The Wire's Most Famous Catchphrase Needed To Be Used Sparingly

You already know. The infamous expletive uttered by the crooked Sen. Clay Davis, played by Isiah Whitlock Jr., added spice to the lawman side of HBO's "The Wire" series. On the Baltimore-based crime drama, institutions are put under the microscope, and one of the refractions of a broken political system is Whtilock's politician, said to be loosely based upon Maryland State Senator Larry Young according to journalist William Zorzi's essay in "The Wire: Truth Be Told." The character is known for taking bribes and for his profane exhaustion, summed up by a single word, stretched out like taffy for maximum effectiveness.

While Bernie Mac extols the diversity of a lone curse word and its wide applicability, Whitlock Jr. extols the virtues of brevity when his ornery detective drops profanity, treating its utilization as something between science and art. Speaking with The Huffington Post in tandem with the release of a limited-edition line of talking bobbleheads (yes, they say it), the frequent Spike Lee collaborator explained how he approaches the delicate art of obscenity within his craft, which actually began professionally on Lee's "The 25th Hour." "I had done it in an audition and he really liked it and so when he cast me he said he wanted me to do it," said Whitlock. Then the sheeeee-it really took off on "The Wire." (It can be heard again, almost lovingly, in "Da 5 Bloods")

Do we really need to say it?

Whitlock explained that the impetus to curse came from his uncle, who would use the word when especially disgruntled and wound up, when there's no other term to sum up the exasperation. But writing it into the show wasn't as easy as peppering every other line of dialogue with it, which Whitlock felt would over-season his character to the point where the phrase would lose its power. He tells HuffPost:

"Sometimes, even when they wrote it in, if I didn't feel like it was right at a certain moment, I wouldn't do it. It's a little bit more technical than that, because I think if you just sort of throw the word around and stuff like that, people will sort of get tired of it, but if you can kind of pick and choose, certain moments called for that particular word and the way that I would say it, it can have an incredible amount of effect."

Whitlock has long been surprised at how quickly and intensely the catchphrase took off. Fans catch him with it on the street all the time, he says:

"It was something I really just took for granted. I never really paid much attention to it. But I was always amazed the way people would respond to it so I just kind of stuck with it."

Whitlock delivers the line so iconically and consistently that by now, no one else should be allowed to utter the line without immediate comparison.