Author Catchphrase

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"Our sins remembered, final judgment pronounced. The heavens opened, and we reaped, I say... REAPED THE WHIRLWIND."
Transformers: Worlds Collide, Part 2, by Simon Furman
"When you posted me to this backwater rock in space, you were sowing the seeds of your OWN destruction! Now... REAP THE WHIRLWIND!"
Transformers: Infiltration #6, by Simon Furman
"We saw the signs, the portents--the dark clouds gathering on our horizons. And yet we averted our eyes, pretended it wasn't coming. And in doing so we unleashed a storm of even greater magnitude, one that so very nearly destroyed us all. And now, it seems... others shall REAP THE WHIRLWIND."
Transformers: Stormbringer #2, by... well, take a guess.

Basically this is when the author of a novel reuses the same line (or a variation) in his or her work. This isn't as much a Running Gag, a Meaningful Echo or a Shout-Out as simply recycling the line. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, however.

Remember, it doesn't have to be a line of dialogue. It could also be a description of something, or always including an Expy of a character from an earlier work.

Contrast with Catch Phrase, where the same line or quote is used by characters in a single work.

Related: Signature Style, Author Vocabulary Calendar, If It Was Funny the First Time.

Examples of Author Catchphrase include:

Cross Category

  • Trey Parker and Matt Stone have a few of these.
    • "Derp" was apparently a nonsense word invented on the set of Baseketball to exemplify stupid humor. It has been carried over to South Park in several forms, with no in-show explanation or link between them. Once there was a substitute school chef named "Mr. Derp" who did stupid physical gags; another time there was a Rob Schneider movie trailer (as part of a running gag of successively stupider movie trailers) whose narration consisted almost entirely of nonsensical permutations of the word "Derp".
    • A more unusual example: Trey & Matt wrote the gag song "Montage" for an episode of South Park, but the same song was used in their completely unrelated movie Team America: World Police.
      • In the same vein, the DVDA (Trey & Matt's band) song "Now You're A Man", recorded for the movie Orgazmo was later used as the closing credits of a South Park episode.
  • Multiple lines from Strangers with Candy show up in near identical form in the book Wigfield written by the show's creators (Stephen Colbert, Paul Dinello, and Amy Sedaris):
    • In Strangers with Candy, Stephen Colbert chastisingly tells Jerri that "you can't unfry things". In his interview chapter in Wigfield, Dillard notes that if there's one thing he's realized, it's that you can't unfry things.
    • Both the episode Hit and Run [dead link] and the second interview with the Grimmets in Wigfield include a debate over whether a feature of a hideously deformed face is an eye or a mouth, with one party arguing that it's a mouth because it's where the sound comes from and the other countering that whenever they tried to feed it there it would wink at them.
    • Both the series finale and the first interview with Hoyt Gein include the phrase "Think about it- I haven't."
      • Which was then Covered Up when Colbert used it in his WHCA speech.
    • "You touch [forbidden object] again and you're gonna pull back a bloody stump," which apparently one of Colbert's older sisters used to say to him when they were kids, appears in the SWC movie, an Exit 57 sketch, and... something else, I forget what.
    • "The insane ramblings of a syphilitic brain"
    • "I wasn't pushing you away, I was pulling me towards myself" appeared in an Exit 57 sketch, an episode of Strangers with Candy, and then the movie.
  • Both Shaun of the Dead and Spaced feature a gag where Simon Pegg denies that Nick Frost is his boyfriend, followed immediately by Nick Frost getting something for him and Simon Pegg thanking him with "thanks, babe". Word of God states this was by accident.
  • Brad Meltzer has used the line "I'm not obsessed/addicted. I can stop any day I want, but today won't be that day. Neither will tomorrow..." in both the Identity Crisis miniseries and The Book Of Fate
  • Across his writing and TV commentary, Charlie Brooker describes people by making unflattering comparisons, and there are a number of adjectives he returns to time and again, including "haunted" (describing Gordon Brown as a "haunted grandfather clock", a pair of The X Factor contestants as "haunted porcelain dolls", etc.) and "dented" (describing Jade Goody's mother as "Dot Cotton reflected in the side of a dented kettle", himself as having a face "like a rucksack full of dented bells", etc.).
    • In the introduction to his collection of Screen Burn columns, he mentions that he actually had to cut down the number of references to things being as unpleasant as "shitting out a pine cone", not realising how many times he used the phrase.
  • Almost every fanfic written by Andrew Troy Keller (a k a Cannonball) has the main character realising that they're "experiencing pure, untamed erotica... and enjoying every minute of it".

