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Linguistic query: "Really?"
Bar Harbor
Over the last few months, I have been seeing a decided increase, in both written and verbal communications, of the usage of the word "Really?" with a specific connotation. Approximately: "It's not that I actually don't believe you, but you have just uttered something so incredibly lame that I must give you the chance to take it back." Extra irony optional. Often used multiple times in a paragraph, not necessarily contiguously.

Now, that's always been a reasonable usage of the word, but I'm seeing it a lot more recently, and I'm wondering if it's just random language drift, or if there's some specific source that popularized this usage. Anyone got insight?

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Saturday Night Live's Seth Meyers has done a "Really?" segment as part of the weekend update segment for the last few years. googling "SNL really" will find a bunch of old episodes.

There was a segment on SNL: Weekend Update last season called "Really?! With Seth and Amy." (Obviously now defunct, since Amy Poehler has left the show.) It was consistently the only funny thing about the show, so it got a lot of link love. I would expect that that use of "really" is on the rise again in part due to the increase in news stories of the epically stupid, including Gov. Sanford's affair, people carrying guns to Obama appearances, and anti-health care reformers' claims that the bill includes death panels for the elderly. Because some things are so fucking ridiculous that all you can say to them is, "Really?!"

I think it's just a current outbreak of an endemic meme.

Luckily, it's not quite defunct, as there have been occasional "Really?! with Seth" segments since Amy's departure. :)

The SNL sketch also was what I thought of first as I read this post...the show has always been pretty effective at propagating random memes. (A brief Soylent Green meme that I recall from the Nineties, for example, can be traced back to a Phil Hartman sketch.)

(Alexx googles...)

Not really, no.

I've been familiar with that since... Well, for many years. But it does seem to have been on the rise steadily.

In the younger and hipper set (and the set that watches too much Grey's Anatomy), it has more commonly been replaced by "Seriously?"

Then again, "really" is more for when someone says something stupid or unbelievable, and "seriously" is more for when someone does something stupid or unbelievable.

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