catchphrase. The SNL gag and Maddow didn't invent it or anything, they're just exaggerating something people say anyway.
posted by Nattie at 12:25 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jim from the American version of "The Office" does this often.
posted by Anephim at 12:25 PM on March 16, 2010


I think people today tend to write in a manner that mirrors their (casual) speech patterns.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:26 PM on March 16, 2010


It seems like the usage is almost identical to an incredulous "seriously?!" as a single-word sentence. Maybe that could provide some clues.

Also, I watched a little of the SNL segment, and from what I saw, it's hard to say whether the segment is supposed to be funny at or funny with the "really"-saying folks. (Looks like a little of both? Maybe they don't even know, themselves?) I wonder whether the SNL bit motivated wide-spread usage, or vice versa. (If not both).
posted by sentient at 12:27 PM on March 16, 2010


I also thought of "Seriously?!" -- I know I started saying THAT from overexposure to Grey's Anatomy about 4 years ago.
posted by citywolf at 12:29 PM on March 16, 2010


I haven't really noticed this, but then again just about everyone I've known since childhood has said "Really?" when they're told something that's hard to believe, so I probably don't even notice it. Its interchangeable with "you're kidding".
posted by Nyarlathotep at 12:35 PM on March 16, 2010


To those who say people always said really I say . . . really?!? But seriously now, I realize it's a word and people use it and have done so for some time. But picture a chart with a low squiggly line charting the use of "really" at the end of a sentence. Then picture that line shooting up in the past, oh, year or so. That's what I'm noticing.

You haven't noticed this? Really?!?

(see . . . like that).

(and thanks to everyone attempting to explain. This has been driving me nuts).
posted by Outlawyr at 12:35 PM on March 16, 2010


Then picture that line shooting up in the past, oh, year or so.

But I've been hearing it less in the last year because the people I spend time with are different. So I call confirmation bias.
posted by shelleycat at 12:51 PM on March 16, 2010


You would hear it at least once every 15 minutes or so from Adam Corolla on early-2000s Loveline (the radio show).
posted by the jam at 12:57 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Confirmation bias is a distinct possibility. But I don't think that's it.
Don't make me search mefi comments for the word "really" and compare results from different years. Don't you make me do it.
posted by Outlawyr at 12:59 PM on March 16, 2010


Seconding Gray's Anatomy.
posted by Wild_Eep at 1:15 PM on March 16, 2010


Really, Outlawyr?
posted by callmejay at 1:15 PM on March 16, 2010


Don't make me search mefi comments for the word "really" and compare results from different years. Don't you make me do it.

I would like to see you do this. In the absence of other evidence, I think this may be confirmation bias.
posted by grouse at 1:17 PM on March 16, 2010


Seinfeld? Jerry Seinfeld definitely said it in the way I think you mean (SLYT) a couple of times when he guested on 30 Rock, but I don't remember whether it was used on Seinfeld itself.
posted by caek at 1:21 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ok, you made me do it. Kind of. "Really" is a tough word to search for since it's so common. But here are some examples of what I'm talking about:

The Five Best? Really?

September 10, 2009 9:44 AM

Oh, pretty pictures. Really?

June 14, 2006 10:12 PM

"You named your collaboration QAP? Really?"
November 5, 2008 11:29 AM

Flirtweeting? Really?
May 8, 2009 10:23 AM

Norah Jones over Miles Davis? Really?

October 10, 2006 10:10 AM

This (sort of) random sampling doesn't support my theory that it's been in the last year or so that this has become more common, so let me (conveniently) revise that to the last 4 years or so. (This is how real scientists do it, right?)
posted by Outlawyr at 1:23 PM on March 16, 2010


do it!
posted by yeoldefortran at 1:28 PM on March 16, 2010


Caek might be on to something. Seinfeld is now my prime suspect.
posted by Outlawyr at 1:34 PM on March 16, 2010


http://www.seinfeldscripts.com/TheSoupNazi.htm
3 times

http://www.seinfeldscripts.com/TheSerenityNow.htm
3 times (though they don't quite fit the pattern)

http://www.seinfeldscripts.com/TheSeinfeldChronicles.htm
2 times (but again, don't fit the pattern)

http://www.seinfeldscripts.com/TheContest.htm
3 times (two fit the pattern)

I think we might have a winner.
posted by Outlawyr at 1:38 PM on March 16, 2010


I posted this to twitter and someone suggested that Jon Stewart does it too.
posted by k8t at 1:53 PM on March 16, 2010


Yeah, I was about to mention the Seinfeld connection, as I remember it being used in that context a fair amount. I can't recall a specific earlier use.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 1:56 PM on March 16, 2010


I think the Seinfeld examples are a bit different from the new "really?" phenomenon. The Seinfeld "really?" is not as sarcastic - "I don't believe it, but go on." Maybe a little incredulous, but still generally earnest, and the conversation generally continues.