Anime & Manga

  • "In a corner of the soundless universe, there is a star that plays a beautiful melody. That is this Earth." Naoko Takeuchi uses variations of the line more than once in Sailor Moon, with Moonlight Knight saying it, and Rei saying it before singing her Image Song "Eternal Melody".
  • The fandom would have you believe Kinoko Nasu's H-writing involves a lot of food metaphors, specifically seafood, specifically mollusks.
    • Also, describing anything "on a completely different level".
    • And "If A is X, then B is Y." as in "If A's strikes are like lightning, her enemy's attacks are like a thunderstorm."

Comic Books

  • Chris. Claremont. Many of his X-Men plots are to a certain extent strings of mind control and transformation tropes linked to mutant wangst and peppered liberally with catchphrases—and there are lots, even excluding the characters' signature lines. See a representative list here; others include:
    • I can't--won't--betray that trust.
    • My life. My risk.
    • Your choice. Your funeral.
    • More fool I.
    • The last—and the best!
    • He/she/they (will) (always) find a way to win.
    • My gift, my curse.
    • Using "scrap" to describe all fights.
    • Using "warrior born" to describe someone who is good at fighting.
    • Using "clandestine" to describe anything.
    • Reminding someone that saying you're sorry isn't good enough.
    • As much _____ as _____. (E.g., "Her sword is as much friend as weapon.")
  • Stan Lee-style oldschool Marvel Comics - 'My (eye beams/magic powers/heart condition) would kill (me/everyone else) without the aid of my (ruby-quartz visor/magic willpower/metal chest plate).
  • Everything by Simon Furman. EVERYTHING. He uses certain phrases so much that they have become known as "Furmanisms" amongst the Transformers fandom, and are something of a joke. (Even Furman knows about them and uses them consciously.) A few favorites, with the Furmanism in bold, include:
    • "I've stood here and watched humans -- frail flesh creatures -- fight and die for their world. CAN I DO LESS?"
    • "Yeah. Better to FIGHT AND DIE-- than live with the knowledge that I ran!"
    • "This is no demon, no ghost! It is metal and circuitry! It can feel pain -- IT CAN BE HURT!"
    • "Do you not understand? It's OVER -- FINISHED!"
      • An April Fools' Day "preview" for Transformers: Shattered Glass played with this one; normally it's rendered as "over -- finished!", but the aforementioned gag preview instead rendered it as "finished -- over!". The Mirror Universe is so mirrored, even the Furmanisms are backwards!
    • "I wish I could share their elation, believe that is truly over. Before he died, Jhiaxus mentioned a name, a place. In my heart of hearts, I know... IT NEVER ENDS!"
    • "I now believe a SECOND menace exists, one that hovers like some predatory bird at the edge of my consciousness."
    • "Thunderwing. HNH. Never DID want to live forever."
    • "No! Y-you were dead... I killed you!"
    • "If all those Autobots, all those humans, couldn't save Earth... WHAT CHANCE DO WE HAVE?"
  • Furman's predecessor in the Marvel Comics Transformers series, Bob Budiansky (the person primarily responsible for the Transformers universe and its characters, actually) had several tendencies of his own:
    • He often named women characters "Charlene" and men "Jake." There are several of each.
    • On several occasions, he's ended a sentence with the construction, "[action] in the [action]-ing." For example, Laserbeak will extract information from any Autobot prisoners - even if they die in the telling.
    • There's also "You <fight> better than you <verb>", such as "I hope you shoot straighter than you think, Weirdwolf!"
    • Finally, Budiansky tended to use a combination of Expospeak and Badass Boast as a convenient way to name-drop characters and their weapons/powers: "Leave a few of those little critters for me, Octane -- so my ionic displacer rifle can atomize 'em!"
  • Jhonen Vasquez has a number of these in his Johnny the Homicidal Maniac comics. "Nugat", "Bees are scary", and the word "Doom", just to name a few.
  • Ken Penders' run on Sonic the Hedgehog can be recognized by all characters' peculiar overuse of "I've", such as "I've only one chance!" instead of "I've got only one chance!", which sounds kind of oddly refined for an unruly blue teenage hedgehog. A small quirk, but an identifying one.
  • Alan Moore loves the word "incidentally." Once he starts using it, he can't stop!
  • Frank Miller often has protagonists saying "No reason to play it quiet" or "I have to play this quiet." Sometimes, it is said by the same protagonist at different points in which being quiet is either a good idea or a bad one.
  • Brian Bendis is fond of the phrase "You ruined the world!" or similar variations when a hero calls out a very destructive Big Bad.
  • Warren Ellis has a tendency to forget that not all his characters are British, when he gives them phrases or figures of speech that Americans wouldn't use.
    • A (now lost) post on Scans Daily pointed out the number of times he wrote Emma Frost saying "If I must/have to X, I shall simply Y."


