MiR 056 Shorts – Jumping the Shark

July 29, 2012

Welcome to the Mark in Russia Podcast Network, episode # 056, and I´m your host, Mark.

You can listen to all of my podcasts at www.markinrussia.com

Today we´ll have one of our weekly Grammar Shorts, which are short podcasts which concentrate on a narrow issue of Grammar, typically 5 to 7 minutes in length.
I just returned from a month long visit to the States and it is always interesting to me to hear new phrases or slang which was new since my last visit, or at least new to me.
Although the expression, “jumped the shark” itself was not new to me, I was surprised at how often I heard this expression used while I was there; perhaps even overused.
First let me explain where the expression came from, followed by the definition, which may seem to be a backwards way of doing things, but sometimes I´m just a backwards kind of guy.
In the early 1970s in America there was a TV program called “Happy Days”, which started in 1973. The program was a comedy about teenagers living in 1950s America and was a launching pad to fame for several actors and actresses including Henry Winkler and Ron Howard. Early in the 5th season there was a multi-part episode where the Happy Days gang was visiting California and the show´s “cool guy”, Fonzi (Henry Winkler) acts on a dare and goes water skiing and jumps over a shark in the water as part of the dare. Up to this point almost all of the episodes for the previous 4 seasons were believable and relatable by the viewing public. It just seemed to people that this ridiculous stunt was due to the fact that the writers were running out of good ideas.
The series went on for almost another 5 seasons, but seemed to be in a state of decline starting with the “Jump the Shark” episode. This may or may not be true because it was all examined after the fact. According to the writer of that episode, this episode was watched by more people than any other episode and therefore was not the “beginning of the end” of the show. Personally, I find some fault with his logic. Think about this; if there were no episodes for the next 5 years that could match the number of people watching this episode, could the reason be that up till them the episodes were good and after this sucky episode they lost part of their audience? Well, I´m no expert, but this seems feasible.
Anyhow, there is the history of the expression and now I´ll give you the definition.
Here´s a short definition: The precise moment when you know a program, band, actor, politician, or other public figure has taken a turn for the worse, gone downhill, become irreversibly bad, is unredeemable, etc.; the moment you realize decay has set in.

Here´s a Wikipedia definition: Jumping the shark is an idiom created by Jon Hein that is used to describe the moment in the evolution of a television show when it begins a decline in quality that is beyond recovery. The phrase is also used to refer to a particular scene, episode or aspect of a show in which the writers use some type of “gimmick” in a desperate attempt to keep viewers’ interest.
The usage of “jump the shark” has subsequently broadened beyond television, indicating the moment in its evolution when a brand, design, or creative effort moves beyond the essential qualities that initially defined its success, beyond relevance or recovery.
Anyhow, the first time that someone hears this expression they will have no idea of what it refers to. After hearing the definition, then it typically sounds fitting. After hearing it a hundred times relating to a hundred different and unrelated situations, it just gets old and tired.
Well, let´s take a quick “joke break” and then continue with a few other English idioms when we return:

John invited his mother over for dinner. During the meal, his mother couldn’t help noticing how beautiful John’s roommate was. She had long been suspicious of a relationship between John and his roommate and this only made her more curious. Over the course of the evening, while watching the two interact, she started to wonder if there was more between John and the roommate than met the eye.
Reading his mom’s thoughts, John volunteered, “I know what you must be thinking, but I assure you, Julie and I are justroommates.” About a week later, Julie came to John and said, “Ever since your mother came to dinner, I’ve been unable to find the beautiful silver gravy ladle. “You don’t suppose she took it, do you?” Julie said, “Well, I doubt it, but I’ll write her a letter just to be sure.”
So he sat down and wrote: “Dear Mother, I’m not saying you ‘did’ take a gravy ladle from my house, and I’m not saying you ‘did not’ take a gravy ladle. But the fact remains that one has been missing ever since you were here for dinner.”
Several days later, John received a letter from his mother which read: “Dear Son, I’m not saying that you ‘do’ sleep with Julie, and I’m not saying that you ‘do not’ sleep with Julie. But the fact remains that if she was sleeping in her own bed, she would have found the gravy ladle by now. Love, Mom”

“What are you doing back so soon?”

OK, here are a few more idioms for you to learn today.
Idiom Definition for ‘Caught with your pants down’
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If you are caught with your pants down, you are exposed in an embarrassing situation. It can also mean that you were caught unprepared for a situation or an event.

Idiom Definitions for ‘Take it up a notch’
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If you take it up a notch, you increase the effort or intensity exerted in a situation. In the case of an argument or long running feud, this can also mean “to escalate” the situation.

Well, thank for listening through to the end of this podcast. I hope that you learned something new and interesting. Come back in about a week for the next Mark in Russia podcast, but until that time, GoodBye!

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