The modern "really?" is dripping with sarcasm, like the MeFi examples - "Flirtweeting? Really?" It's a flat dismissal of what the person is saying, not "do you really mean that?" so much as "did you really just say that?" It's a rhetorical question.
posted by pocams at 2:22 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


The rise is usage is directly correlated to the rise in the amount of people rigidly holding such ridiculous, easily-disproven beliefs that you literally can't say anything else when confronted with them.
posted by Aquaman at 2:28 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Here's a reference from 2006: "Chuck Norris Jokes? Really?"

This might be the same usage, from 2008: "The Choking Game...really?!"

I started searching for "I mean, really?" and came up with a line in a Dawson's Creek episode, that went, "How long did you think it was gonna be before some guy comes along and is interested in her? I mean, really, dude! And when that happens, what are you gonna do?"

I think the usage that Outlawyr asked about has begun to lose all meaning for me after all the searching, though. So it's hard to tell if this last one is correct; it might actually be a little off -- kind of huffy or like "oh, come on!" as opposed to really?'s slightly dismissive, amused, "you've gotta be kidding me," incredulity.

Even if you can sort through the "really" results to find the "Really?" results, or the "? Really?" results, you still need to read a lot of the context to see if it's the correct usage, since there are a few different incredulous really?s. It's interesting.
posted by sentient at 2:43 PM on March 16, 2010


Ooh: this is the correct Really?, right? 10 second Seinfeld video on YouTube.

It's an ad for 30 Rock, I assume.
posted by sentient at 2:48 PM on March 16, 2010


Oh, I see caek posted that ages ago. :) Nevermind.
posted by sentient at 2:58 PM on March 16, 2010


Sentient, yes.

The modern "really?" is dripping with sarcasm, like the MeFi examples - "Flirtweeting? Really?" It's a flat dismissal of what the person is saying, not "do you really mean that?" so much as "did you really just say that?" It's a rhetorical question.
posted by pocams

Yes yes yes!
posted by Outlawyr at 3:56 PM on March 16, 2010


Note that when I was an undergraduate (late 1970s) there was an article in the campus newspaper complaining about how the use of "really" was so common among the younger students, it was almost a cliche. So this usage is hardly new.
posted by Rash at 5:04 PM on March 16, 2010


This (sort of) random sampling doesn't support my theory that it's been in the last year or so that this has become more common, so let me (conveniently) revise that to the last 4 years or so.

Well, thereĀ“s also more users in the past 4 years than earlier in metafilter history.
posted by yohko at 7:50 PM on March 16, 2010


I have to chime in - every time I hear "really" used in this context, I immediately jump to Arrested Development, when Michael asks about George Michael's girlfriend, Ann. "Her? Really?" So when it's used, in my head, you're all talking about Ann Veal.
posted by kerning at 8:38 PM on March 16, 2010


Seinfeld is definitely both the most societally influential and oldest use I can think of.
posted by cmoj at 11:22 PM on March 16, 2010


Well, I can see this is slipping into the scrap heap of old AskMe posts. Just wanted to jump back in and thank everyone for tossing in their two cents. I'm now pretty convinced this has its roots in Seinfeld, although post titles like "Oh, pretty pictures. Really?" still seem to be a unique variant.

Most importantly, now it will drive other people crazy, not just me. And for that, I both thank you and apologize.
posted by Outlawyr at 4:23 AM on March 17, 2010


People are mentioning Seinfeld, which makes me suspect (and/or semi-remember) that it has probably been used along the line on "Curb Your Enthusiasm" too. And, maybe, even more annoyingly, on "Everybody Loves Raymond" or any number of other similar sitcommy shows from this past decade as well.
posted by blucevalo at 7:34 AM on March 17, 2010


Seinfeld and Carolla might have been first, but I wonder if the timing in your observation doesn't point to Bill Simmons, who writes a popular column on espn.com as The Sports Guy.
posted by troywestfield at 8:02 AM on March 17, 2010


It's also used a lot by "The Miz," a professional wrestler.
posted by cass at 8:33 AM on March 17, 2010


Whatever its origin, it sucks.

Really.

Seriously does, too.
posted by notyou at 9:54 AM on March 17, 2010


The Japanese have been using their equivalent ("so ka?") for a long, long time

In conclusion, I think we're turning Japanese I think we're turning Japanese I REALLY think so
posted by chalbe at 11:47 AM on March 17, 2010


TBS? Really?
posted by Outlawyr at 1:23 PM on April 12, 2010


Hey, two in a row:

Really? Your sitting government barely passes some legislation after a huge saga, and that's worth a t-shirt?

. . .

posted by shakespeherian at 11:22 PM on April 13 [4 favorites +] [!]


DP?!? Really? At what point are they going to rebrand themselves The Hilarious Double Entendre Party?
posted by Bromius at 11:24 PM on April 13 [7 favorites +] [!]

posted by Outlawyr at 8:03 AM on April 14, 2010


And again in the same thread:

Holy crap. Really?
posted by Outlawyr at 8:45 AM on April 14, 2010


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