  • Every Star Wars movie includes a character saying, "I've got a bad feeling about this."
    • Which was picked up on in several Expanded Universe works.
    • A specific example is Timothy Zahn's characters, in and out of Star Wars, responding to a statement with "Point."
      • Zahn also likes to ensure that everyone in the universe knows that Thrawn's eyebrows are blue-black, and that he likes to cock them. He also has featureless glowing red eyes.
      • A lightsaber activating always has the written sound effect "snap-hiss". A few other writers pick up on this.
      • When there are two characters of the same gender in one scene, at some point the narration will call one "the other", as in "Jonny caught the other's eye."
      • How many characters in The Thrawn Trilogy react to unexpected news by having a muscle in their cheek twitch?
      • Let's not forget the enormous number of Deadpan Snarkers who respond "sardonically."
      • R2-D2 sure makes a lot of untranslated statements that are some variant of "short, blunt and to the point" when Zahn has his hand on the tiller.
    • All the Big Nos.
    • Many Expanded Universe sources have, among other things, referred to Wookies as "walking carpets" and had a character tell a recently rescued character "Maybe you'd like it back in your cell?" after the rescued one complains about the sloppiness of the rescue job.
    • Kevin J. Anderson's Young Jedi Knight books uses the phrase 'brandy brown eyes' so many times.
      • Kevin J. Anderson also manages to work a really horrible cancer metaphor into virtually everything he writes.
        • He had a FIELD DAY with The X-Files' Cigarette-Smoking Man.
  • Mel Brooks has a bunch of these. There are a few that might be rather generic except for the fact they are always delivered in the exact same tone.
    • "It's good to be the king!"
    • "Hello, boys!"
    • "Why am I asking you?"
    • "Come. We have much to do. And less time to do it in."
    • He also loves his "Walk This Way" jokes, with them occurring roughly once a movie.
  • Woody Allen loves to have a vamp in a third of his movies with the last name of Fox.
  • Many of John Landis's films have a fictional movie titled "See You Next Wednesday" being shown in a movie theater and/or advertised on a poster. It's also a line from 2001: A Space Odyssey, but Landis claimed this was a coincidence.
    • There really is such a movie.
  • "You got knocked the fuck out!"
  • Paul WS Anderson seems to like the phrase "I don't think so."
  • Ruben Fleischer has directed two films with Jesse Eisenberg in them; in both Eisenberg's character makes a Take That at Facebook. Guess what other movie Eisenberg was in?


  • Whenever Dan Brown wants a male character to give a speech/lecture/lesson to a group of people, he will always address his audience as "My friends..." (Examples, Robert Langdon from The Da Vinci Code, Senator Sexton from Deception Point.)
    • Also Dan Brown's opening sentence, of the format "[Occupation] [Name] [Action]," such as, "Renowned curator Jacques Saunier staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum's Grand Gallery." The people who begin the books also die within a few pages due to some kind of foul play. To be fair, though, Geologist Charles Brophy doesn't actually show up until the second sentence of Deception Point.
    • John McCain is a Dan Brown character?
  • Children's author Edward Eager will frequently have a character make a statement, followed by evidence of that statement happening "just to prove it."
    • He also seems to be fond of annoyingly childish adults, who will invariably want to play make-believe type games involving "a dear little fairy" with the various protagonist children.
    • He also likes "s/he said ungrammatically."
  • Rudyard Kipling often uses "O best beloved" to address the reader in his Just So Stories.
  • Terry Pratchett often has a reference to something expensive being made of something rare and endangered (e.g., the fur coat Vimes refuses to be bribed with in Thud and the chairman's desk in Making Money).
    • Quite a few characters are named Ronald: Ronald Rust, Ronald Soak, a king Ronald, Ronald Saveloy, Foul Ole Ron...
    • ** And, of course, he has his footnotes. He generally uses a lot of original comparisons - for characters, places, things, situations, everything. You'll recognize 'em when you see 'em. "The X was like <very original, funny comparison>."

"Magrat had used a lot of powder to make her face pale and interesting. It combined with the lavishly applied mascara to give the guard the impression that he was looking at two flies that had crashed into a sugar bowl."

