What words, phrases, and idioms have entered our language thanks to Monty Python? How many examples can you think of?

Since starting this here geek blog, we have been putting something off for as long as we possibly can. The day is inevitable, we knew it, but we push it back anyway just for sport. That is the day we finally have to bring up Monty Python.

Past the Monty Python Threshold, you just can’t say it’s a geek culture blog unless it has a Monty Python post. But, I mean, it’s been DONE before, you know? I racked my brain over what we could possibly say about Monty Python that isn’t said and done 100x over already, especially since the legendary comedy trope marked its 50th anniversary just last year.

But – Aha! Said the Dark Lord brooding in his castle tower, “There is yet one kind of Monty Python post that the web has not!” It’s pretty amazing that nobody’s attempted this before:

Words We Get From Monty Python

Now we all know that we get memes from MP. My God, Internet, spare me, I was quoting them all before there was an Internet. I’m not talking about memes. No, here I mean words and phrases which have entered popular slang and plain old English, through Monty Python’s works. Some of them original with the sketches and films, others merely popularized. You’ll see what I mean from the examples.

Let’s have a go:

Spam

n., A ceaseless cascade of unbidden solicitation.

We all know this one. Even Wikipedia acknowledges that the entire reason we call spam email that is because of the Monty Python Spam sketch.

I hate this example, because when you go around asking your fellow fans “What words have entered current language from Monty Python?” Everybody brightly shouts – thinking themselves very helpful – “spam!” And then you say, “Yes I’ve got that one already, now what else is there?” But that’s all they know now, because the “Spam” answer locked their brain up thinking they’d never have to follow up. The rest of the conversation is just one long sneeze that won’t come out.

There’s articles about Spam and Monty Python all over the place. This one’s bleeding obvious, what else can we find?

Tim

n., A sorcerer whole sole trick is zapping any target with a small ping of damage.

Tim the Enchanter, from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, lends his name to a specific kind of card in the game Magic: The Gathering. It started with Prodigal Sorcerer, printed right from Alpha:

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Prodigal_Sorcerer

Due to his ability to tap and deal one point of damage to any target, he was nicknamed “Tim” in the MTG community, for Tim the Enchanter’s fireball casting ability. This nickname origin is acknowledged on the Wizards site itself. Eventually, this nickname spread to other cards that could ping for one damage. The card Rod of Ruin is called “Tim on a stick,” the card Thornwind Faeries is “flying Tim,” and so on. It’s even entered MTG jargon in verb form; if you deal one damage from a tapped source, you can call it “tim you for one” and be understood. If you ping someone who was down to one last hit point, that means they were “timmed to death.”

Even WotC’s own staff bloggers can’t help making Tim-puns. Tis a silly place, let’s move on.

Gumby

n., A gratuitously dense and feeble-brained person, or a mistake that would be committed by one.

At least the original computer jargon file has this definition of a Gumby in common parlance, credited to the Gumby characters on Monty Python sketches. This is now canonized in the Everything2 entry (can’t believe that site is still running!), third entry down.

Within computer geekdom and especially sysadmin work, “Gumby” is yet another of the thousands of derogatory terms for stupid people or stupid things one must deal with during work hours. To the kinds of sysadmins who used to congregate on Usenet’s alt.sysadmin.recovery, “Gumby” would be another synonym for “clueless idiot user.”

Silly Walk

n., Any convoluted, impractical procedure which must be performed to accomplish a task.

Jargon File to the rescue again, a silly walk is yet another of the names for impractical things you’re obligated to do when dealing with computers, named after the Ministry of Silly Walks sketch. An example would be a software error that requires not only a reboot, but to uninstall and reinstall it again. The phrase implies that you’re required to do something ridiculous and unnecessary because of the inefficiency of the system as handed down by others. We can all think of a silly walk we have to do occasionally in our day jobs.

TVTropes gives us a bonus round with an entry about literally walking silly.

We also can’t let this pass without mentioning this recent tribute. A Michigan family during COVID-19 set out a sign designating the sidewalk in front of their house a “silly walk zone.” Neighborhood dog-walkers and joggers happily complied and the video recorded from the doorbell camera went viral.

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Killer Rabbit

n., A vicious monster which looks non-threatening.

We wade into TVTropes here for the Killer Rabbit trope namer, from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Not exactly common language, but in creative circles it would be perfectly appropriate to refer to any cute, fluffy monster that can bite off your head when provoked as a “Killer Rabbit.” This is a trope common in film, TV, and other media. One example in the live-action film listings there is Ewoks, the cute teddy-bear-like creatures in the Star Wars universe who are nevertheless capable of taking out a Galactic Empire invasion using only Stone-Age technology and guerrilla tactics.

Holy Hand Grenade

n., A divinely powered, kickass weapon used as a last resort.

Still, yet another Holy Grail reference! Still, yet another TVTropes entry! Apparently this has become common parlance among creatives for any supernatural weapon of mass destruction. The Ark of the Covenant from Raiders of the Lost Ark, Hellboy’s ammunition blessed with various powers, and the grenade of concentrated sunlight in Van Helsing are all examples.

Dead Parrot

n., A lost cause which someone will not give up, engaging in delusion instead.

You could call the Dead Parrot sketch the signature act of the Monty Python franchise. It’s one of the most famous comedy sketches now, cited up there with Abbott & Costello’s “Who’s On First?” The jolting part is that no less than British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher referenced the Dead Parrot sketch in a political speech.

No really, in context and everything. This is cited from the Wikipedia page about the Dead Parrot sketch itself. But following suit from Thatcher, “dead parrot” has entered public language as a synonym for “dead horse,” an idiom for wasted effort expended on a lost cause, suggesting the persistent person is in denial. A 2019 Globalist article refers to a “dead parrot argument,” this Above the Law post title refers to an argument as “a dead parrot,” and a Salt Lake Tribune piece makes extensive comparison between the Dead Parrot sketch and the proceedings at an impeachment hearing.

So yeah, Dead Parrot might be the second-most famous Monty Python reference right after Spam.

There you have it, a completely original Monty Python blog post on the web! Readers, we’re sure to have not found every example, so if you can think of any other prominent ones we missed (WITH citations!), please chime right in!

 

About the author

Penguin Pete

Penguin Pete

Geek tribal bard for the Internet, before "geek" was cool. Linux power user, MTG collector, light saber owner, cult movie fanatic, comic book memer, video gamer, Unix beard currently measures six inches.