At some point during my end-of-summer haze, I began rewatching Tina Fey’s sitcom masterpiece 30 Rock. The show, which ended in 2013 and is based on Fey’s real-life experiences at SNL, was known for its meta-humor and hilarious quips. While many fans are quick to praise the series for its quirky plot lines and cast members, they often overlook another, equally important aspect of the show: its vocabulary. Over the years, 30 Rock and its writers introduced a number of new terms into our national zeitgeist as well as redefined a few that were already there. Let’s take a walk down memory lane, shall we?
1) Blerg (excl.): a noise made in exasperation
When you’re the executive producer of a major TV show and you have to deal with crazy actors like Jenna Maroney and Tracy Jordan all day, every day, you’re going to stress yourself to the point of speechlessness at some point. It’s inevitable. During these difficult times, it’s important to have a few gibberish expressions to mumble under your breath in frustration to let off some steam. That’s where blerg comes in. Blerg is Lemon’s go-to expression of irritation and has been used countless times over the course of the show. Something about muttering this phrase to yourself in times of need is just so satisfying.
2) EGOT (n.): a person who has earned all four major acting awards (Emmy, Golden Globe, Oscar, Tony); (v.) to win all four major acting awards
30 Rock did not invent EGOT. That honor goes to Philip Michael Thomas, the actor behind Miami Vice’s Ricardo Tubbs and Nash Bridges’s Rick Hawks, who coined the term in 2008. The acronym didn’t really take off, though, until Tracy Jordan announced his intention “to EGOT” in the episode “Dealbreakers Talk Show #0001.” Real life “EGOTers” include: Helen Hayes, Audrey Hepburn, Mel Brooks, and Whoopi Goldberg.
3) Dealbreaker (n.): a quality in a romantic partner that is unacceptable
Before you tell me that “dealbreaker” has been around for decades: I know, but thank you for so diligently protecting the English language. While it’s true that the term has been used to describe unfair business negotiations in the past, 30 Rock introduced a new application for the word when Liz began applying it to her relationships and emphatically announcing it in public.
4) To lemon (v.): to self-sabotage
If anyone ever said they were going to “verbify” my name, this is definitely not what I would envision. During the season 4 episode “Klaus and Greta,” Jack laments that he’s “Lemoned” a situation with his girlfriend (meaning he’s messed it up) to which Liz replies: “Lemoned? That’s not a thing people are saying now, is it? Cerie? Lemoned… doing it awesome.”
5) Lizzing (n.): the act of laughing and “whizzing” at the same time
Have you ever laughed so hard that you peed your pants a little bit? Then you’ve definitely been the victim of “lizzing,” which surprisingly is not another unfortunate play on Liz’s name but rather, a portmanteau referring to the act of peeing and laughing at the same time.
6) Mind grapes (n.): the brain
There’s a reason Jack Donaghy is a businessman and not a writer. It only takes his joke about “mind grapes” to realize that. Ignoring Liz’s speechwriting tips, Jack pens this joke for a fundraiser he’s attending: “Jack Welch has such unparalleled management skills, they named Welch’s Grape Juice after him. Because he squeezes the sweetest juice out of his workers’ Mind Grapes.” While the metaphor is certainly creative, it also instantly makes me imagine my brain as a little bundle of grapes sloshing around in warm juice, which sends shivers down my spine.
7) Nerds (excl): an expression of frustration
Nerds is a variation of “blerg” and is usually said by Lemon when one of her plans is foiled or Tracy does something ridiculous. (So, she says it a lot.) I can only see two ways this word came to exist: Liz was in a hurry and encountered a group of nerds in the hallway that blocked her path, causing her to curse at them in frustration OR someone spilled Nerds everywhere and she slipped on them and yelled this in anger on her way down.
8) To jack (v.): to vomit as a result of overexcitement
And I thought Liz had it bad with “to lemon.” When Jenna decides to show the TGS staff footage of an old phone sex advertisement that Liz filmed, Jack’s cry-laughter turns into cry-vomiting, to the dismay of pretty much everyone.
9) Silver panther (n.): a supremely handsome creature or human
In the season 4 episode “Floyd,” Jack and Danny decide to form a secret society. When Danny questions what they should name their new group, Jack matter-of-factly asks “What’s the most handsome animal?” to which they both reply, in unison: the silver panther. I’ve always thought “silver fox” was a good way of describing slick, confident men but silver panther sounds ten times better than that.
10) Thoughtsicles (n.): ideas
Imagine a world where writer’s block and brain freeze could be solved simply by eating a frozen Thoughtsicle treat? No more banging your head against the desk multiple times or incessantly pacing or spending hours and hours staring at the computer screen only to come up with two more words. What a wonderful dreamland. I want to go there…
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