Jerry Seinfeld

Jerry Seinfeld really defends the word really in letter to New York Times

Oct. 3, 2012 at 4:36 PM ET

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Jerry Seinfeld.

In a piece that ran in Monday's New York Times, Neil Genzlinger opined about his dislike for the the use of the word "really" as a comedic tool. "I’m not talking about 'Really?' as a request for more information or an expression of surprise," he wrote. "I’m referring to the more recent, faddish use of it: delivered with a high-pitched sneer to indicate a contempt so complete that it requires no clarification."

Genzlinger goes on to say that when "Really?" pops up in scripted shows, it's "lazy writing" and the use of those "Reallys?" are playing a role in the "continuing collapse of society." Really.

Jerry Seinfeld, who has performed in the hit "Saturday Night Live" sketch "Really?!? With Seth and Amy" took umbrage with Genzlinger's notions, and penned a letter to The New York Times defending its use.

Seinfeld wrote: "Your Critic’s Notebook column about the overuse of the term 'Really?' was so deeply vacuous that I couldn’t help but feel that you have stepped into my area of expertise. Really, Neil? Really? You’re upset about too many people saying, 'Really?'? I mean, really. O.K., fine, when it’s used in scripted media, it is a little lazy. But comedy writers are lazy. You’re not fixing that. So, here’s the bottom line. If you’re a writer, fine, don’t use it. But in conversation it is fun to say."

Seinfeld's example of when, precisely, it is fine to say "Really?" riffs on an example from the original piece. "Your example with the girl in the office and the bad clothes? It is definitely much more fun to look at her and just say, 'Really?' than to actually talk about the stupid outfit. Really, it is ... You crumbled a bit of civilization off there yourself. Really."

Seinfeld's letter struck a chord: it became the No. 1 most viewed article on NYTimes.com -- the first time a letter to the Times has ever hit the top spot, according to what letters editor Thomas Feyer told Jim Romenesko.  

What do you think of the use of the word? We want to hear from you on Facebook. Really.

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