Don’t Quote Me On This: The Over-quoter

This happened one night when I ran into a friend of a friend. We began a brief, passing conversation and I sufficed to ask how he was doing. But rather than answering with anything pertaining to his personal life, he slammed me with a movie quote.

“It’s niiice, very nice.” (In what I assume was an imitation of Borat’s voice.)

Ok then.  Thinking that it was over, I ventured to ask about our mutual friend. But no sooner had I begun talking than I was interrupted with–

“60 percent of the time, it works every time.”

… I’d been hit again. I let the conversation end there, as it was unlikely that anything resembling an original thought was going to come out of this person. I wondered: just how often had this situation happened to me? And how many minutes of my life had I lost to overused and poorly-reenacted movie quotes, taken completely out of context and dropped into a dialogue in which they had no place and made no sense?

We’ve all been there, in more or less the same scenario, with the substitution of one over-quoted catchphrase for another. It seems that any movie that is slightly funny is doomed to join the ranks of comedically abused films. The misuse of famous lines from these films causes everyone but the unfunny to lose interest in the movie, as all the humor has been violently beaten out of every word by sheer overuse—a comedic tragedy of the commons. Overzealous fans of these flicks can be heard chanting their battle cry of “I’m kind of a big deal.”

No, not really. You’re not kind of anything, except a god damn over-quoter.

An over-quoter, or O.Q., is one who grossly overuses movie and/or TV show dialogue as a means of communication. In my experience, the lines that are most grossly overused are plucked from famous comedies. These lines are used by the over-quoter in lieu of any original punch lines in an attempt to inject humor into a conversation. The O.Q. then leaves it to you to make the transitive connection: this movie is funny; I like this movie; therefore, I am funny. The more dedicated O.Q.’s will assume the role of the character being quoted; they will force you to stand through entire monologues as they imitate voices and facial expressions while you struggle to keep smiling and feign laughter.

One symptom that the most egregious over-quoters seem to share is a disconnect between their internal monologue and the reality of the situation, such as not knowing their audience but finding their quoting to be relevant and funny regardless of the reaction it gets. Sure, sometimes a germane and well-timed quote can enhance an anecdote or enrich a conversation. But the failure on the part of the O.Q. occurs in the use of quotes as a replacement for, rather than an accessory to, any original humor. The most embarrassing situation (embarrassing for the listener, because the speaker is too disconnected from reality to tell) follows when an O.Q. drops a quote that no one understands, often from a movie or show that the audience hasn’t even seen. This leads to even more time being held hostage by an explanation of the scene(s) in the movie/TV show leading up to the quote. Here the O.Q. unknowingly works against himself by breaking yet another rule of humor: if you have to explain why something is funny, it probably never was.

This type of discourse has become so prevalent in the English language that it even exists in other forms. The first cousin of the over-quoter, equally obnoxious but less offensive in that it doesn’t consume entire portions of conversations, is the one-liner. The culprit here clings desperately to the phrase-of-the-day that has gone mainstream and interjects it into conversations to fill a silence. Some of the most infamous include, “bad news bears,” “FAIL,” and this year’s champion: “epic.” These phrases differ from their movie quote brethren in that one-liners, much like a criminal record, were never funny in the first place and yet refuse to go away.

So what are we to do with the over-quoters of the world? Why is it that some are driven to abuse lines previously delivered (more successfully) by others? I suppose there are many reasons, but what I find apparent in most of these individuals is the burning desire to be the comedian of the group. There is a difference between being a person who happens to be funny, and being a comedian. O.Q.’s, I beseech you: Don’t try to be a comedian. It reeks of trying too hard.

Granted, everyone caves to the pressures of society; we change the way they dress or act depending on how we think others will perceive us. There’s no crime in that. But at some point we all have to say, “Damn the man,” (quote!) and do what we do in our own unusual way. Humor is no exception. While we may connect with people who share our sense of humor, the way we each express ourselves and our personal take on humor is unique and can’t, and shouldn’t, be copied.

Some of the most entertaining people to talk with are those who are self-admittedly “not funny.” These sorts of people tend to be genuine in their own, sometimes awkward way, providing a kind of natural humor that proves you don’t need to dominate the conversation as the “funny guy” in order to be funny. Everyone has something to bring to the table, and a natural dialogue in which people’s strengths are inherently displayed is far superior to the tension of a group of individuals with something to prove. So maybe you’re not the funniest person in the bunch—so what? Perhaps you have some interesting facts or anecdotes to offer. Or maybe you’re a great listener with the ability to put others at ease. Or, if you answered “no” to all of the above, then I hope you’re at least attractive.


View this piece on the Hypermodern


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