      • One that crops up quite often, particularly in the earlier books, is thrown weapons - usually axes - being described as moving through the air "like a partridge". Alternately he uses Buffy-Speak: "It was as overwhelmingly powerful as a very overwhelmingly powerful thing."
      • "That was a pune, or play on words..." (in various permutations).
    • (X) is not the opposite of (not-X). It is its absence. The real opposite of X is (cool made up/magical thing).
    • Most every book has somebody misunderstand, mispronounce or comment on somebody's unusual fantasy name. About five times a book for Moist von Lipwig and Adora Belle Dearheart.
    • Many variations on "but that was a metaphor, i.e. a lie."
    • Some version of 'Character X didn't think he'd ever forget it, especially around 3am on windy nights'.
    • "The leopard can't change his shorts," and variations, has become a tic for Pratchett in his later books.
    • Many of the earlier books started off with a description of the world turtle, Great A'Tuin.
    • 'Phenomenon X was someting that happened to other people' tends to pop up on occasion.
  • Robert Rankin has "It must be a tradition, or on an old charter or something."
    • The repeated use of stout sticks.
    • "Most people think A is the opposite of B. C is what happens when you take A and go out the other side."
    • "The transperambulation of pseudo-cosmic antimatter."
    • "It is a well-known fact to those who know it well:"
  • Frank Herbert: "Ah-h-h-h." [sic]
  • John Mortimer has several different receptionists named Angela and inns called the Stag At Bay in his works.
  • Steven Brust always has a young girl named Devera appear in his works.
    • Devera is not a catchphrase so much as a running gag. She's a single character, not a reused name, and it's a bit of a game among readers to find her in each new book.
  • Similarly, nearly every series by Anne McCaffrey includes a character whose name is somehow based on the name John Greene. The character Jayge in the Dragonriders of Pern series is one example. According to the official biography written by her son Todd, John Greene was a family friend who was murdered, and this is Anne's way of giving him extra lives to make up for the one he lost.
  • Robert A. Heinlein:
    • Characters say "So?". It occurred in (among others) Between Planets, Beyond This Horizon, Citizen Of The Galaxy, Double Star, Farmer In The Sky, Farnham's Freehold, Friday, Glory Road, etc.
      • And, distinctively, the context makes clear that they mean it not in the common sense of "So what?", but more in a sense of "Is that so?"
    • Lavish, mouth-watering descriptions of food that make you hungry just reading them. The two I remember best are in Farmer In The Sky and Friday.
    • Characters also say "Suits."- as in "It suits me." This is in most books and short stories.
    • He also often uses ironclad grammatical accuracy in places where it's not appropriate, such as having Pat Bartlett say "an U.F.O." (most English speakers would say "a U.F.O."), or Tom Fries's urging his niece Podkayne to use his "handky".
      • The "an U.F.O." example is not really be all that surprising, since the line before was "An oofoe. We’re an oofoe, do you realize that?" so using "I finally understood him-an U.F.O." as part of Pat's inner monologue is fairly appropriate in that case, since he's internally quoting Harry.
  • "It came to pass" appears 1,297 times in The Book of Mormon.
  • Brian Jacques really, really likes writing songs and poetry, which is probably why every single Redwall book ever written turns on Only Smart People May Pass.
  • Most of Michael Crichton's novels include a character named Levine. Sometimes it's a minor character, sometimes it's a major character. Other than the name, there's no indication that any of the Levines are related.
    • Also Levy, Levitt, etc.
  • "The leaden circles dissolved in the air," from Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway.
  • Diane Duane's books seem to contain many more "Ha!"s placed after an unlikely sentence than your typical book.
    • The same with "Right" in response to an order or request.
      • Lampshaded in one case, where a character does not say this after being forced to break his Technical Pacifism, and someone else notices.
  • David Eddings is a fan of the word "defenestration", including its potential for misunderstandings...
    • Characters saying a variation on "...Did you notice? I thought I noticed you noticing"
    • Anyone attempting to read the Elenium/Tamuli books one right after the other will notice quite rapidly just how many characters use "Be nice" as a playful admonishment, or "He's such a nice boy!" as a form of praise. They do it so much, one can only assume that they're universal idioms in Elene culture or something.
      • Not just the Elenium/Tamuli books. The Belgariad/Malloreon has the same ones, though "Be nice" more often than "He's such a nice boy".
    • Anyone reading the Belgariad/Malloreon and assorted prequels, sequels, and related books will notice that the phrase "what an amazing thing" is often reused.
    • And he's terrified that someone will forget that Silk is a "rat-faced little Drasnian."
    • Also: "Trust me" and assorted comments to that phrase, usually that it makes the other character nervous.
    • Not to mention the fact that almost any conversation of any length seems to involve copious amounts of shrugging.
  • Although this is partly the result of Having a Gay Old Time, JRR Tolkien uses 'captain' in a manner much more general than one would expect (nowadays), essentially as a synonym for 'leader'.
  • Terry Brooks has a few key phrases that pop up on a frequent basis: "There was stunned silence," an older man's face described as "all planes and angles", etc.
    • In his earlier books of the same franchise, he had a tendency to overuse "wordlessly" or some variation thereof.
  • Mercedes Lackey reuses several proverbs across different series, attributing them to various in-universe sources. The most common one is probably "it is easier to apologize than to ask permission."
    • She also uses the phrase "hit in the back of the head with a board" more times than I ever want to think about. It seems that is the only way to describe shock in her world.
  • Every Animorphs book begins with the first person narrator saying something to the effect of: "My name is (blank). I can't tell you my last name, or what city I live in, or even what state. I can tell (about the Yeerks...)"
    • This made the revelation of one character's last name very meaningful: with the villains aware of their identities and able to come down on them in force, there was now no reason to bothering hiding their last names, along with ages. (Jake's is Berenson, by the way.)
  • Robert Jordan was a big fan of "arms folded beneath her breasts" and "handsome woman". The former in particular is excessively mocked in the Fandom.
    • Then, of course, you've got the many, many times characters "sniff" or "snort" to express derision, indignation, or what have you. Women sniff; men snort (except Siuan, a handsome woman who snorts.)
    • The phrase "Nynaeve yanked on her braid" and all variants thereof were exceptionally numerous. Smart money says that Nynaeve would become the first woman in Randland to go bald.
    • Every single book begins with the phrase

