A New York Times television critic recently railed about the overuse of the word “Really?” on the boob tube. It seems to have infected most of the programming out there. That’s because scriptwriters are obviously mirroring society and what’s happened to the word over the last few years. Or is it the other way around? The critic seemed to believe that it was, adding that television and cable programming impacts what we think, what we do, and especially, what we say.
Said in a condescending, snarky manner, “Really?” is meant to convey mock incredulity. And it often replaces otherwise snappy, sarcastic retorts, reducing what would be a solid comeback to one word. And it still gets a laugh, I guess.
I can’t say that it hasn’t infected our house.We actually have an ongoing joke. Not about “Really?” but about “Seriously?” which I first heard come out of my niece’s mouth when she lived with us two summers ago. This college kid used “Seriously?” continually, when questioning someone’s actions, motives or responses that she found stupid, unbelievable or untoward.
It was most often used when she was speaking to her then-boyfriend on the phone. Strains of it would pepper her conversations, to the point where I honestly thought it was one word. So even though he is no more, whenever I hear someone in my family say something outlandish, ridiculous or questionable, the standard response is, “Seriously, Kev?”