As the co-star of Batman, Burt Ward did not have a catchphrase. No, he had 368 of them. Robin was constantly crying out, "Holy _____, Batman!" The Boy Wonder blurted everything from "Holy Astringent Plum-like Fruit" to "Holy Zorro!" Over the course of 120 episodes, the sidekick exclaimed 368 of these "Holy…!" phrases, so about three per episode. However, it was one in particular that recently took our notice.
The fifth episode of the 1966 series, "The Joker Is Wild," introduced both Cesar Romero as the Joker and Bill Dozier's classic cliffhanger tease, "Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!" However, it was another line that stuck out as historically significant.
Batman used his keen detective skills to crack the Joker's devious plan to pose as Pagliacci.
Batman: Tonight, there's going to be a live telecast of the Gotham City opera company.
Robin: Golly, Batman, I still don't get it.
Batman: They're performing a certain celebrated Italian opera…
Robin: [Thinks for a moment] Holy ravioli!
Half a century later, that particular "Holy!" seemed uncommonly familiar. It is a phrase used in everyday English. There are restaurants called Holy Ravioli in cities as far flung as Dallas and Amsterdam. NPR used the term in a headline about the recent cookbook from the Vatican. It turns up in novels and dialogue regularly.
So, was Robin the first person to every say it? Evidence certainly indicated that.
Today, with the Caped Crusader everywhere in pop culture, it's easy to overlook just how massive Batman was. In the early '60s, the comic book character was fading from popularity. The TV series gave Batman new life. With its rumbling surf-music intro, psychedelic colors and canted camera angles, Batman became a smash with the young set. Hip rock acts like the Who and the Kinks were covering the theme song. Overnight, the series singlehandedly impacted the look and tone of network television.
An article from the March 5, 1966, issue of Billboard magazine covered the merchandising sensation of Batman. The piece details a new line of Batman buttons sporting "such classic Batman sayings as 'Holy Ravioli,' 'Powie,' 'Zok,' 'Zap' and 'Zam.'" Here Robin's cry is defined as a "Batman saying."
"Holy ravioli" also inspired a couple rock 'n' roll records. An act called the Gotham City Teens cut a track called "(Holy Holy) Ravioli," a sort-of instrumental that emulated sound of the theme song with a "Robin" shouting, "Holy, holy ravioli!" Take a listen.
Similarly, a Massachusetts garage band called the Riffs released the more lyrical "Holy Ravioli," in which they sing, "It gets way down inside your skin / When the Boy Wonder say… Whoo! A holy ravioli!"
If Robin did not coin the phrase, he certainly popularized it. Yet, we can not find any usage of the idiom before 1966.
See? Superheroes impact language as much as crime rates. Coincidentally, the popularization of the term "holy moly" is attributed to another DC Comics hero, Captain Marval (commonly known as Shazam), who heavily used the kid-friendly expletive in the 1940s.
Holy terminology! (Yep, that was another one of Robin's exclamations.)