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In Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, Jim Carrey at one point exclaims '"Wunderbar!" he exclaimed with great relish'. Like much of what he says in these early movies, I assume this is a reference to some other media. However, internet searches have turned up empty.

Any ideas what he is referring to?

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    I think without a reference clip or a lot more context you are relying far too much on people's memory of a 25-year-old movie.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Mar 17, 2021 at 14:13
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    I think you're vastly underestimating the cult status of the Ace Ventura movies. I know many people who have seen those movies enough times to know every line by heart. Regardless, context is mostly irrelevant as part of Jim Carrey's shtick at that time was doing impersonations and references that have absolutely nothing to do with the plot happening on screen at the time.
    – MgSam
    Commented Mar 17, 2021 at 14:20
  • I expected this to be a Tom Swifty, but I can't find any evidence of a brand of relish called Wunderbar.
    – hobbs
    Commented Mar 18, 2021 at 2:50
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    There are definitely going to be folks who saw this film that also remember this: youtu.be/fYsx_EqIPG0 Kids would still shout "Wunderbar" at each other for years after the commercials weren't around anymore.
    – user86593
    Commented Mar 18, 2021 at 18:54
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    @hobbs Wunderbar is also a brand of bologna. I tend to think of bologna with mustard or cheese, but relish would make for a Tom Swifty. Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 12:13

3 Answers 3

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Literally, it means ' "Wonderful!", he exclaimed with great enjoyment. '

Wunderbar is the German word for Wonderful. But, to English speaking people, it's a silly word. It's funny just to say, "Wunderbar!". Carrey is adding commentary to the end of it, to make it even funnier. He's not actually referencing anything, just a silly word followed up by a 3rd person commentary for added effect.

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    I think this is correct. This is characterization, and not a direct reference or quote. Ace is just the kind of goof who would write that kind of line about himself. Jim Carrey character creations often meta-narrate their own activities archly, not as a 4th wall break, but because the characters are dorks.
    – tbrookside
    Commented Mar 17, 2021 at 14:56
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    While it is German, it's not that unknown to English speakers. It's the title of one of the songs from "Kiss Me Kate": youtube.com/watch?v=cK5wCmfvAPA
    – Barmar
    Commented Mar 18, 2021 at 15:08
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    You sure it's not a reference to these Wonderbar commercials? youtube.com/watch?v=ohf5Zv8To1U
    – Brad
    Commented Mar 18, 2021 at 15:22
  • @Barmar agreed, it's probably one of the few German words that are relatively common in use. I did try and see via Google NGrams if "wunderbar" was particularly in vogue when the movie came out but didn't really find anything noteworthy...but it was the '90s and I can see it being part of the zeitgeist as far as exclamations go (it is a pretty rad word!).
    – BruceWayne
    Commented Mar 18, 2021 at 18:34
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    @BruceWayne It doesn't hurt that it sounds very close to the English word. Contrast with schadenfreude (which admittedly isn't fair, since there isn't an English equivalent, but it doesn't sound like any English word).
    – Barmar
    Commented Mar 18, 2021 at 18:37
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As already said "Wunderbar" is a german word which sounds silly to some non-germans. The addition is breaking the 4th wall to the audience, because he is stating bluntly what his acting is supposed to convey. Sometimes instructions like that are written in scripts.

It would be interesting to see the script of the movie, maybe the line was actually a script instruction that Carrey ad-libbed to his lines.

In addition to that it is also a multi-level-hyperbole, because wonderful is already quite superlative terms (unless you use them in a polite BE-way). Wunderbar is one-upping it by adding a silly sound to it. His acting is adding one more stack on the superlative. And finally, he is adding the mildy-spoken instructions to the mix.

The exaggeration adds to the comedic delivery.

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  • I always assumed this was a passage from some book he was quoting, but given the absence of any evidence for that, your theory makes a lot of sense.
    – MgSam
    Commented Mar 17, 2021 at 20:19
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    what does "BE-way" mean? Commented Mar 18, 2021 at 3:41
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    @TankorSmash british english
    – BestGuess
    Commented Mar 18, 2021 at 9:02
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    For what it's worth, the standard abbreviation for British English is BrE (see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_English).
    – terdon
    Commented Mar 18, 2021 at 15:57
  • My understanding is that Jim Carrey adlibs most of his dialog, especially in his early career, where they just kind of let him go off in his own brand of crazy all the time. I'd imagine the original script to Ace Ventura bears little resemblance to the film. (At least in terms of dialog, particularly his. The plot probably didn't change much.) Commented Mar 18, 2021 at 16:31
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It is a parody of a type of bad writing sometimes known as said-bookism, where authors keep a book of alternative words to use instead of said. Examples:

  • "Yes" he muttered.
  • "Yes" he whispered.
  • "Yes" he roared.
  • "Yes" he exclaimed.
  • "Yes" he hissed.
  • "Y-Y-Yes" he stuttered.

A variation is to use said, but add an adverb or other descriptor.

  • "Yes" he said angrily.
  • "Yes" he said with contempt.
  • "Yes" he said in a low whisper.
  • "Yes" he said happily.

Or, they can combine the two:

  • "Yes" he hissed in a low whisper.

One or two examples in a story is acceptable. More than that and it becomes annoying. Famously, the Tom Swift series of books used them excessively. Here's a sample:

"Oh, I'm not a professor," he said quickly. "I'm a professional balloonist, parachute jumper. Give exhibitions at county fairs. Leap for life, and all that sort of thing. I guess you mean my friend. He's smart enough for a professor. Invented a lot of things. How much is the damage?"

"No professor?" cried Miss Perkman indignantly. "Why I understood from Miss Nestor that she called some one professor."

"I was referring to my friend, Mr. Swift," said Mary. "His father's a professor, anyhow, isn't he, Tom? I mean Mr. Swift!"

"I believe he has a degree, but he never uses it," was the lad's answer.

"Ha! Then I have been deceived! There is no professor present!" and the old maid drew herself up as though desirous of punishing some one. "Young ladies, for the last time, I order you to your rooms," and, with a dramatic gesture she pointed to the scuttle through which the procession had come.

"Say something, Tom — I mean Mr. Swift," appealed Mary Nestor, in a whisper, to our hero. "Can't you give some sort of a lecture? The girls are just crazy to hear about the airship, and this ogress won't let us. Say something!"

"I — I don't know what to say," stammered Tom.

So, the movie line is mocking this type of prose.

There is also a type of pun called a Tom Swifty which combines a parody of this type of prose, with a pun.

  • "I arrived by parachute" Tom explained.
  • "Look at my wedding ring" said Tom with abandon.
  • "You must be our mysterious host" Tom guessed.
  • "I'll sue you again" Tom retorted.

I thought the line might be a Tom Swifty, but I can't see a pun there.

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    Wunderbar is also a brand of bologna. Relishes aren't a common condiment for bologna where I'm from, but it's close enough to make a Tom Swifty, I think. Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 12:15
  • "Did you put your name into the Goblet of Fire, Harry?"
    – Clockwork
    Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 15:41

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