Cluesless: Heckerling, Writer-Director on the Movie’s Slang and As If!

The most pervasive line to come out of Clueless, a modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma, was the disgusted exclamation “As if!” which came in at No. 90 on The Holywood Reporter’s 100 Favorite Movie Quotes.

“It’s not really a line; it’s like four letters,” jokes Clueless writer-director Amy Heckerling, adding that she never thought the line would persist in the way it has.

“I am always compiling slang words because I am just interested in how people use language,” says Heckerling when asked about the origins of those four letters. “At that time, which was like early 1990s, ‘As if!’ was floating around in the gay community and I thought it was really a multi-useful, multi-purpose word. I thought it would be a good thing for teenagers to be saying.”

She adds: “Some of the people I knew were already beyond ‘As if,’ so they were just going ‘Zif!'”

Cher (Alicia Silverstone), Dionne (Stacey Dash) and Tai (Brittany Murphy) and their Beverly Hills cohorts seemed to speak a language all their own, which Heckerling describes as a collage of culture, saying: “It was slang words from the gay community and black vernacular and yiddish, and during the 1990s there was a surge in swing-era slang and music and looks.”

Heckerling is still listening to modern trends in language but has yet to hear something as potentially ubiquitous as “As if!”

“Now slang is a lot more written than spoken. Like BTW and OMG, it is fine when it is written but when someone says it out loud it is like why bother, when ‘Oh my god’ is the same amount of syllables,” she says.

Asked which line she is most proud of writing, Heckerling says, “I guess, in a goofy way, I have always been proud of ‘It doesn’t say RSVP on the Statue of Liberty.'”