Language experts hail 20 years of The Simpsons and the umpteen new words and phrases spawned by it.
“D’oh!”, the grunt of irritation made famous by Homer Simpson, has been voted the greatest contribution to the English language made by The Simpsons, in a global study to mark 20 years of the worlds longest running sitcom.
Doh! out-pointed introubulate (to get someone into trouble), craptacular (spectacularly crap) and eat my shorts (a dismissal in the same vein as kiss my a**) in a survey of language experts conducted by Today Translations, a London-based translation company with a network of 2,600 linguists in over 60 countries.
The firm polled 320 of its linguists across the world in a bid to find the most valuable addition to the English language of the still growing number made by the worlds most popular animated TV series.
The Simpsons has just celebrated its twentieth anniversary and is recognized by Guinness World Records as the worlds longest running sitcom, with over 450 episodes to date.
There is also growing recognition that the show has become the English languages richest source of new words and phrases since Shakespeare and the Bible.
“Homer Simpson must be the most influential wordsmith since Shakespeare,” says Jurga Zilinskiene, CEO of Today Translations. “And thanks to The Simpsons, combined with the power of the Internet to spread new words, ours must be the greatest golden age for new words since Shakespeares own.”
The role of The Simpsons in spawning so many new words, idioms and catchphrases is one of the oddest phenomena in modern culture, says Ben Macintyre, journalist and author, in an essay on the subject contained in The Last Word, his new book on language. Over the years, it has produced an entire raft of words and phrases that have been absorbed into popular parlance.
No single Simpsonism, the linguists of Today Translations now judge, has been a more valuable addition to the language than Doh!, Homers trademark grunt of irritation at each new mishap.
In fact, Doh! has entered the Oxford English Dictionary, which defines it as expressing frustration at the realisation that things have turned out badly or not as planned or that one has just said or done something foolish. Ben Macintyre has his own theory about the origins of the term: Doh can be traced to the splutter of irritation made by the Scottish actor Jimmy Finlayson in early Laurel and Hardy films. Finlaysons Dow sound was in effect code for Damn, then considered an unacceptable swearword. Homers voice-actor, Dan Castellaneta, took the noise made by Finlayson and subtly altered it to create Homers Doh, as in: Doh. Whoever thought a nuclear power plant would be so complicated? Other notable Homerisms range from lupper (a large, fattening meal, midway between lunch and supper) to sacrilicious (meaning either deliciously sacreligious or the delicious taste of eating something sacred).
Homers chief rival for the title of Shakespeares heir must be his son Bart, who has given us coinages including craptacular (spectacularly crap), yoink (to snatch in a yanking-like fashion) and eat my shorts.
Bart also hatched the word kwyjibo, when it enabled him to use all his letters in a game of Scrabble ” and then responded to a challenge from Homer by claiming that it meant a big dumb balding Northern American ape with no chin.
Bart probably shares with his sister Lisa credit for the word, Meh, defined as an expression of profound indifference, in the same spirit as the teenagers shrug, whatever.
The Simpsons has been dubbed into everything from French, German, Spanish and Portuguese to Japanese and Arabic. Translating The Simpsons into other languages can be a challenge, says Jurga Zilinskiene of Today Translations.
In the French version of the show Homer actually says Toh!, instead of Doh!. This is because the French actor who dubs Homers voice misread the word the first time he played the role and has never got round to correcting himself.
French translators have also had difficulties with another famous Simpsonism: cheese-eating surrender monkeys, a phrase first used in the show, says Ben Macintyre, back in 1995 by Willie, the Scottish school janitor, to describe the French. In the French version of the show it is translated as singes mangeurs de fromage. The word surrender, intriguingly, is not translated. Cheese-eating surrender monkeys is deemed by the linguists of Today Translations to be the ninth most valuable addition to the English language to have been made by The Simpsons narrowly behind learning juice (beer) and just ahead of kwyjibo (allegedly a type of Northern American ape).
THE RESULTS IN FULL
The single most valuable addition to the English language made by The Simpsons ” according to the linguists of Today Translations:
Doh! – 37%
introubulate – 13%
craptacular – 11%
eat my shorts – 10%
knowitallism – 9%
embiggen – 7%
meh – 6%
learning juice – 4%
cheese-eating surrender monkeys – 3%
kwyjibo – 1%
And The Same List Again – With Definitions
37% – Doh! (interjection. A grunt expressing frustration at the realisation that things have turned out badly or not as planned or that one has just said or done something foolish.) 13% ” introubulate (verb. To get someone into trouble.)
11% – craptacular (adjective. A portmanteau of spectacular and crap … i.e. spectacularly crap)
10% – eat my shorts. (interjection: An insult or dismissal in the same vein as Kiss my a*s).
9% – knowitallism (noun. A word that describes Lisa Simpsons personality.).
7%- embiggen (verb. Enlarge or empower)
6% – meh (Interjection. An expression of profound indifference).
4% – learning juice (noun. Beer)
3% – cheese-eating surrender monkeys (noun. An unflattering description of the French as a nationality.)
1% – kwyjibo (noun. Originally, a word that enabled Homer Simpson to use all his letters in Scrabble. When challenged, he claimed that it was the name of a big dumb balding Northern American ape with no chin.)
PLUS A FEW MORE SIMPSONISMS, NOT EVEN AMONG THE TOP 10
banjologist (noun. An expert in banjo-based music)
cromulent (adjective. valid or acceptable)
car-hold (noun. a garage)
malparkage (noun. the state or condition of being illegally parked)
yoink (verb. To snatch in a yanking-like fashion; also, to inflict a wedgie on someone by pulling or yoinking their underpants up sharply from behind, so as to wedge them uncomfortably between their buttocks)
FAMOUS COINAGES: WHICH IS THE GREATEST SOURCE OF THEM ALL?
Eat my shorts
Cheese-eating surrender monkeys
A plague on both your houses
Murder most foul
The better part of valour
Milk of human kindness
Brevity is the soul of wit
Much ado about nothing
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Methodology: Today Translations first compiled a list of the best-known words and phrases spawned by The Simpsons It then drew up a short-list of nominees, on which 320 linguists voted.
About Today Translations (www.todaytranslations.com/v2): Today Translations is a translation and interpreting firm, based in the City of London. It manages an international network of over 2,600 linguists, who translate, interpret, proof-read and edit in over 160 languages and dialects, from Azerbaijani to Arabic and Kikuyu to Yoruba.
The Last Word – Tales From The Tip of the Mother Tongue, by Ben Macintyre, is published by Bloomsbury at 12.99.
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