Jump the shark and jump the couch

"Jumping the shark" is an expression which means that something has reached its peak and can only go downhill from that point. It comes from an episode of Happy Days, in which Fonzie actually jumps a shark on water skis. It was a sign that the writers were desperate for ideas and that the show was past its best. It is now widely used as shorthand to express that something has run its course.
"Jumping the couch" is much more recent, and was probably inspired by "Jumping the shark", as it is also a defining moment where everything goes wrong. It refers to Tom Cruise’s antics during the Oprah Winfrey show, where he manically bounced on the couch to express how in love he was with Katie Holmes. Hence now, this expression is used to describe the moment where a celebrity has lost credibility through a moment of madness.

By | 2016-10-18T15:50:20+00:00 September 15th, 2006|Idioms|4 Comments

About the Author:

I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.


  1. May September 16, 2006 at 1:35 am

    Despite its provenance, I have to ask if this a British English expression? I’ve never heard of it…but then, I could just be hopelessly out of the loop. That is always a possibility.

  2. Nathalie Reis September 16, 2006 at 8:12 am

    Hi Celine,
    I just spent 20 minutes looking at the Urban dictionary website. Very interesting although I didn’t recognise many expressions. It certainly widens your field of knowledge. Thanks!

  3. Xavier Kreiss September 17, 2006 at 2:39 am

    I agree with May. The two expressions are colourful, and innovative. American English, of course.
    I suspect that they won’t be around for long. But yes, they are rather fun.

  4. céline September 19, 2006 at 8:51 am

    "jump the shark" has been in use since 1997. Wikipedia traces it back to the creation of jumptheshark.com, a website which "chronicles the moments of when TV shows go downhill". I like them a lot, I’m going to use them constantly to make sure they do stick around!

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