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What Are Your Pop Culture Quirks?

November 11, 2010

If you’re passionate about pop culture, you’re bound to be a little quirky. The books you read, the music you listen to and the films and TV shows you watch eventually seep their way into your habits, memories and conversation.

I recently realized that I have all sorts of little things I do that are kind of interesting, strange or outright illogical. So I’m going to out myself as incredibly random person and present some of my own pop culture quirks.

Fall on Me

I could be in the subway, on the treadmill, or in the middle of a conversation. A few times I’ve even done this hearing the song live at an R.E.M. concert: I raise my arms each time I hear Michael Stipe sing, “lift your arms up to the sky” in the song “Fall on Me.” I wish I could say why I started doing this, or even when, but I honestly have no idea.

I don’t play Simon Says with any other R.E.M. song (for example, I don’t stand in the place where I live, then face north) or any pop song for that matter, but this is the one thing I do. I really can’t explain why.

Johnny Damon is an Angel

I’m not a baseball fan, but I was drawn in to the game when I lived in Boston and the Red Sox won the World Series for the first time since 1918. Many people were really excited–and hot for–the long-haired, scruffy Johnny Damon. Since he was supposed to be dreamy, every time I would see him come up to bat, I’d sing “Johnny Damon” to the tune of “Johnny Angel.” This quirk has stuck with me, even after I became a New Yorker and he a Yankee and then ex-Yankee.


Where Are They Now?

After finishing a TV season on DVD, I check out the show’s Wikipedia page and IMDB page, to get a sense of whether the actors I became attached to over 22 or more episodes still have promising careers. More often than not, this ritual leads to disappointment, when I see that so many of them have resumes littered with Law and Order guest spots or were third-billed stars in Lifetime movies.

I’ll Be There (But I Won’t Listen)

An extinct pop culture quirk: I vividly remember the first time I heard Mariah Carey’s MTV Unplugged cover of the Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There.” It was in 7th grade, and I woke up just in time to hear the song premiered on Rick Dees’ KIIS-FM morning show. I immediately loved the song, but in my sleepy haze I missed the first lyric in the second verse.

After I listened to the song, for some inexplicable reason, I decided that I never wanted to know the lyric. Whenever I heard the song subsequent times, I’d actually block my ears or mute the song so I wouldn’t hear it. I think it was some weird junior high OCD thing, but unlike the “Fall on Me” quirk, it thankfully expired before high school. (In case you’re wondering, the line was “I’ll reach out my hand to you.”)

Shock and Awe

The Westing Game is one of my favorite books of all-time. I remember the exact moment I fell in love: it was during the reading of Sam Westing’s will when Grace Wexler is shocked by something she hears and exclaims out loud. The lawyer yells “sit down, Grace Windsor Wexler!” The lawyer then sheepishly explains that the admonition wasn’t coming from him, but was actually written in the will.

I think I gasped. I definitely laughed out loud. That sentence astounded and delighted me in a way no single book ever had before. And ever since I read it in elementary school, whenever I’ve experienced similar moments of euphoric surprise, I think of them as “Grace Windsor Wexler” moments.

90s TV Theme Songs

Whenever I hear the name “Martin,” I just can’t say the name. I have to say it like the way it is sung in the Martin theme song.

In a sort of similar vein, any time I see Brandy I automatically launch into “Mo to the! E to the!” from the Moesha theme song.  (So it’s probably best I’m not a viewer of Dancing with the Stars.)

Yo Yo Yo Quiero

I think of all my pop culture quirks, this one has been with me the longest. Each time I visit San Francisco (and in fact was just there, which was the inspiration for this post), Divisadero Street inexplicably reminds me of I Love Lucy. Specifically, this episode. (Fast forward to the 2:10 mark.)

Whenever I see the word, I automatically hear Lucy singing this song, instead of her singing “Yo yo yo quiero” its “Divisadero.” And then I continue to have the tune stuck in my head for the rest of the time I’m in San Francisco.

So. Incredibly. Random.

