To mark the end of one of the most popular shows on TV, here are some fun facts about the words and languages used on “The Big Bang Theory.”
May 16 brings the final episode of “The Big Bang Theory,” one of TV’s most popular comedies. The show started in 2007 and has run for 12 seasons. The May 16 series finale will mark the show’s 279th episode, making it the longest-running multi-camera sitcom on American TV.
Fans of the show have come to love the contentious but ultimately caring relationships between the show’s protagonists: Sheldon, Leonard, Raj, and Howard; and Penny, Amy, and Bernadette.
Fans also appreciate the way the show has blended wordplay, pop culture lingo, and scientific jargon into the characters’ day-to-day conversations.
To celebrate the end of the show, here are some fun facts about the words and languages used on “The Big Bang Theory.”
Fake Languages Used on ‘The Big Bang Theory’: Klingon, Ubbi Dubbi, and Op
First, we’ll talk about three fake languages used on the show.
- First, there’s Klingon, the constructed language that was first developed for the TV series Star Trek, which ran from 1966 to ‘69. The first words of Klingon were developed by James Doohan, the actor who played “Scottie” on the original series. The invented language was then expanded in 1984 by linguist Marc Okrand, who was hired to flesh it out for the movie “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.” It’s since become a fully functioning language that’s spoken by hard-core Star Trek fans worldwide. A recent Planet Money podcast episode even reported that about 1% of CAPTCHA farmers—those are people (usually in countries like China, India, and Russia) who manually solve CAPTCHAs on websites all day long for fractions of pennies a shot—were able to solve instructions given to them in Klingon.
- We also hear Ubbi Dubbi on the ‘The Big Bang Theory.' Ubbi Dubbi is a code language, kind of like Pig Latin. Penny and Amy use it so they can talk without Leonard and Sheldon understanding. To speak Ubbi Dubbi, you add “ub” before each of the vowel sounds in a word. Instead of “hello,” you’d say “hub-ell-ub-o.” Instead of “thanks,” you’d say “thu-banks.”
- Finally, there’s Op, used by Amy. To speak Op, you spell out every word in a sentence (except for the first word) and add “-op” to the end of each consonant. So instead of saying, “Hey, dude,” you’d say “Hey, dop u dop e!” Instead of “What’s new?” you’d say “What’s nop e wop?”
Invented Words: ‘Trestling,’ ‘Inhumanities,’ ‘Satisficer,’ ‘Zazzy,’ ‘Bazinga’
The show has also coined a number of words and meanings over the years.
- “Trestling.” A game that has opponents play Tetris with one hand—while arm wrestling with the other.
- "Zazzy." A word that Sheldon uses to mean “sassy.” He named a pet cat “Zazzle,” stating it was because she’s so “zazzy.”
- "The inhumanities.” A dismissive term Sheldon uses to refer to all academic disciplines other than the sciences.
- "Satisficer.” Another of Sheldon’s insults, which he uses to mean someone who accepts what’s satisfactory to everyone else without considering their own happiness.
- "Qu’est-ce que c’up?” Howard’s questionable translation of “what’s up” into French.
- "Bazinga." Sheldon’s catchword; his way of saying “gotcha” or “fooled you!” The word was thought up by show writer Stephen Engel. It’s been used throughout the series, showing up 10 times in one season 3 episode alone.
Real-life Words Inspired by 'The Big Bang Theory'
“The Big Bang Theory” has also celebrated research, study, and science. In response, scientists have celebrated the show.
- In 2012, Brazilian biologists named a newly identified species of bee “Euglossa bazinga.”
- In 2013, a new family of rhizostome jellyfish was discovered, and its single species was named “Bazinga reiki.”
- And in 2013 and 2014, three baby colobus monkeys born at the Columbus Zoo in Ohio were named after “Big Bang Theory” characters. In 2013, the zoo welcomed baby Dr. Sheldon Cooper, and in 2014, babies Dr. Leonard Hofstadter and Howard Wolowitz.
A Dictionary Shout-out
Finally, Grammar Girl listeners will know that we frequently refer to the “Oxford English Dictionary.” We use it to learn the origin and etymology of words, and discover when they were first used. This important language resource received a shout-out in season 2 of the show.
In the episode, Leonard tells his friends that he’s dated “plenty of women,” mentioning “Joyce Kim and Leslie Winkle.”
Says Sheldon, “Notify the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary. The word ‘plenty’ has been redefined to mean ‘two.’”
We’ll end today on that solid Sheldon Cooper put-down. If you like hearing about language in pop culture, you may want to check out two of our other recent episodes. They addressed the languages used in Game of Thrones and in Avengers: Endgame.
"A Brand New Bee Was Just Named After Sheldon From 'The Big Bang Theory'. Smithsonian Magazine, December 17, 2012
Colucci, Jim. Exclusive: The Big Bang Theory boss Bill Prady talks about the series finale and reflects on the show’s legacy. Monsters & Critics, February 21, 2019.
Harnick, Chris. The Big Bang Theory Makes TV History as Longest-Running Multi-Camera Sitcom. ENews, March 27, 2019.
Garber, Megan. On the Origin of (Wackily Named) Species. The Atlantic, September 22, 2015.
Wilson, Jennifer. BAZINGA! Two Colobus Monkeys Born at the Columbus Zoo. Columbuszoo.org, May 5, 2014.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.