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John Sullivan phrases: 10 of the best

  • 23 April 2011
  • From the section UK
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Nicholas Lyndhurst and David Jason and Rodney and Del
Sullivan had a keen eye for visual humour, playing on the differing heights of his two central characters

Only Fools and Horses scriptwriter John Sullivan, who has died aged 64, had a deep-rooted love of the English language, which he expertly transferred to the mouths of his many memorable TV characters.

Their catchphrases and words have had a lasting impact on British culture, with several entering the language.

Here's a quick guide to 10 amongst his best-known.

Lovely Jubbly!

Del Boy's much-used - and copied - expression of delight was borrowed from an advertising slogan for an orange juice drink in the 1960s called Jubbly. Sullivan remembered it and pictured Del using it, so incorporated it into the show. It entered the new Oxford English Dictionary in 2003.

Rodney, you plonker!

Rodney in Only Fools and Horses
Sullivan partly based Rodney on his own experiences, and says they were both dreamers

Del's way of calling his brother an idiot - one of several putdowns - had an endearing quality and was no less frequently used, owing to Rodney's naivety (albeit charming) and general gormlessness and lack of common sense.

Rodney himself was more likely to use words such as "cosmic" and "triffic", several years after they were hip expressions.

The financial director of Trotters Independent Traders, he is known affectionately as "Rodders".

This time next year, we'll be millionaires!

Another of Del's frequent sayings, it underpins the entire premise of Only Fools and Horses. Del's optimism endears him to his audience who, nevertheless, do not see much hope in the message as they watch Trotters Independent Traders deal mainly on the black market.

Among their cheap goods for sale were Russian Army camcorders, luminous yellow paint and sex dolls filled with explosive gas.

During the war...

Uncle Albert in Only Fools and Horses
Uncle Albert's long-winded wartime anecdotes became one of the show's memorable running jokes

Uncle Albert: During the war...

Del Boy: [interrupts Albert] If you say during the war one more time, I'll pour this cup of tea over your head.

Uncle Albert: During the 1939-1945 conflict with Germany.

Uncle Albert's unprompted wartime reminiscences struck a chord with the families of certain sea-dogs of a certain generation.

The character won seven medals during his service in the Royal Navy, but mainly because he had an unfortunate time serving on seven ships that all sunk. He is the perfect foil to Rod and Del.

All right, Dave?

Trigger (Roger Lloyd Pack) from Only Fools and Horses
Trigger was so named as he looked like a horse, according to Del

Trigger, the intellectually-challenged friend of the Trotters, genuinely believes Rodney is called Dave, but no-one has bothered to correct him, apart from an exasperated Rodney who once points out that it's not even a nickname, saying: "You're the only one who calls me Dave. Everybody else calls me Rodney, and the reason they call me Rodney is because Rodney is my name."

It is one of a number of running jokes favoured by Sullivan, along with Del's supposed affair with Marlene and the brothers' main mode of transport - a broken down Reliant van. In this example Trigger, who has a single qualification - in cycling proficiency - talks about the name of Del's baby:

Trigger: If it's a girl they're gonna name it Sigourney, after the actress. And if it's a boy they're gonna name him Rodney, after Dave.

Not goodbye, just bonjour

Del Boy is fluent in many languages, or so he thinks, and revels in demonstrating his varied - and garbled - foreign phrases.

From "mange tout" and "menage a trois" for "my pleasure" to "au contraire for "hang on a minute" and "au revoir" for "hello", he bumbles his way through with hilarious results. This quote is from a romantic moment in series three:

Del: No, no not goodbye Margaret, no just Bonjour.

Power To The People!

Robert Lindsay as "Wolfie" Smith in Citizen Smith
Robert Lindsay played "Wolfie" Smith, a dreamer and petty thief with revolutionary aspirations

"Wolfie" Smith, the lead character in Sullivan's Citizen Smith, was an "urban guerrilla" living in Tooting, South London. This rallying cry appeared in the opening titles followed by a different resultant disaster in each episode.

Robert Lindsay played the leader of the revolutionary Tooting Popular Front, whose words were meant to inspire his fellow communists, but which in reality were only heard by his small group of misfit friends.

I've got battles to fight and rights to right

Another grand statement often repeated by Wolfie as he tried to emulate his hero Che Guevara, but his laziness and disorganisation meant he could never live up to his dreams.

He who dares Rodney, he who dares

David Jason as Del Boy Trotter
Del's luck eventually changed when an antique watch found in his garage made him a millionaire

A Del Boy phrase that encapsulates his self confidence, ambition and optimism, but which invariably leads to egg on his face.

Del's lack of expertise to succeed in business and "lovable loser" qualities are partly the reason we empathise so closely with him.

Once Del Boy famously followed his "He who dares, wins!" with the further wisdom "He who hesitates... don't."

Don't you ever come near me again, Trotter!

Spoken by Del's long-suffering partner Raquel as she was giving birth, it's a reminder of the extended cast of Only Fools and Horses that are so crucial to its success.

Raquel was introduced to the show because Sullivan wanted more female characters, and he continued to add more characters generally as the show went from strength to strength.

And despite the show being traditionally built around its wisecracking male characters, Sullivan ensured that newcomers such as Cassandra and Raquel often had the better of the verbal repartee.

As Raquel once reassured a jealous Del: "Derek, will you get it into your thick skull: I'm not trying to meet intelligent and sensitive people, I'm happy with you."