What are your biggest pop culture quirks?

40 Comments leave one →
  1. November 11, 2010 1:03 am

    The Westing Game!!! I loved that book so much too and remember that Grace Wexler Windsor moment of the book. Oh, I need to re-read that one soon.

    I need to marinate on my quirks, I’ll be back. (Though I have a similar problem with “Martin”, too, and I compulsively check IMDB after watching a movie. Well, actually DURING a movie, more often.)

  2. November 11, 2010 2:30 am

    I never really thought about all the quirks that come with pop culture. Some of it I don’t even know how it started. Some are usually inside jokes. During the song “All Apologies” plays we have always slapped the headliner during the “married, buried” lyrics. There is still the occasion to flex my foreign language skills. “Hakama matuso nobata!!” is Hovitos for…..who the hell knows but I have been saying it for damn near thirty years. If Indiana Jones didn’t need to know, neither do I.

  3. November 11, 2010 4:52 am

    After finishing a TV season on DVD, I check out the show’s Wikipedia page and IMDB page, to get a sense of whether the actors I became attached to over 22 or more episodes still have promising careers. More often than not, this ritual leads to disappointment, when I see that so many of them have resumes littered with Law and Order guest spots or were third-billed stars in Lifetime movies.

    HAHAHAHA. I do this too. More often I do it to check to see if the person in question has ever worked with/for Tom Fontana and what that means for my weekend. Turns out, everyone’s worked with Tom Fontana or Dick Wolf. And more often than not in an episode directed by Robocop!

    My pop culture quirks…

    Despite always knowing an actor’s real name I prefer to call them by character names. Like, Knox Harrington – The Video Artist, Stands with Fists, Matrix Chick from Models Inc/Stink, The Kang, Hans Gruber, Opie Cunningham (who’s on my shit list) and so forth.

    I also cannot leave a store while a song is playing, even if I hate the song, which is surprisingly often the case. No. I must wait until the song is over and then run out of the store or else I have to suffer through the next song. It’s how I know this awful song:

    Ha. I did not see this Fergie situation coming and I have this freaking CD on my iPod. I could have played the home game of this nightmare all along! She totally sounds like she did when she was doing Sally’s voice in the 80s.

    In the YA novel by Kin Platt called Crocker (whoa this cover has Crocker looking like the dude who frequently delivers my pizza. Not how I pictured Crocker in the book. Nothing against my delivery guy!) – which I highly encourage folks to read – he has a passage where he debates the difference between a “string of” bowling alleys and “several” bowling alleys. The context seems to have something to do with being a bag man for the owner of said bowling alley and why his fey straight hotness is always getting him beat up by bitter, jealous bitter boys. I read this passage 27 years ago and it made quite an impression. I have absolutely no reason why, but will say it drifts into my thoughts at least once a day.

    I suppose another quirk is my obsession with random opening lines of fiction.

    “Sybil Davidson has a genius I.Q. and has been laid by at least six different guys.” – Judy Blume’s Forever

    “Call me Junior. My six grown kids do. They don’t think I know.” – Kurt Vonnegut’s Timequake

    Of course, this blog’s title and concept might perhaps be the best example of my pop culture quirks! “I fry mine in butter!” is a totally random punchline to a joke in Vonnegut’s Timequake, which I oddly have nearly committed to memory given that I have practically worn out the audio download on my various long distance road trip.

    I am the same with Bridget Jones’ Diary and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s reading of The Bell Jar, which I can do a bang on impression of.

    Okay, that’s enough of that. This was a fabulous post!!!

  4. November 11, 2010 10:12 am

    When I hear “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me”, I always do the George Michael line “Ladies and gentlemen….Mr. Elton John!” at the appropriate time, even if it’s not the duet version that’s playing.

    Speaking of live v. memorex, when I hear the opening strains of Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb’s “Guilty”, I always say “wanna dance?” in the style of Babs from her 1986 live concert album.

