Culture

‘Jumping Sharks and Dropping Mics’

If you have ever wondered where the term ‘drop the mic’ came from then a new book which is to be released will uncover the mystery of modern idioms that have become commonplace in our vocabulary over the past 50 years or so.

Jumping sharks and dropping mics – Modern idioms and where they come from” goes through the origins and use of various idioms such as “Groundhog Day”, that colour our everyday communication.

Author Gareth Carrol’s new book explores how these modern idioms had emerged in our language and how they may have entered our vocabulary through, TV, movies and the internet.

Groundhog Day has come to be synonymous with “déjà vu”, or a sense of things repeating themselves in a predictable fashion. The modern use of the phrase emerged very soon after the film of the same name (which tells the story of a man stuck living the same day over and over again) was released in 1993. Uses of “Groundhog Day” to describe repetitive situations became so common that by 2012 some people were decrying it as a journalistic cliché because it had become so embedded in the language. Nowadays even people who have never heard of the film would recognise the term with its modern meaning.

Gareth Carrol who is also a Senior Lecturer in Psycholinguistics at the University of Birmingham says:

“Jumping Sharks and Dropping Mics grew out of an academic and personal interest in idioms and phrases, and how they emerge, evolve and work their way into the language. The idea behind the book is to help show that, just like words, idioms are born and die out, and in the past few decades have come thick and fast from areas such as film, TV and internet culture, as well as from a range of more general sources. The book is intended to be educational and fun, and hopefully everyone learns a new phrase or two along the way.”

Published by Iff Books, “Jumping sharks and dropping mics – Modern idioms and where they come from” will be available from 25th February 2022 but is available online to pre-order.

Gareth was recently interviewed by Michael Rosen on the book and the surprising origins of modern idioms BBC Radio 4’s Word of Mouth.

Gareth Carrol is a Senior Lecturer in Psycholinguistics at the University of Birmingham. His work looks at how people use and understand figurative language, including idioms, metaphor and other non-literal forms of expression. He has written articles on these topics for a range of academic journals. He lives in Birmingham with his wife and cat.

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  1. I have seen the movie Groundhog Day but as a Canadian Groundhog Day is the day that the Groundhog, a real animal by the way, comes out of his den and declares whether winter is ending or will last for another 6 weeks. This idea of “deja vue” must come from non Eastern North Americans

  2. Although I’ve lived in Scotland for more than 25 years, I was born in Ohio (the next state west of Pennsylvania, where the real groundhog lives) and I grew up with Groundhog Day. When I was a kid (I’m now 77) we waited eagerly for the news of Punxsutawney Phil’s shadow–or not–to predict the next six weeks of weather. Although not on the day itself, I did spend a day in Punxsutawney so I can vouch for its actual existence. I enjoyed the film, but it does sometimes irritate me that people think the definition of Groundhog Day is something that repeats itself–instead of an actual day. I’ve come to admire the screenwriter who thought up this brilliant choice of a day for the actor to repeat. Christmas or the Fourth of July or other holidays would have been much more complicated to repeat and risk offending someone. So choose a small (larger since the film) gathering of people in a small town for a brief check on a small animal’s shadow–instead of an actual holiday. We also grew up with a different view of groundhogs. The family farm (in the family for nearly 190 years) has always had groundhogs digging holes for themselves in the ground under the front steps. My usually kind father (who was born there) was once tempted to swerve on the road to remove a groundhog. Although the family has tried various methods of eviction over the years, the groundhogs are still there. My guess is that they have been on that hill for hundreds more years than our family has.

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