"The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose [in some place]. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of time. But it was a beginning."

  • Terrance Dicks, much-beloved Doctor Who television, novelisation and Expanded Universe writer has many, commonly subject to Affectionate Parody: "The mysterious traveller in time and space known only as the Doctor...", "A wheezing, groaning sound" (as a descriptor of the TARDIS sound effect), as well as stock descriptions of individual Doctors. (He did not, however, come up with the equally famous and much-referenced chapter title "Escape To Danger", which first appearsas Part 3 of the television story "The Web Planet" by Bill Strutton.)
    • One of his stock Doctor descriptions is Fifth's "pleasant open face", which The Complete(ly Useless) Doctor Who Encyclopedia considers a disturbing disfigurement that thankfully wasn't present on screen.
    • He also had stock descriptions for each recurring alien menace. The Ice Warriors, for instance, were "a once proud race."
  • Over the course of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels, it's amazing just how many things (especially physical features) are described as "cruel." Only in Thunderball is an attempt made to justify this strange choice of words in-dialogue.
    • Ian Fleming is also another Food Porn writer. Every single Bond book contains descriptions of high-life cooking that puts his pulpy descriptions of women to shame quality-wise.
  • Read just about any Magic: The Gathering book that has J. Robert King as the author. Play a drinking game using the word 'sanguine' or any reference to something ancient. Watch your liver and/or bladder die quickly!
  • Stephenie Meyer uses the words 'chagrin' and 'dazzle' amazingly frequently in her Twilight books. 'Chagrin' was also used quite a few times in her other book, The Host.
    • Those words are used so frequently, in fact, that the fans who love to hate Meyer and Twilight use the phrase 'chagrined my dazzle' to express sadness or disappointment. See also this.
  • It seems like every book Desmond Bagley has written has a scene where someone is found dead with their head split open and their "brains leaking out".
  • Tom Holt regularly features the phrase "appeared like Romulans decloaking" in his Fantasy Kitchen Sink novels.
  • German Author Wolfgang Hohlbein is really fond of "a darkness that was more than just the absence of light"
  • Eoin Colfer likes this exchange:

Character A: Tell me this thing that you are keeping secret from me!
Character B: I'll tell you, but you won't like it.
Character A: Tell me anyway!
Narrator: B told A. A didn't like it.