    I have never seen an entire episode of any Law & Order franchise. I didn’t mean for this to happen, I don’t have a strong opinion against the show, it’s just the trend missed me by millimeters, and now I feel compelled to maintain my record.

    Whenever I hear Carol of the Bells, I hear the Sweeney Sisters on SNL (Jan Hooks and Nora Dunn) singing made up lyrics – “here come the bells, so many bells” etc. I also always sing “Clang Clang Clang went the trolley” when someone mentions Meet Me in St. Louis, even though I’ve never seen the movie; it’s the signature medley ending line from the Sweeney Sisters as well.

    I have more idiosyncrasies, I’m sure!

  5. November 11, 2010 10:18 am

    @raymondj I’m also a compulsive checker of IMDB, esp. the trivia section. Most of that stuff is gleaned from DVD commentaries I think, but I always find those tidbits interesting.

    @1sttime0ffender I had to Google “Hakama matuso nobata” to figure out which Indiana Jones movie its from. It took me longer to figure this out then I can admit. 🙂

    @snarkysmachine I had no idea that the name of the blog was based on that! That’s awesome. And like you, I can’t leave the car or a grocery store, or even turn off my iPod, until whatever song is playing (even as bad as that Fergie one) is done.

  6. IrishUp permalink
    November 11, 2010 10:44 am

    Oh, this post makes me feel so much less alone!

    I had a Johnny Damon quirk – although this might fall as much under Sports Superstitions as anything. I thought he looked like the HB cartoon character, Captain Caveman. So, any time he came up to bat, or made a play, I HAD to say “Johnny Damon” like “Captain Caveman”

    I loved “Cheers”; but because of this episode

    I cannot hear “groin injury” IN ANY CONTEXT, without saying “g-g groin in-jur-ee” right after. Ever,

    In general, I will bust out a line/verse from a 70s radio hit that goes with topics of conversation. Recent IRL example
    Me: So, how was your trip?
    Friend 1: We had a fabulous time in Barcelona
    Friend 2: I’ve never been to Spain
    Me: * ” … but I kinda like the mu-si-ic” *

    I have to work hard sometimes to suppress this in formal settings.

  7. evmaroon permalink
    November 11, 2010 10:54 am

    Several years ago I asked friends not to get me any presents for my birthday because I really didn’t need anything, but knowing that more than a few a them would never listen to such pleadings, I said that if they really couldn’t not get me something, to go for a non-picture book that they loved as a child. So that is how I came by The Westing Game for the first time in my mid-30s. What a great book!

    I honestly can’t think of my quirks, although I can come up with a few things that have left indelible marks on my pop culture consciousness:
    The Portmanteau Book
    (freaking) Valley girls—please, stab me with a pitchfork
    You Can’t Do That on Television
    The Tomorrow People
    Encyclopedia Brown and The Hardy Boys AND The Bloodhound Gang

    Oh, the 70s and 80s…

  8. November 11, 2010 11:04 am

    I have the IMDb thing too. It actually led to an amusing adult perspective on a family tradition from my childhood, namely watching A Christmas Story every year (we still do this and I’m 23). I had always known those actors as their Christmas Story characters, so last year I decided to look them up on IMDb to see what they had done after that. Flick, the kid who gets his tongue stuck the the flagpole, grew up to do a bunch of porn in the 90s.

    A lot of my pop culture quirks are associated with my dad. Ever since I pointed out to him that one of the characters on Spin City was Cameron from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (I was in middle school), I’ve had an unspoken challenge on with him to recognize obscure actors, actors playing against type, disguised actors, or young versions of actors when I’m more familiar with their adult roles—without checking the credits or IMDb. Some of my proudest finds are Anna Paquin in The Piano (after X-men and Finding Forrester) and Karl Urban in The Bourne Supremacy (after Lord of the Rings).

    Whenever somebody has a name that doesn’t look like it’s spelled, I have to say “It looks like Raymond Luxury Yacht, but it’s actually pronounced Throat-warbler Mangrove.” It’s a Monty Python joke my dad quoted throughout my childhood. I’ve never seen the actual sketch.

