Origins: What is this '___' of which you speak?

It’s a catchphrase usually used humorously to (pretend to) distance one’s self from having even passing familiarity with something.

“OK, it’s an hour and a half before we have to head over to the shareholder’s conference, so if you want to hang out in the cafe and drink a beer and play hearts, go ahead, but keep an eye on the clock.”

“What is this ‘clock’ of which you speak?” [spoken slowly, as if English were 2nd language]
Is there a single origin, a movie or a play, which was the source of this?

“Please, what is this, this* Junior*?”

“That’s his name, Henry Jones Jr.”

“I like Indiana!”

“We named the dog Indiana”

“The dog? You are named after the dog?”
Not quite the same as what you were asking about, but similar. And I don’t know where it comes from either. :smiley:

“The Prisoner” in Star Trek: The Final Frontier says something like “What is this star ship of which you speak?” Well, something like that.

Isn’t it Slartibartfast from The Hitchhiker’s Guide?

“It is sometimes difficult to follow your mode of speech, Earthman. I know little of these ‘early sixties sitcoms’ of which you speak.”

It sounds like a line from a B-science-fiction movie from the '50s. An alien would not know about something We Humans (I capitalised that because the aliens would always name themselves: ‘We Brainians are a most unmerciful race.’) take for granted. For example, a Benevolent Alien might meat an Earth Girl. EG says, ‘Why don’t you give me a kiss?’ The BA, having come from a highly intellectual, ordered society, would know nothing of it. ‘What is this kiss, of which you speak?’

I think it’s a device used in those films to indicate that even though the alien race might be more technologically advanced, they have lost the simple things that make us human.

:smack: Talk about a Freudian slip! :smiley:

To me the archetype is –

What is this strange thing you humans call “love”?

I can’t remember where it comes from, but I’m sure it has been around for a while, since the 30s or 40s, perhaps.

Is my memory faulty, or did Yul Brynner make liberal use of this line in The King and I?

Almost certainly not the origin of what you’re looking for, but it is from a 1950’s science fiction film:

Hero: We were attacked by the mutants outside.

Future Underground Dweller: Mutants?

Other FUD: It is from Latin, a very old language. It means “the changed ones”

Still Another FUD: Changed ones indeed…
World Without End (1956) –

Never mind … having a hard time finding backup.

There is an instance of its usage in the English translation version of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, originally published in 1943 (in French - I don’t know when the first English translation was published):

I would not be the least suprised that a line from as universally popular and beloved a book as that, has found its way into modern vernacular.

Sloooooohohohow down there with your “universals” and “beloveds,” Earthling. Blech.

No, NO!

“What is this thing called, love?”

Hey hey, slow down. I’m a scientist, and that was even too fast for me!

I often use the phrase, “what means this word, ‘_____’?” but I didn’t get it from any known pop culture source, but rather from my great-grandmother, who spoke English pretty well, but not REALLY well.

When I say it, it’s usually, “Sleep? What means this word, ‘sleep’?”

Cole Porter song from 1929, What Is This Thing Called Love? Based on the rhythms of a chant Porter claims to have heard in Marrakesh.

It’s been a while but isn’t it when Anna is telling him about snow?

One of my all time fave movies, and I’m only 20, my nan always used to make me watch it.