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Learn How to Sign the "Why Cookie Rocket" Catchphrase from "Rise of the Planet of the Apes"

by Christopher Campbell
August 10, 2011 9:24 AM
6 Comments
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Now that Damon Lindelof has Tweeted about "Why Cookie Rocket," it's officially a thing. I know, because that's the moment my wife, who hasn't seen "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" asked me what it means. Not that she's a movie ignoramus, but if she knows about something I'd otherwise only hear about from fellow movie bloggers, it's a big deal. Additionally, there are now proposed t-shirt designs, a Facebook group devoted to a "Why Cookie Rocket" Photoshop meme and a Tumblr for the same. How embarrassing for Vulture, by the way, to not just pick the wrong line to designate as a catchphrase, but also be schooled on the whole concept of catchphrases by New York magazine film critic David Edelstein, in their comments section. He doesn't comment on the true catchphrase (which Devin Faraci defends in depth for us at Badass Digest), but I think his definition would fit. "Why Cookie Rocket," which is hereby the best primate-signed movie line since "Project Nim"'s "Stone Smoke Now," certainly contains "splendid absurdity."

But can it still be a catchphrase if fans of the movie can't really quote it? By typing the words, sure, if only because the film's script features these three words and puts them on the screen in subtitle form. And even verbally, it works. Foreign films have catchphrases that we quote out loud in the English translation. Right? None are actually coming to mind, which is why I think it best if we learn to quote Maurice the orangutan appropriately, with American Sign Language.

(no, you can't just write it on your hand and call that signing)

Now, I'm no expert at ASL, and there is currently no easy video of the scene in question online. But I have found the signs for each individual word and I re-watched part of "ROTPOTA" to see if it matches what's on screen. As it turns out, all but the last matches the signs I've found. This could be due to "Rocket" being an ape's name, rather than in reference to an actual rocket. After Maurice signs the words "why" and "cookie," makes a motion to his forehead, which possibly indicates that part of Rocket's sign is "male," but I can't get the rest. Maybe something meaning leader or similar. Anyway, here are the first two words, with motion signals, via the American Sign Language University at LifePrint.com:


WHY


COOKIE


And here's a guy signing the common noun version of ROCKET:


As a bonus, here's the sign for MALE/BOY:


Hopefully we'll soon get to learn the actual sign for Rocket, the chimp. Or someone with legit ASL fluency can translate better for us.

[Thanks to David Ehrlich, who just posted on the catchphrase at Criterion Corner, for being the first person I know to quote the line, on Twitter]

[Thanks to Matt Patches for that meme-starting "Lost"-referencing image above]

[Also, thanks to Da7e Gonzales for creating the Facebook group and posting to it a nice diagram of the ASL phrasing, which I swear I didn't see until this whole post was finished]


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More: Remakes

6 Comments

  • Samuel | December 28, 2011 3:50 PMReply

    RL is spot on. Within the deaf community names, unless spelled manually, are usually a sign unique to that person. These are often given by "initializing" another sign. Basically a sign reflecting a person's appearance or personality is made with the handshape of the first letter of their name. In the case of Rocket, the base sign could be "boy" with the R handshape, but I like to think the writers had a sense of humor and intentionally gave him a name that resembles the sign for "retarded". It's tricky to say which it is for sure since the apes do not sign clearly, but are able to communicate their message with a little extrapolation. This is an accurate depiction real signing apes who will make use of a very limited vocabulary to convey their ideas as best they can. On a side note it looks to me like Maurice the orangutan actually makes a fourth sign after why-cookie-rocket but it is somewhat obscured by the palm of his left hand. My best guess is that it is the sign for "give" as it would make the most sense in context to complete his question. "Why cookie rocket give?" is grammatically acceptable in ASL as well.

  • Rl | December 28, 2011 10:57 AMReply

    Names unless finger spelled do not have set signs. They are give by using aspects of personality and letters from the name sometimes. My name has no actual sign but a native ASL speaker gave me a sign when we became friends. I can now use this when introducing myself to other hearing impaired people but you will not find it in an ASL dictionary or phrase book. Certain parts of speech are often left out in ASL thus the reason that we do not see the words "does" or "get" in Why cookie Rocket?

  • RL | December 28, 2011 10:48 AMReply

    Name unless finger spelled do not have set signs. They are give by using aspects personality and letters of the name sometimes. My name has no actual sign but a native ASL speaker gave me a sign when we became friends. I can now use this when introducing myself to other hearing impaired people but you will not find it in an ASL dictionary or phrase book.

  • RL | December 28, 2011 10:59 AM

    This was not the intended post, please disregard.

  • Samuel | December 22, 2011 2:19 PMReply

    The sign used for Rocket's name is the letter R handshape held horizontally with the left hand and tapping the brow like a salute. This is similar to the sign for "retarded" and may be more than just coincidence.

  • Maurice | August 10, 2011 9:58 AMReply

    First cookie rocket

    http://bit.ly/oJOBZg

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