    Whenever I find myself in a posh, poorly-lit restaurant, I turn to my companions and say, “I’ll have a hamburger and a flashlight,” which is a quote from A Thousand Clowns, a movie my dad introduced to me when I was a kid which no one else I know has actually seen.

    @raymondj Whenever I hear Carol of the Bells, I have to sing along with “meow meow-meow-meow,” because the band Guster released “Carol of the Meows” to accompany the “Meow Mix” version of their album Keep It Together.

  9. November 11, 2010 11:21 am

    Oh, and anywhere I possibly can I have conversations in RENT lyrics. If someone says “It tastes the same,” I have to say “If you close your eyes.” If someone knocks on the door, I have to sing “What’d you forget? — Got a light? — I know you, you’re, you’re shivering.” I can’t not do it. And the more rare the set-up, the more excited I am about getting in the next line.

    Doctor Who has also taken over my brain. There is a DW quote for every occasion. Objects inspire reflexive lines. Bowtie? “Bowties are cool.” Fez? “I wear a fez now.” Gas mask? “Are you my mummy?” Any word that ends in “-ate” is ripe for Dalekification. I swear I have heard the TARDIS landing in my backyard and actually leaped to the window to check before my brain catches up to me and I realize it’s the combination of old pipes and traffic passing.

  10. November 11, 2010 11:43 am

    ahaha, the Temple of Doom! Anything Goes!!!!

    Speaking of live v. memorex, when I hear the opening strains of Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb’s “Guilty”, I always say “wanna dance?” in the style of Babs from her 1986 live concert album.

    Me too! HAHAHA. Oh yes.

    I also make up lyrics to TV theme songs with no words. Mostly it’s excitedly yelling the names of the actors and crew.


  11. November 11, 2010 11:48 am

    Nearly all my favorite quips are lifted from dialog spoken by Mr. C. (RIP).

    “Cancel Pittsburgh, I’m in love…”

    Marion: Howard, she was rolling to a stop! (Marion’s mom threw Howard out of a moving car.)
    Mr. C: So was I.

  12. hsofia permalink
    November 11, 2010 1:54 pm

    Another Westing Game fan here. In fact, I just sent a copy of it (along with a few other books) to my niece for her birthday.

    I’m an IMDb-checker, too, but what I’m checking for is “where have I seen that actor before?” Half the time I’m shocked because the person who looks so familiar to me hasn’t been in anything else I’ve watched. This happens a lot with British actors.

    I’m convinced (as much as one can be convinced of a thing one knows isn’t true at all) there is a corporate cabbage patch from which we get at least 50% of our Hollywood/Britland actors. There’s a BoD somewhere whose responsibility it is to fills in voids left by older actors (Brad Pitt as Robert Redford 2.0 is perhaps the most famous example), and offer up variations on same molds – whatever it takes to meet the needs of the studios. So whenever an actor catches my eye, I immediately try to place them, figuring out who their parent and sibling molds might be.

    Another quirk is that although I love music and listen to it often (especially pre-Kidlet), I can count on one hand the number of songs I’ve memorized the lyrics to. Even my most favorite songs I couldn’t recite back to you – maybe the chorus, but possibly not even that. If the song is playing, I can sing parts of it, maybe.

    I’m physically unable to watch movies or TV shows “in the background.” I wish I could, but even folding laundry is too much multitasking; when the credits roll I look over to see the one pair of socks I rolled up during the opening scene (which I had to rewind several times because I was distracted by the sock) and a basket full of untouched clean laundry. If I try to make the non screen watching activity my focal point, I end up turning off the television set because the noise of it aggravates me. So unlike the Hubster and many other people I know, I rarely see the same movie more than two or three times. This severely hampers my movie quoting ability, which makes me feel wistful.

    Not sure these are quirks so much as deficits ….

  13. November 11, 2010 5:24 pm

    speaking of Indiana jones, when someone makes a bad selection, I often say in the tone of the Grail knight: “you have chosen…UNwisely.”

