The Simpsons said it: 9 times ‘The Simpsons’ embiggened the American lexicon

The Simpsons


Today begins FXX’s 12-day Simpsons marathon. As a result, the Internet is having a veritable orgasm of Simpsons clickbait. So it’s time we get on the bandwagon. I’ll post a more thoughtful piece on the show’s lasting cultural impact next week. In the meantime, here’s something to hold you over.

Like Shakespeare before it, The Simpsons‘ contribution to the English language cannot be understated. Hyperbole, perhaps, but while other TV comedies have left their mark on popular culture at large — Saturday Night LiveI Love Lucy, all of Monty Python — no other show has been so prolific in its contribution to the public lexicon itself. With that in mind, I present a perfectly cromulent list of popular words and phrases with Simpsons roots.


Who said it: Homer

When: Multiple episodes

Meaning: Aka, the “annoyed grunt.” Sure, it started out as a catchphrase, but its versatility allowed it to outlast both “ay, caramba!”, “cowabunga!” and even “eat my shorts.” It’s guttural, reflexive, and the perfect substitution for an expletive without sacrificing any of the primal frustration.


Who said it: Homer, usually

When: Multiple episodes

Meaning: A placeholder for an object whose name escapes you. Don’t act like you’ve never used it.


Who said it: Hans Moleman (allegedly)

When: “A Star is Burns” (S6/E18)

Meaning: When the angry audience boos Mr. Burns’ self-aggrandizing biopic “A Burns for All Seasons,” Smithers attempts to soothe his boss’ ego by telling him the crowd was saying “boo-urns.” Since then, boo-urns has become a popular way of issuing disapproval, as well as immediately knowing who else in the room is cool.


Who said it: Jebediah Springfield

When: “Lisa the Iconoclast” (S7/E16)

Meaning: “A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man.” Allegedly inspired as an antonym to Thomas Jefferson’s alleged coinage of the word belittle, Springfield’s own founding father gave us this gem. Along the way, it found its way into common use as one of those words that sounds just real enough to sneak into conversations to see if anyone is paying attention. Kinda like…


Who said it: Miss Hoover, Principal Skinner

When: “Lisa the Iconoclast” (S7/E16)

Meaning: With two of the words on this list coming from this episode, it’s no surprise it’s often held up as one of the series’ best. Meaning to be valid or “more than acceptable” — e.g., embiggens is a perfectly cromulent word — it sounds just British enough to be believable.


Who said it: Multiple characters

When: Multiple episodes

Meaning: The onomatopoeic sound makes when snatching an object from someone else’s grasp.


Who said it: Homer

When: “Missionary: Impossible” (S11/E15)

Meaning: This episode is all the proof you need to know that The Simpsons did not peak at season seven as many detractors would contend. (It peaked at season 12, you blingwads.) Yet another sign of Homer’s increasing stupidity, Jebus has since become a snarky way to take swipes at conservative Christians by deliberately mangling Jesus’ name.

Cheese-eating surrender monkeys

Who said it: Groundskeeper Willie

When: “‘Round Springfield” (S6/E22)

Meaning: Willie’s pejorative name for the French, the phrase took on a life of its own, and has become a popular cliché among hacky journalists. Yeah, it’s kind mean, but come on — it’s France.


Who said it: Lisa, Bart

When: “Sideshow Bob Roberts” (S6/E5)

Meaning: The verbal equivalent of a shrug, The Simpsons may not have coined meh, but they certainly popularized it. More than any other word on this list, meh has hung in there, becoming especially ubiquitous among Millennials. It’s the perfect word to express a wide range of emotions, from boredom to indifference to scathing disdain.

Honorable mention:

  • America Junior (Canada)
  • America’s wang (Florida)
  • avoision
  • blingwad
  • chocotastic
  • craptacular
  • crisitunity
  • dorkus molorkus
  • dumbening
  • “Everything is coming up [your name here]”
  • faxtrola
  • land cow (buffalo)
  • “Mmmm, [insert noun]”
  • pasghetti
  • sacrilicious
  • saxamaphone
  • snacktacular
  • steamed hams (hamburgers) — it’s an Albany expression
  • superliminal
  • traumedy
  • unfaceuptoable
  • whoopsiedoodle
  • zazz


UPDATE 8/25/14: Adds dorkus molorkus and whoopsiedoodle to Honorable Mentions list.

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