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October 09, 2017 at 12:34 PM EDT

Every ’90s sitcom had a catchphrase, but how many shows had a catch-word? As jock middle child Joey Russo, teen idol Joey Lawrence’s “Whoa!” became an essential part of Blossom‘s iconography. And it almost never happened. “It was written as a Keanu Reeves surfer ‘whoa,'” explains Lawrence, who initially performed the word with the SoCal surf drawl.

The show’s creator, Don Reo, doesn’t specifically remember the first “whoa,” but notes the surfer theory holds up. “I was surfing at the time, so that makes sense,” says the producer. “It might have come off Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”

Problem: During the recording of the episode, the surfer-ish reading didn’t go over well. “People were not laughing,” the actor recalls. “I remember a note came down, and it was, like, ‘Look, can you try something else? I know we’ve been telling you this surfer thing is what we want, but it’s not working, we’re going to probably cut it.'”

How did Lawrence come up with the peculiar “Whoa!” phrasing? “I don’t know where it came from, I really don’t,” he admits.

“Angels brought it down!” says his TV little sister, Mayim Bialik.

“It was from the TV icon gods,” Lawrence jokes. “I said it, and they laughed, and we said it again. When [the episode] aired, it became nuts. It just stuck. So I don’t know how that happened.”

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