  14. November 11, 2010 5:34 pm

    Babby and I have infused all forms of communication with Lebowskisms. I don’t think we can go one single exchange without either saying, “Bunny says you’re good for it.” or “There’s not reason…no f’ing reason…” amongst other things. Even if we’re not actually running lines, if we say a word that’s in a line, we will say it like it was said in the film.

  15. November 11, 2010 6:49 pm

    LOVED The Westing Game. Wisconsin author!

    I also do IMDB. Spouse and I have a spot-the-Canadian contest, sort of. I always ID the filming locations and he spots the actors.

    I frequently hear in my head the parody lyrics (I.e, The Rye or the Kaiser) when pop songs are on instead of the original and always hear Duchovny’s XF lyrics to the theme: “here comes some spooky shit, let’s take a look at it.”

  16. November 12, 2010 4:51 am

    Being an 80s kid, I sing to anything that leads into an appropriate tune…though occasionally at inopportune moments….Whenever someone says the word Copacabana (rare- but it’s happened twice)… out goes a Manilow jig and “the best club this side of Havana”. “Let’s go for a walk”…like an Egyptian.
    It happens even to TV programs. At my babysitters, I watched too many Soap Operas. So as I’m boarding on the bus one Friday, the bus driver remarks how careless bicyclists ‘own’ the road.” Out comes, Don’t they know they’ve “got One Live Too Liiiive”?

    @raymonddj: You made me laugh about the Elton John reference. You’ve got that down better than Parker Lewis Cant Lose’ “synchronize swatches” routine.

  17. aliciamaud permalink
    November 12, 2010 8:31 am

    I can’t NOT sing along with a bad commercial jingle. The more clunky the jingle, the more compulsive my singing. M tends to mute the commercials right at the end so all we can hear is my singing. A few favorites are the deadly Huck Finn’s furniture warehouse commercial (which uses a bunch of tone deaf kids singing at full volume…I assume they are the children of people who work at the warehouse, given that they are short on musical talent and a bit on the homely side relative to the usual commercial cherubs), one for a local law agency that goes “Martin Harding and Mazotti, do it again, call 1-800-law-ten-ten,” and another that proclaims “Back to doin’ what I love and more…back to the Good Feet Store,” for a store that sells arch supports, though the jingle suggests that they sell Good Feet. We were talking about “quirks” in my class and I shared this one, after which my students showed me this gem. It’s not local, so I never catch it on tv, but it’s pretty amazing, so I do sing the theme when I pass a red house:

  18. aliciamaud permalink
    November 12, 2010 8:36 am

    Whenever I tell my mom a sweet or moony story about my partner she starts a Moonstruck quote:

    “Do you love him, Loretta.”
    “God, ma, I love him awful.”
    “Ugh. That’s too bad.”

  19. aliciamaud permalink
    November 12, 2010 8:39 am

    Oh, and two family quirks…when my brother and I leave to go home, my dad always says “Be careful out there among the English.” (From Witness.)

    And just before we hit my tweens, my family did a little lesson on table manners—somehow we came up with a coded reminder for placing napkins on laps—the lyrics were “Got my napkin/on my lap/Got my napkin/on my lap lap lap” sung to the Indiana Jones theme song. In public the tune could just be hummed as a little prompt. So weird. Still do it.

  20. November 12, 2010 10:37 am

    Of all the posts I’ve written for Fry Butt, this one’s my favorite because of all the amazing comments and pop culture quirks everyone has shared. Especially cool to see how many people love The Westing Game and check IMDb obsessively for different reasons. You guys are awesome!

    @aliciamaud That Red House commercial is AMAZING. I’m also privy to singing bad commercial jingles despite myself. My least favorite, and therefore the one that gets stuck in my head most:

    If you’ve never heard it before, sorry for introducing it to you now. It’s incredibly awful. And yet, I now have the phone number for IO Digital Cable memorized. Sigh.