    • Also, characters responding to technobabble with "I see," only for the narrator to inform us that this was a lie.
  • Bill King in Games Workshop Gotrek and Felix novels always starts fights by having Gotrek "Run his thumb along his axe until it drew blood". Considering the nature of his axe (one of the most powerful rune weapons in the world, originally thought (and made out to be) one of the two belonging to a Dwarf god!), it's a wonder Gotrek has any thumb left.
    • It's because he's just that Badass.
    • Felix "throwing his red Sudenland wool cloak over his shoulder" is practically a drinking game in itself, appearing as it does multiple times per book.
  • The Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novels, as well as several other in-universe novels by the same authors have a liking for describing vast rooms as "Cyclopean" and doorways as "Tenebrous". Each of the first three books in the series start with recounting the same story, how Horus killed the Emperor, but with very different inflections and context, although this is less an Author Catchphrase and more Arc Words.
  • Ever since he started The Dark Tower, Stephen King keeps putting references to "ka" in a lot of his books.
    • He has also become inordinately fond of the phrase "[character name] had an idea that [theory about something]." For example: "In his deepest heart [Tian] had an idea that madrigal would sow no more than the porin had before it."
    • King seems particularly fond of the phrase, "My friends and neighbors," during first-person narratives. It's used when characters are addressing an imaginary audience within their own minds. Depending on the character narrating the audience may be the readers themselves. A less subtle example would be its frequent use in non-fiction work while he speaks directly to reader.
    • He also likes phrases like "This was the last time [character name] saw [character's loved one] alive...".
    • King also seems to have a fondness for knees that "pop like gunshots" when a character crouches or stands from a crouch.
    • He has characters digging their nails into their hands so hard they draw blood in quite a few books and stories.
  • Homer's Iliad and Odyssey were originally orally passed down; as such, they have many, many repeated phrases, including "Grey-Eyed Athena," "the Well-Greaved Aegeans" and "Rosy-fingered Dawn." Consider this one Older Than Feudalism.
    • It should be noted that, as a bard, Homer was speaking these stories out loud and making them up as he went along. Having a few handy stock phrases with which to stall for time or pad out a sentence so it fits the hexameter was a very handy thing.
  • Despite being written instead of spoken, the Aeneid keeps in Homer's tradition with "Pious Aeneas", "Savage Juno", and "mixed with a great heap" (the last one is alliteration in Latin).
    • Also "roaring rocks", "two toothed sheep chosen according to custom", and "Sacred groves". The Aenied was purposely written in the style of earlier Greek epics.
  • Isaiah refers to God as "The Holy One of Israel" numerous times. This phrase is rarely if ever used outside of Isaiah.
  • Weiss & Hickman's Dragonlance stuff uses "the spidery language of magic" a bit too regularly.
  • JK Rowling is unusual in that with each Harry Potter book, she seemed to pick a particular unusual word to use multiple times, though generally usage of the word is not restricted to just one of the books. For example, in Half Blood Prince, she uses the word "surreptitiously" about seven or eight times. And just try and count how many times a character "ejaculates".
    • Especially later in the series, there are multiple times per book that Harry gets a feeling or sensation "that had nothing to do with [the current situation]" to show that his mind is elsewhere entirely.
  • Simon R Green has a really, really bad habit of picking up a phrase and running with it through a series. If he uses "death's-head grin" or a variation thereof in the Deathstalker books ONE MORE TIME...
    • Also, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts" in the same work.
      • Though it should be noted that this one is a common phrase and not an invention of Green's.
    • also the phase "Watch Me" when someone says that can't do something.
    • Try reading his Nightside novels. Apparently many things are "the easiest thing in the world" when John Taylor uses his Third Eye ability.
    • During the several-page monologue in the first Nightside, and a few other times in the same book, John Taylor picks up "I don't carry a gun. I've never felt the need."
  • Laurell K. Hamilton is very fond of the phrase 'red ruin' to describe lacerated bodies in the Merry Gentry series, and less frequently in the Anita Blake series.
    • LKH has a ton of these, especially in her (far too frequent and recycled as the series continues) sex scenes. How many times has someone kissed someone else 'like [person 1] would eat [person 2] from the mouth down'?
  • HP Lovecraft often uses similar phrases and words to describe his, erm, indescribable monsters, including "eldritch", "Cyclopean", "bachtrian", "gibbering", "non-Euclidean", and "torn from the underside of _____".
    • He was phobic of anything to do with fish or the sea. This accounts for frequent descriptions such as "batrachian", "ichthyic", "pulpy", "tentacled", and "stench of a cloven sunfish".
  • Dave Barry really likes to write "I am not making this up", "This really happened", or "I am not making up this _______" after something that is strange but true. He uses a lot of hyperbole, so this explains that, no, he is not exaggerating for comedic effect.
  • In his Chronicles of Thomas Covenant novels, Stephen R. Donaldson really likes to use unusual words like "fey", "anile" and "abnegation".
    • The essay "The Well Tempered Plot Device" suggests playing "Clench Racing" with the Thomas Covenant books by opening one at random and looking down the text until you find the word "clench". It won't take you long.
  • Neil Gaiman has a habit of describing things (usually but not always characters) as "smelling of X, not unpleasantly", where X is some smell that's distinctive but not usually considered appealing, like sweat (as with Hunter in Neverwhere), which also has a description of the "under city" of Bangkok smelling "not unpleasantly of sex". Likewise, Mr. Nancy's tobacco-permeated Nice Hat in Anansi Boys is also described in this manner.
  • Alternate History author Harry Turtledove uses a few. His favourite seems to be the narration, "It never even crossed their mind..." when he describes a character doing something suspect. A less common one is a character saying, "You're not wrong," or a variation thereof.
    • Very common, however, is a character involved in an argument/debate telling another "Tell me I'm wrong," and the other being unable to say so. Especially in recent books, this happens virtually every time two characters have a mild disagreement or are just having a bull session about some issue of the day.
    • Also ludicrously fond of variations of the phrase "The shiver up his back had little to do with the cold air".
    • It's also possible for capital letters to be heard and many locks and doors have a final sound to them.
  • Going by the evidence presented in Reckless Sleep, one could be forgiven for thinking the only adjective Roger Levy knows is "fat". Fat guns, fat tears, everything.
  • David Gemmell had a few stock phrases that he often fell back on, one of the most prominent in his later works being a tendency to describe a new character as being round-shouldered.
  • Christopher Moore has a few phrases which crop up often in his books. "Heinous fuckery (or alternately, "Henious fuckery most foul")" is used often, along with extremely... explicit descriptions of women's bodies.
  • Louisa May Alcott loves the phrase "like a true man/woman" and the words manly, womanly, and mien.
  • Larry Niven's tendency to spell "yeah" as "yah".
  • If there is a male character with a daughter any where in a Tom Clancy story, he will at some point either say or be told the phrase, "Daughters are God's revenge for how we acted as teenagers, we live in constant fear that they'll meet someone like we used to be."
  • When combat inevitably results in a David Weber novel, something will do something "with contemptuous ease".
    • Encountering the phrase "palm up" in a David Weber novel is a miracle of very nearly biblical proportions. Palms are nearly always "uppermost" instead.
  • Jim Butcher is all but fond of this, doubtless.
  • AA Milne's in Winnie the Pooh is saying that someone said something carelessly. What that is supposed to imply about how the line was said, no one really knows.
  • DJ Machale's Pendragon series constantly repeats the phrase "The way it was meant to be" and variations thereupon through all ten books, especially "The Soldiers of Halla".
  • John Green tends to describe things in situations in the form of semi-nonsensical lists in his novels. It's easier to show an example than to explain:

