Modern Idioms (and where they come from)



It's the way I tell 'em! Catchphrases that have found their way into the language.

Posted on July 16, 2021 at 6:50 PM

Some of the most memorable TV characters are defined by their catchphrases, and these are the soundbites that very often live on long after a show has stopped gracing our screens. Here we present a short list of some of the most recognisable catchphrases from UK TV sitcoms:

1. “I don’t believe it!” – Victor Meldrew (One Foot in the Grave, 1990-2000). Named as the UK’s favourite catchphrase in a 2019 poll ( Another sitcom (Father Ted) captured the frustration that must accompany actor Richard Wilson wherever he goes when the main characters infuriated him by shouting his catchphrase at him during a chance encounter.

2. “Lovely jubbly” – Del Boy (Only Fools and Horses, 1981-2003). One of several beloved phrases from Only Fools and Horses, named as the most commonly used line from the show in daily life in a 2015 poll. Honourable mentions also go to “You plonker”, “He who dares, wins” and “You know it makes sense.” (

3. “I have a cunning plan” – Baldrick (Blackadder, 1983-1989). Appearing throughout the ages of Blackadder, a historical sitcom about the machinations of the titular character, “I have a cunning plan” was often uttered by manservant Baldrick, inevitably followed by a plan so full of holes and devoid of logic that not even a “putting a tail on it and calling it a weasel” could mask its shortcomings! (

4. The Fast Show – various (The Fast Show, 1994-1997). A sketch show packed with memorable soundbites, The Fast Show introduced the world to “Suit you, Sir!”, “Does my bum look big in this?”, “I’ll get my coat”, as well as many, many more (see: A revival special in 2020 even used the title “Just a Load of Blooming Catchphrases”, and anyone watching TV in the UK in the 1990s will have incorporated at least some of these gems into their vocabulary.

5. “Computer says no” – (Little Britain, 2003-2007). Like The Fast Show before it, Little Britain introduced a range of memorable characters and associated catchphrases through its parodic representation of “British” life. These included at least one that has made its way into the language at large in “Computer says no”, as well as a range of others such as “Yeah but, no but” and “What a kerfuffle”. Not all of the things in the show have stood the test of time, however, and in 2020 the BBC announced that it would be removing the show from various streaming platforms since “Times have changed since Little Britain first aired” (see:


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