  21. November 12, 2010 11:25 am

    @raymonddj: You made me laugh about the Elton John reference. You’ve got that down better than Parker Lewis Cant Lose’ “synchronize swatches” routine.

    LOL Parker Lewis Can’t Lose.

  22. aliciamaud permalink
    November 12, 2010 11:43 am

    @popscribblings: Bwahhahaha…that is god awful.

  23. November 12, 2010 12:23 pm

    This post has caused me to realize that a good 20% of what I say is regurgitating some sort of pop culture reference. Everything from The Simpsons, Family Guy to The Evil Dead and Goodfellas. I feel so unoriginal all of a sudden.

  24. evmaroon permalink
    November 12, 2010 12:33 pm

    Ah, but 1sttimeoffender, spitting back out pop culture references isn’t unoriginal, it’s a new originality. And hey, didn’t Dennis Miller make an entire career out of this crap?

  25. November 12, 2010 1:22 pm

    I’m pretty sure for the next few days, whenever I see a black and white person meet/shake hands, I will sing in my head: “at the Rrreeeeeeeeed Hooouuuuuuse.”

  26. November 12, 2010 1:23 pm

    @popscribblings and @aliciamaud – my commercial jingle singing shame:

    – except the same jingle auf Deutsch as that is how I first came to know the commercial. Du bist en Champion!!!

    Ms. Robin Beck shutting down a coca cola commercial from – you guessed it – 1989!.

    My love of making parodies is well established, but I also used to make them to help me learn stuffs in school. Like how to conjugate the verb “Trage” (to carry) which I set to the tune “Don’t Worry Be Happy”

    Ich trage. die tasche. Ich trage die Tasche now, ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh oooh ooh, Ich trage, ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh oooh, die Tasche…

  27. November 12, 2010 1:25 pm

    Omg, I’m busting a gut over these freaking Red House commercial. Omg, I’m Johnny. I work at the Red House and I’m white! HAHAHAHAHA. I can’t stop laughing.

  28. hsofia permalink
    November 12, 2010 1:47 pm

    OMG, the Red House ad is awesome. I want to show it to the whole world! Big Head and Ten Gauge!

  29. November 12, 2010 1:51 pm

    I sing this more than I should:

  30. November 12, 2010 2:00 pm

    @snarkysmachine Wow what a “growing up in California with only 7 channels to watch” flashback! Immediately reminded me of this:

  31. November 12, 2010 2:11 pm


  32. aliciamaud permalink
    November 12, 2010 3:39 pm

    @hsofia I like that Big Head and Ten Gauge appear to be *reading* their names. If had either of those names, I don’t think you’d have to remind me!

    “And Hispanic people, too!”

  33. November 12, 2010 4:08 pm

    Those rented hipsters singing the chorus are breaking it down.

  34. aliciamaud permalink
    November 12, 2010 4:13 pm

    They do the commentary on the extras. (:

  35. November 12, 2010 7:41 pm

    Ha. It seems weird that I forgot to mention that the Rocky Saga is my pop culture Rosetta Stone.

  36. Q.V. permalink
    November 12, 2010 10:33 pm

    Most things in my life can be somehow connected to Alice’s Restaurant. I didn’t think too much of it until I saw this post, and later in the day, when the restaurant I wanted to go to was closed, I muttered to myself, “Closed on Thanksgiving.”

  37. evmaroon permalink
    November 13, 2010 1:11 am

    This goes out to aliciamaud:

    Do a dollop, do do a dollop, do a dollop of DAISY!

  38. aliciamaud permalink
    November 13, 2010 10:56 am

    @evmaroon: Hahaha. THANKS.

  39. November 14, 2010 2:25 pm

    I’m certain that simply paying overt attention to pop culture in and of itself is a big ball of quirk, which means that everyone here is all quirked up about it.

    I might have to post a post about my current obsession relating to this, so stay tuned.


  1. What Are Your Pop Culture Quirks? « Pop Scribblings

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