NY Times TV critic Neil Genzlinger wrote a column about the overuse of the phrase "Really?", complaining, "Civilization crumbles a little bit almost every time I turn on the television, and a single word-and-punctuation-mark combination is inflicting the damage."
He cites various examples, from Saturday Night Live's "Really!?! With Seth and Amy" to recent instances in Veep, Last Resort and Animal Practice, deeming, "The derisive 'Really?' is a cop-out word, for television characters and real people. It relieves the user of having to clarify his own position or approach new ideas with genuine curiosity. Perhaps having monkeys wander unrestrained through medical facilities has an undiscovered curative effect, but we’ll never know."
Enter Jerry Seinfeld. He wrote a letter to the editor, arguing for the usefulness of "Really?":
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.
I did a “Saturday Night Live Weekend Update” segment titled “Really!?!” with Seth Meyers a few years ago. It was a blast and the audience loved it.
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.
We haven't seen this kind of outcry over a Genzlinger piece since... his Game of Thrones review in April (GoT-ers were unhappy!). Anyway, as we await Seinfeld and the GoT fanbase to collaborate on "Neil Genzlinger is the Devil," here's that Seinfeld bit with Meyers: