A New York Times column lamenting the use of the expression “Really?” as a sarcastic quip on TV has incited the ire of none other than the king of “Really?”, legendary comedian Jerry Seinfeld.
In Tuesday’s paper, Times critic Neil Genzlinger asserts that “Really?” has “jumped the shark” in television writing — and subsequently in real-life. Genzlinger calls it a “lazy” technique that “relieves the user of having to clarify his own position or approach new ideas with genuine curiosity.”
“You’ve heard it too, no doubt, and if you’re a person who values grace and urbanity and eating with utensils rather than burying your face in the plate, you’ve winced whenever some TV character has spewed it. It’s the snarky ‘Really?,’ and it’s undoing 2,000 years’ worth of human progress.”
Now, this seems like an argument that could have been taken as a decent point made, or maybe as a just-because trend item fit to be tweeted out by the humorous Times Is On It account. Jerry Seinfeld, however, started immediately in with a rebuttal, now published on the Times’ website in the form of a full-length Letter to the Editor that caught Twitter’s attention immediately. You can almost hear Seinfeld’s stand-up routine voice in the opening:
Your Critic’s Notebook column about the overuse of the term “Really?” was so deeply vacuous that I couldn’t help but feel that you have stepped into my area of expertise.
Really, Neil? Really? You’re upset about too many people saying, “Really?”? I mean, really.
Seinfeld makes an exception for TV scripts, which do tend to overdo things, but he soon enough gets to his main point:
If you’re a writer, fine, don’t use it. But in conversation it is fun to say.
That’s pretty hard to argue with, really.