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A catchy song you can’t get out of your head is called an earworm. But what about those pop culture references or  phrases you hear in your head? We’re calling them Pop Culture Brainworms. Now, before we introduce this term into the wild, let us give you a sense of what we’re talking about: something that cycles through your head wayyy more often than you should based on how meaningless it is to your existence.

Jillian Conochan

I was a couple years too old to care about the Ninja Turtles. I loathe video games. So riddle me why my brain likes to echo “Bury My Shell at Wounded Knee” within my skull?

Sarah Razner

After a long day or a somewhat intense workout, one of the first things that comes to my mind—and out of my mouth— as I hobble to sit down is the iconic Squidward Tentacles line, “Oh my aching tentacles!” I can’t tell you the last time I watched Spongebob Squarepants, or why, in my mid-twenties, I have not found a better way to describe exhaustion, but I can say doing a nasally Squidward voice always makes me chuckle, and rarely does the same for others.

Sam Hedenberg

As a high school teacher, I’m used to not having my pop culture allusions land with my audience.

When I started teaching 10 years ago, I could make references to Family Guy or South Park and there’d be a reasonable chance the students would know what I meant. Now, they stare at me and say, “That show is so old,” or “That show isn’t funny at all.”

But there’s one phrase from my childhood I still use without care.  Whenever I have something finished and need to explain that to my students or my colleagues or my wife, I say: IT’S ALREADY READY ALREADY.

The best part is that this tag line is so old I even forgot the product myself until I looked it up. Spoiler alert: It’s for instant frozen margaritas. Shocker that it stuck with me.

Mike Maiello

There’s one from two parts of my past… The “Russian Reversal” joke that Wikipedia assures me was only rarely used by Yakhov Smirnoff, but that my brain tell me was exclusively used by Yakhov Smirnoff.

It goes like this: “”In America you <do something> to/with X, in Soviet Russia X <does something> to/with you.”

Or the short version, “In Soviet Union, horse plow you!”

So, this first got into my head, I don’t know, when I was a kid and the sitcom Night Court was on. Then it went away. Then, during the glory years of the Gawker comments section it came back as a good comeback for just about anything. It still tumbles out of my mouth from time to time. “In Soviet Russia, website prompts YOU!”

Dennis William

I don’t think you realize the Sophie’s Choice you’re asking me to make. How can I decide between Strong Sad saying, “I’m sad that I’m flying” from a Homestar Runner menu, Raphael yelling “DAAAAAAMN” after Casey Jones bests him in the Ninja Turtles movie, Jake from State Farm saying “Uh… khakis,” or two young girls in Slither trying to pass their alien parasite zombification off as poison ivy, deadpanning, “We’re itchy.” You would have me turn my back on Babs Bunny teaching Dizzy Devil to say, “The walls in the malls are totally totally tall” in favor of a different snippet of pop culture that has infested my brain.

If I were to select one of those, then our faithful readers might never know that my internal monologue also punctuates all moments where I, or someone else, shows true GUTS with “Let’s go to Mo with the results. MO!” I cannot, nay, I will not choose between my children.

Josh Bard

MY WIIIIIFE. Every. Time. Anyone. Says. It.

Whether it’s something lovely about the nature of marriage. Whether it’s complaining about the old ball-and-chain. If you are talking about a woman to whom you are married, I am now in a conversation with Borat.


Billy Hafferty

Holy smokes these got me cracking up.

(Dennis – with the Strong Sad quote is more gold than gold. Thank you for that trip down memory lane!)

Just when I conceded to not having anything to contribute, it hit me…

When you’ve got two very similar things to decide between, the reality is… Finkle is Einhorn; Einhorn is Finkle!

Heather Shaff

Ohhhh no. Thanks, boys. Dredging up Strong Sad has unearthed StrongBad’s guitar riff from some long forgotten past and re-lodged it firmly in my brain.

Ugh. Well, maybe it will help me block out the noise of the sidewalk construction that’s been happening in my neighborhood for the past three or four weeks. Beginning at 6:30 A.M.

Meedley Meedley Meedley Meedley MeedlEEEEEEEE!

Rock On.

Strong Bad Email #36 – Guitar

Kelaine Conochan

I’ve got a hot take, gumshoes: the TV game show Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? was pretty boring. I know, I know. Sounds disrespectful to 90s canon. But you wouldn’t rewatch an episode of that show right now, except for one remarkable aspect. DO IT ROCKAPELLA!

My pop culture brainworm isn’t the catchy theme that asked the titular question (even though it still slaps). But instead, it is the other questions that surface themselves almost daily, as I ask common questions like:
Where do you wanna go-o-o?
How much ya gonna ri-i-isk?
Think about it!

Erin Vail

Man. A lot come to mind here. For most obscure, I’ll go with Bonnie Hunt as Kate Baker, aka the mom from Cheaper by the Dozen, saying “Mom’s losing it!” I am not a successful book author and/or mother of 12, but I say and/or think this often about myself.

On the reverse side, often times when I’m going to bed I find myself saying “I gotta go to bed…my mom’s coming, I gotta go to bed. I hear my mom, I gotta go to bed” in the voice of Jonathan Lipnicki from Jerry Maguire (also starring Bonnie Hunt.) I am not a toddler. Nor do I live with my mom. Why is it so funny to say?

Sydney Mineer

This reference is so obscure that I cannot even find a trace of it on the internet. There is a movie called Bring It On Again—yes, one of many sequels to the immaculate 2000 film, Bring It On. In this movie, there is a scene where the cheerleaders are about to go out and compete, and their mascot has its head off and is beat boxing to pump himself up. He raps about normal pep-talk type things and then says “Really gotta pee. Really, really gotta pee.” And this invariably pops into my head whenever I really have to pee.

Jennifer Racusin

*I casually saunter into your office space, coffee cup in hand, and stare at you until you are squirming uncomfortably in your chair.*

Yeah. So, uh, I see that all of you are sending in your reports about pop culture references without a cover sheet. Yeah, I don’t know if you got the memo, but all of our pop culture reports are being sent out with the cover sheet now. So, if you could file your reports with the proper cover sheet from now on that would be great. Yeah, I’ll go ahead and send another copy of that memo. I’ve also been seeing a serious lack of TPS reports coming across my desk lately so, yeah, if you could get started on those TPS reports that would be great.

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