TV Shows And Songs That Improved Our Vocabulary

Gilmore Girls

Viewers love the Gilmore Girls because of the spirited but slightly quirky characters and small-town charm. But, its smart writing doesn’t hurt either.

Whether the characters are making up their own words (are you feeling smad?), creating their own catchphrases (“letting go of the bumper”) or using real words others aren’t, such as copious (or a plentiful supply of goods) and the Latin term, in omnia paratus (“ready for/in all things”), viewers get to see how impressive vocabulary can be used in everyday situations—while imagining they really have a say in whether Rory dates Jess, Dean, or Logan.

blink-182, "All the Small Things"

Back in 2000, blink-182’s song “All the Small Things” came out, bringing with it a rockin’ vocabulary.

In the song, the band uses the word commiserating (“Always, I know / You’ll be at my show / Watching, waiting, commiserating”) which means to sympathize or express sadness. The song also throws in the term windmill, not only a wind generator plant but also “an imaginary opponent.” So, all the cool kids were singing along while also unknowingly expanding their lexicon. Score!

The Big Bang Theory

Sure, countless people have tuned into CBS’s The Big Bang Theory for a good laugh, but besides being hilarious, these science geeks thoroughly enhance viewers’ language—making learning fun and funny.

No one walks away from watching the show without learning new science and math terms, such as topological insulators (“material that is both an insulator and a conductor”), Gedanken experiment (German for “thought experiment”), and asymptote (“a straight line approached by a given curve”).

And, in addition to the math and science terms, Sheldon often just showcases his rich vocabulary in its own right, such as in this gem: “For the record, it could kill us to meet new people. They could be murderers or the carriers of unusual pathogens. And I’m not insane, my mother had me tested.”

Beastie Boys, "Intergalactic"

The Beastie Boys rocked the charts in the 1090s with their catchy hip-hop beats and lyrics. But, their sounds aren’t just fun to listen to: they’re also educational.

For example, the boys get scientific in their 1998 hit “Intergalactic” (or “occurring in the space between galaxies”), where they sing: “Another dimension, new galaxy / Intergalactic, planetary.” And, we can’t forget the other lyrical gems they threw in: versatile (“many uses”), revile (“speak abusively”), and Uranus (“seventh planet from the sun”).


The musical comedy television series Glee gained its popularity for many reasons, including its various song and dance routines on each episode.

While this might have reeled in its viewers, it also enticed us to amp up our workout skills … maybe because we were inspired by the choreography, but most likely because we were afraid of the searingly snarky turns of phrase from cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester. Two standout quotes: “Even your breath stinks of mediocrity” and “I realize my cultural ascendance only serves to illuminate your own banality.”

Dang, Sue really is the ultimate clapback—and vocabulary—queen.

Fuel, "Hemorrhage (In My Hands)"

The rock band Fuel taught its listeners about the body thanks to its “Hemorrhage (In My Hands)” track from 2000.

The word hemorrhage (“bleeding profusely”) might only be in the title, but its chorus (“Leave love bleeding / In my hands, in my hands / Love lies bleeding”) explains the meaning by associating it with something everyone can relate to: loss of love. And, don’t forget their use of contagious, meaning “spreading a disease by bodily contact” … because if you’re bleeding everywhere, you better know if you have something contagious. Just sayin’.

Mad Men

AMC’s Mad Men series had a lot to offer its audience—everything from swanky fashion to seductive betrayals. But, let’s not leave out the power of language.

Don Draper was the king of correcting other’s grammar, and because he’s a confidently cool, fine-dressed businessman, we didn’t hate him for telling us all the grammar faux pas committed in the show. One one character asks: “You don’t have to work no more?” Don quickly rejoins: “Anymore.” Hey, we love a stickler as much as the next dictionary.


FOX’s drama House featured some captivating … and life-saving … medical lingo.

The show’s main character Dr. Gregory House and his smart-witted team we learned everything from hemodynamically stable (“stabilized blood flow”) to zebra, medical slang an exotic diagnosis when a common one is more likely.

Other examples include euthanasia (“painless, assisted death”), false-positive (“incorrect test result”) and medical proxy (“a person who gives medical consent for a patient unable to make their own decisions”). We miss House’s cold sarcasm—and excellent vocabulary, don’t you?

Tool, "Schism"

You might have learned the meaning behind the term juxtapose back in school, but do you remember it?

If you sang along to Tool’s 2001 song, “Schism” over and over (like the rest of us), it probably helped refresh your memory: “Pure intention juxtaposed will set two lovers’ souls in motion.” (To juxtapose is “to place side by side in comparison or contrast.”)

Bonus: Schism is also a great word, meaning “division in mutually opposed parties.”

True Blood

HBO’s True Blood spotlighted some sultry vampires, yet we can’t help but notice all the fascinating words this TV series shelled out.

Take the word maenad (“a priestess, raging woman”), for one. Pam really dishes out the best quotes, right? “Now, why’d you have to go kill that maenad? She was a terrific decorator.”

Found in English in the 1500s, maenad originates as a term for a female follower of Greek god of wine and good times, Dionysus (as they are in True Blood; the ancient Romans knew him Bacchus) known for their ecstatic, drunken frenzies. The root of maenad is a verb meaning “to rage.”

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