Recently, Steven Slater made the news as the JetBlue flight attendant who, in no uncertain terms, went ballistic on a passenger, chewed said passenger out on the plane's intercom, grabbed a beer from the plane, and exited via the emergency slide. Inspired by this incident, MSNBC.com reports:
Most of us will probably never pull a Steven Slater: curse out a customer, grab a drink and leave our place of employment in a blaze of glory. (article by Allison Linn)I immediately found this interesting for two reasons: (1) less than a day after a singular incident, Steven Slater already has an "event" named after him; and (2) the event is well-known enough to be named a "Steven Slater" yet not well-known enough to be able to use the construction "pull a Steven Slater" without further identifying what that means.
Addressing (1) first, I would most likely not--in everyday usage--coin a phrase such as "to pull a Monica" after a single incident of Monica making a mistake. Oftentimes, this phrase requires a repeated behavior rather than a single incident. If Steven Slater had merely quit his job in a more typical fashion (e.g., a resignation letter), then no one would think of calling quitting a job "pulling a Steven Slater." However, if Steven went on to quit his next five jobs in a row, I might be tempted to call quitting a job "pulling a Steven Slater." I had never stopped to consider how "to pull a X" was applied until I read the MSNBC.com article and realized that it takes an extraordinary situation to apply "to pull a X" after only one incident.
Furthermore, I wouldn't typically think of saying "You just pulled a Monica" to someone who has no idea who Monica is or what "pulling a Monica" might mean. Because of that, it seems a little unnatural to think of adding the addendum in natural speech: "You just pulled a Monica: screwing up." In fact, I would think that most typical uses wouldn't merit a clarification clause. Yet, "pulling a Steven Slater", while national news, is new enough that clarification is necessary.
To take consideration of the construction one step further, I find it interesting how we decide to apply the construction. Saturday Night Live dedicated a sketch to "pulling a Peyton Manning" (when you show lots of promise but don't deliver), but I don't often hear phrases with celebrities' names inserted into the construction. For instance, when Tom Cruise jumped on Oprah's couch, instead of saying, "You just pulled a Tom Cruise," we adopted the phrase "You jumped the couch." As another example, when Fonzie jumped over the shark near the end of the Happy Days run, the phrase "to pull a Fonzie" never made it into the language; instead, "jump the shark" became a useful phrase for when something good goes terribly wrong. (The episode in which Fonzie jumps the shark roughly marked the end of the popularity for Happy Days.) Perhaps "pulling a Steven Slater" is only possible because he is not a celebrity but is rather an everyday guy who is enjoying his 15 minutes of fame for his antics.
So now the big question is whether the phrase will stick or not. Do you think you'll remember what "pulling a Steven Slater" is next year? Do you think you'll ever have reason to use the phrase in your own speech?
If any of you have a "to pull a X" example of your own, I'd love to hear about it.