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martes, 20 de noviembre de 2012

"Bazinga!”: The Big Bang Theory X-File

This is my translation of the entry in Spanish, "Bazinga!" El expediente X de The Big Bang Theory

The Big Bang Theory is a geek TV series in which four nerds keep on saying geek references every now and then. Sometimes I am amazed by the amount of them that I get; there are, however, some of them that are more obscure on purpose. They fill the Internet forums with nerdy mobs arguing about their origin, and this kind of argument can be a very very dangerous and ferocious one. So, in order to avoid broken noses, chopped ears and fits of hysteria, we are going to clear up the origin of the most characteristic Sheldonian idiom, just ahead of the hit[toc toc toc] Penny!”: “Bazinga!”

Javier Cantero twetted me that the idiom was used for one of the scriptwriters of the first season and that Bill Prady, Big Bang co-creator, explained it in its Twitter. Then there is a responsible of introducing bazinga in the TV show, but who is this scriptwriter that bazinga us from the shadows? From where did he get that word? There are several theories surfing the Internet. I chose some of them, some for being curious and others for being likely.

Sumerians, Klingons and chemists
There are dozens of theories and the majority of them not very reliable. Their only evidence is the word of some folk. Like trying to explain in WordReference that bazinga is a Sumerian word with no further evidence and being that post the only one did in the forum. It can be considered as certain information. It is original, of course, but not reliable at all. It is a shame that the post is no longer available

Bazinga transcribed into Klingon
A funny hypothesis points out bazinga as a word in Klingon, the language created for Star Trek. It would be worth seeing a situation with a Klingon deceiving another one, smacking him and saying “Bazinga!” with a full of happiness face. Unfortunately, this situation seems unlikely. I didn’t consult any treekie expert, but almost everything I have read says that the idiom doesn’t exist in Klingon language. It is still true that I found a lot of weird stuff with which I would be able to write a full article. Maybe some random fan will add bazinga to the Klingon dictionary, it wouldn’t be odd. The Klingon Language Institute may not accept it as formal language, but it can be still used in the Klingon colloquial register.

Sheldon & Co are PhD scientists (except from Wolowitz, who only has a master degree) and have proved to be well versed in chemistry. That’s why some believed that bazinga could not be anything but an acronym born from some chemical elements in the periodic table. Maybe it is possible to relate some of them logically, but it seems a too convoluted theory. It is more likely that they started to do it the other way round: they had the word first and then someone started to look for matching elements. It is good stuff for making T-shits, though.

The Zing Buzzing juncture: formation from other words
Words don’t usually come out of nowhere. There is some idioms that can be the origin of bazinga and can be easily found in a dictionary. The verb to zing is informally used to criticize or make fun of someone. The idioms zing! and zinged! come from this verb and have the same role as the Sheldonian bazinga! The similarity of the terms is clear. Zinger is also a very close term and some English speakers will pronounce it like [ba]zinga. Another possibility deals with the verb to buzz and its form buzzing. This came to the mind of some fans that wrote buzzinga when they didn’t know the official spelling yet.

Can the origin be in any of these idioms? It is likely. Zing or buzzing –maybe even a mix of both, who knows- may be the root of this singular lexical family, but the branches muddle up deep in the thicket. 

Family Guy's "Bazing!"
The most widespread theory about the origin of the Sheldonian bazinga relates it with an alike idiom appeared in Family Guy. Emission impossible is the 11th chapter of the 3rd season. Stewie, disappointed by his unsuccessful attempts to prevent his parents from having sex and having another baby, says “Now I know how the Catholic Church feels. Ba-zing!

Close enough to bazinga, right? But, if the Big Bang scriptwriters wanted to pay tribute to Family Guy, they could just use bazing. The use of the word in Family Guy is also just accidental, it has no importance and it is not repeated. However, there is an important point that makes the tribute to Family Guy unlikely: an economic reason. FOX and CBS are the ones that broadcast Family Guy and Big Bang respectively. They are enemy TV channels too. There will be no point in advertising each other. It is still an option to take into account?

The Bubble Bazinga mechanics
Bubble Bazinga is a video game that imitates the classic Puzzle Bobble. When the plays gets more than 10,000 points with only one shot, trumpets sound and a big “BAZINGA!” appears like in the screenshot. You can try it out here, but I warn you, it is very addictive.

From where does this triumphant expression come in the game? Nothing is certain, but it likely came from zing! I guess that the game appeared before the Family Guy’s bazing and this bazing may not be related to the game because they don’t use bazinga. On the other hand, is this one the first appearance of bazinga? Did The Big Bang Theory scriptwriters take the idea from this video game?

The X-Files: Bazinga buzingo buzing?
If anyone thought that this was something worth of a Mulder & Scully investigation, you have to know that Scully is embroiled. X-Files 19th episode of the 7th season was “Hollywood A.D.” and was aired in 2000. An audio expert and Scully are examining a vessel. With his audio processing tools the guy discovers that the bowl sends out some odd frequencies and the agent mentions that it can be related to Jesus Christ. Surprised, the man exclaims almost breathless: "Bazingo".

At least, that is what appears transcribed in the English subtitles. Why is it not clear? It is only a whisper and it is difficult to know what he is really saying. Maybe it is my ears expecting to hear what they want, but I hear "Bazinga". Who is right and who is not difficult to see is.

From where did the Sheldonian bazinga come out? Conclusions
Let's gather the info that we have. The Big Bang Theory is rich in intertextualities and this idiom may be referring to something previous. The problem is the whole bunch of possibilities. It is difficult to know which one is the true one. Let’s set a timeline in order to know what happened first and what later:

2001 – Family Guy’s “Emission Impossible” (“Ba-zing!”)

???? – Bubble Bazinga (“Bazinga!”)
2009The Big Bang Theory’s “The Monopolar Expedition”, last episode of the 2nd season (“Bazinga!”)

It is clear that all the options that we are considering are a word play: most of them seem to come from zing, zinger or buzzing. The X-Files is a possible origin, even though in this series it is used to voice surprise. Family Guy’s “Ba-zing!” has the same function as bazinga, but for the abovementioned reasons it is unlikely to be the origin. Bubble Bazinga meets all the requirements, since it means the same with the same spelling. 

What can we do with this? If I had to bet on one option, I will say that the scriptwriter of Big Bang liked to play Bubble Bazinga. It is the same word as the Sheldonian bazinga, both in spelling and meaning. It is obvious that there is no clear solution. If someone can unravel the enigma is the scriptwriter that came out with it. But that is not an impediment to the fans, because we are going to brood over it anyway as I did with the piece that you are reading right now. And the thing is, my dear colleagues, that the truth is out there.

Sheldon looking for the truth in a ball pit.
I have seen balls like that somewhere else...

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