Don't Be An Idiom: Jump The Shark
Exploring the origin of everyday words and sayings.
Web2Carz Senior Writer
Published: October 20th, 2012
The phrase refers to
a notoriously bad episode of "Happy Days" in which Fonzie jumps over a shark while water skiing.
IDIOM: "Jump the shark."
MEANING: To suffer a drastic reduction in quality or relevance. "Jumptheshark.com really jumped the shark when it was bought out by TV Guide."
ORIGIN: The origins of many English-language idioms are often difficult to pinpoint. Some have been traced to their first printed usage, but there's no way to know how long these phrases might have been in use before finding their way into print. Such is not the case with "jump the shark," the phrase used to the point at which a popular cultural phenomenon, usually a TV show, has taken an irreversible turn for the worst.
"Jump the shark" came into popular usage thanks to the the website jumptheshark.com, a website created in 1997 on which TV fans discuss when various television shows lost their way.
John Hein, who created the website while he was a student at the University of Michigan, is often credited with coining the phrase, although Hein has pointed out that it was his roommate, Sean J. Connolly, who coined the phrase, which referred to a notoriously bad episode of Happy Days in which Fonzie jumps over a shark while water skiing.
The phrase quickly entered the popular lexicon and the website's popularity skyrocketed. In 2006 Hein sold the website for a rumored $5 million. It's unknown whether Hein gave any of this money to Connolly.