Popular Culture and the English Language (Meh)

HomerSimpson46A little while back the Oxford English Dictionary’s always-delightful blog had a special feature on a certain pop culture phenomenon: The Simpsons. This piece, written by English professor Michael Adams, talked about a number of the words The Simpsons has brought to the English language, but two in particular stood out: d’oh and meh.

Aside from all of the lexical antics we have come to expect from the world’s favorite yellow family, they have embiggened English with two small but powerful words, words that aptly capture what it’s meant to be human during the Simpsons decades — d’oh and meh. D’oh and meh are enshrined in dictionaries, not to mention used IRL, in speech and writing. Whereas other Simpsons words are clever and flashy and show that we can make our world anew in language and enjoy the making, d’oh and meh reduce experience to the minimal elements of speech […]

My favourite bit of the blog comes during the discussion of meh as the defining condition of the naughties (also a perfect example of how to use meh in conversation):

In a Language Log post some years ago, Ben Zimmer noted that meh had so captured the zeitgeist of 2004 that people were not only using it but talking about meh-ness, the condition of meh, a sort of meta meh, as it were, which is so preposterous that, what can you say? Meh.

Click through to the Oxford Dictionaries blog to read more about these two “strange and powerful” little words, and also about some of the other ways The Simpsons has embiggened the English language over the years.


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