I became a smoker because 1. I was on an Adirondack swing by myself, and 2. I had cigarettes, and 3. I figured that if everyone else could smoke a cigarette without coughing, I could damn well, too. In short, I didn't have a very good reason. So yeah, lets just say that 4. it was the bugs.

    • He also makes sure to use the word 'deadpan' once in every book.
  • As of the later A Song of Ice and Fire books, George R. R. Martin seems to have developed an affinity for both "Little and less," and "Much and more." They pop up in the narration, and are used by various characters. You can expect to see one or the other about once every three chapters. Also "Words are wind" is used in the fifth book with a startling frequency.
    • Don't forget about nipples on a breastplate and their uselessness.
    • He's fond of describing any long distance as "a thousand leagues" or "thousands of leagues," even though 1,000 leagues is 3,000 miles, which would usually be an absurdly long distance in context. It's "a thousand leagues" from King's Landing to the Wall, but it's also "a thousand leagues" from Winterfell to the Neck, which is less than half that distance along the same road. This is part of the problem fans have in putting maps of Westeros to scale.
  • Gordon Korman likes to use the name "Gavin Gunhold" in his novels. In A Semester in the Life of a Garbage Bag, it was the name of a major character in the plot. He just happens to be dead. Our two leads chose him as their term paper author before learning this fact. Fortunately, one of them has a bored grandpa...
  • Lemony Snicket likes to define words and phrases by saying "A phrase which here means..."
  • Melinda Metz, author of the Roswell High series and the Fingerprints series, uses the sentence "[Character] wasn't going to wait for an ingraved invitation" multiple times in both works to demonstrate someone leaping to do something at the first chance they got.
  • Neal Stephenson isn't interested in "Japan". It's always "Nippon", which is peopled by "Nipponese". This is fine in the parts of Cryptonomicon that were set in WWII, when that was apparently the common moniker, but makes no sense in the 1990s part of Cryptonomicon or in Snow Crash or in The Baroque Cycle, which is set in the late 17th/early 18th century. Perhaps this is what he does instead of putting in airships.
    • This is generally more of a thing that the narrator does; characters frequently refer to Japan.
  • PG Wodehouse had scads of these; mark, for example, the number of times he compares the eyes of characters to those of (different varieties of) fish, or likens a character's expression of disgust to that of someone fishing a caterpillar out of a salad.

