Think Scooby-Doo saying “Uh-Oh”. I’ve noticed in recent weeks that this catch phrase has suddenly reentered the pop-cultural lexicon.
1.Season 2 premier of “House”. Said by Hugh Laurie’s titular character when he is caught bringing an unauthorized patient into his hospital’s ICU. Usage is sarcastic, not a vocalization of worry/concern but rather flaunting a lack thereof. Is actually said in the Scooby-Doo voice.
2. Last night’s episode of “Veronica Mars” (Green Eyed Monster). Again said by the titular character, this time as a crazy client is about to ruin her stakeout. Usage is earnest, expresses genuine concern. Not delivered in cartoon voice.
3. Today’s edition of Dinosaur Comics. Hidden in the secret message that accompanies every Dinosaur Comic (leave your cursor over the comic for a few seconds). Here the usage is also ironic. Since usage is printed it is impossible to determine the intended vocalization.
In my book three uses (two in popular prime-time TV shows no less) makes a pattern. Something is going on.
Question: Why has a line from a thirty-year-old cartoon suddenly emerged as a catch phrase? We’re well past the ‘70s nostalgia wave that made Scooby-Doo retro-hip in the mid-1990s. We are also several years past the live action Scooby-Doo films (the films themselves being a belated by product of SD’s retro-hip cache, long since spent by the time the first film hit the multiplexes). So it’s not like America has Scooby-Doo on the brain. The license isn’t rattling full bore around our collective conscious. Why “ruh-roh” and why right now?
The floor is open to hypotheses.
Side Note: My personal favorite use was in “House”. It’s a really funny beat in a fast scene with lots of dialogue and information flying around. It comes out of nowhere and Hugh Laurie gets so animated (npi) when he says it.