Live Action TV

  • All Aaron Sorkin shows (including Sports Night, The West Wing, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) have ended their first season with an episode named "What Kind of Day Has It Been."
    • That sentence is also said aloud by Leo in the season 4 finale of The West Wing.
    • Also he has a trademark on characters starting a revelatory speech with the words "You know, not for nothing, but..."
    • He also has a thing for ending conversations with "Okay" or some variation of "I don't care"
      • And, "Oh my god, were you talking to me that whole time?" or "I wouldn't know, I wasn't really listening."
    • There are also a couple cases where he takes lines from Sports Night and reuses them verbatim in The West Wing.
    • And in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip as well, such as the Government Camp/TV Camp speech.
    • Aaron Sorkin likes to use the phrase "board-certified in thoracic surgery" to indicate a character's medical competence. It shows up in Malice, A Few Good Men, and The West Wing.
  • The first several seasons of Smallville almost invariably ended with one character asking another at the end of the show, "How you holding up?"
  • There's a few of these in the latter Star Trek series. The most common are: the number 47 (originated by TNG writer Joe Menosky, later adopted wholeheartedly by other writers) and the name "Bozeman" (usually as a place or ship, and in reality the hometown of writer and producer Brannon Braga).
  • It seems in his work, most notably Doctor Who, Russel T. Davies is apparently very fond of the word "burn" to mean "be destroyed." The Time Lords burned. Skaro burned. Gallifrey burned. The Earth burns. Donna will burn. You'd think the whole galaxy was made of matchsticks.
    • He also has a very noticeable penchant for giving grandiose, incredibly abstract names to things that are only mentioned in the very, very briefest of throwaway lines. The Skaro Degradations, the Nightmare Child, the Could-Have-Been King, the Army of Meanwhiles and Never-Weres, the Medusa Cascade, the Silver Cloak... The list goes on.
    • When Professor Yana tells Martha that he and his pocket watch were found "on the shores of the Silver Devastation". Awesome!
  • If David Mitchell is around, you'll probably hear the word "massive" used with peculiar emphasis...not necessarily by him.


  • Three completely different songs by Sting (The Police's "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" and "Oh My God" from Synchronicity; and Sting's solo song "Seven Days") feature the following lyric:

Do I have to tell the story of a thousand rainy days since we first met,
It's a big enough umbrella, but it's always me that ends up getting wet.

  • There's a whole wiki devoted to keeping track of all the cross-references and recurring images in The Hold Steady's lyrics. Various characters get "high as hell" and/or "born again," tend to be in search of a "saviour," and praise drugs with a "five-second delivery;" all kinds of things are described as "hot [and] soft;" the title of their first album, Almost Killed Me, appears in half a dozen songs, and even the name of the band comes up on a few occasions ("It's hard to hold it steady when half your friends are dead already.") Lampshaded in "The Cattle and The Creeping Things": "Hard drugs are for bartenders -- I think I might have mentioned that before."
  • The band Savatage has used a pair of recurring verses, "I never wanted to know, never wanted to see-" and "I am the way, I am the light-" in between three songs off three albums, "When the Crowds are Gone" (Gutter Ballet), "Believe" (Streets), and "Alone You Breathe" (Handful of Rain). Of them, "Believe" makes use of both.
  • Rolf Kasparek of Running Wild is fond using the "Wild and free!" line on his songs.
  • Japanese artist Gackt tends to use the phrase "Dakishimete" at least once in his songs. Has evolved into a Running Gag amongst his fans.
  • Ronnie James Dio has numerous songs with some combination of "I am/you are/life is" like "a wheel/a rainbow/a never ending journey" ("Self Portrait", "Wishing Well", "Rainbow in the Dark", among others). He also employed an "evil woman" trope about once per album (i.e., "Starstruck", "Lady Evil", "Don't Talk to Strangers"). Fittingly, he sang in Rainbow with Ritchie Blackmore, who frequently reused the riffs from "Speed King", "Smoke on the Water", "Woman From Tokyo", and "Burn" as new songs, with only slight variations.
  • Pioneering Speed Metal band Riot (not to be confused with Quiet Riot) wrote two separate songs named "Run For Your Life" at different points in their career.
  • "Hold on" is definitely this for Gary Barlow since Take That reformed. He can't go an album without including it in their lyrics.
  • The reason that the NI Nwiki has a list of recurring lyrics in Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails works. Two examples are "a million miles away", and "nothing can stop me now".
  • "Kurikaesareru shougyou mujou, yomigaeru seiteki shoudou" (impermanence repeats itself, sexual pulse arises again) is a phrase heavily featured on each of Japanese experimental rock band Zazen Boys' (led by former Number Girl frontman Mukai Shutoku) albums.
  • Counting Crows are very, very fond of circus-related imagery.

Newspaper Comics

  • Peanuts is full of these—mostly expressions of dismay, since Charles M. Schulz didn't swear in Real Life. Good grief.

Tabletop Games

  • The phrase "lay down a withering hail of fire" has been used past saturation point in Warhammer 40,000 related material.