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Thursday 14 December 2017

D'oh! Homer catchphrase 'is a great contribution to English'

Even by the most lenient interpretation, Homer Simpson is not Shakespeare.

Slow-witted and inarticulate, his remaining cognitive function dulled by overconsumption of Duff beer, he nonetheless has had a marked influence on the way people speak.

Now "D'oh!", the grunt of dumb annoyance that he made famous, has been voted the greatest contribution to the English language made by The Simpsons.

In a survey of international linguists marking 20 years of the world's longest-running sitcom, "D'oh!" (as in, "D'oh! Whoever thought a nuclear power plant would be so complicated?") beat such contenders as "introubulate" ("to get someone into trouble"), "craptacular" ("spectacularly crap") and "eat my shorts" (a dismissal in the same vein as "kiss my a***") for the title of the programme's most influential word or catchphrase.

"D'oh!" has already been accorded linguistic recognition.

In 2001 it was added to the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary, with the definition:

"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."



cheese

The survey, by Today Translations, a London-based company with a network of 2,600 translators and interpreters in more than 60 countries, was inspired by a column by journalist Ben Macintyre, reprinted in his book The Last Word, in which he described how the show has produced "an entire raft of words and phrases that have been absorbed into popular parlance".

In the survey, which had 320 responses, "D'oh!" scored 37pc, followed by "introubulate" and "craptacular". "Eat my shorts" came fourth.

The great Francophobic insult, "cheese-eating surrender monkeys", was ninth.

"Homer Simpson must be the most influential wordsmith since Shakespeare," said Jurga Zilinskiene, chief executive of Today Translations.

"And thanks to The Simpsons, combined with the power of the internet, ours must be the greatest golden age for new words since Shakespeare's own."

Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons, says that "D'oh!" was inspired by the Scottish actor Jimmy Finlayson, who used a more drawn-out "Dow" in the Laurel and Hardy films.

Groening felt that Dan Castellaneta, the voice of Homer, should say it a bit faster to suit the timing of animation, and so it was shortened to "D'oh!"

Other celebrated Homerisms range from "lupper" (a large, fattening meal, midway between lunch and supper) to "sacrilicious" (meaning either deliciously sacrilegious or the delicious taste of eating something sacred).

Bart Simpson has also made his own contributions to language, with such phrases as "Don't have a cow, man".

With his sister Lisa, he is credited with the dismissive "Meh", defined as an expression of profound indifference, in the same spirit as the teenager's "whatever".

Bart also coined the word "kwyjibo", when it enabled him to use all his letters in a game of Scrabble. Challenged by his father, he claimed that it meant "a big dumb balding northern American ape with no chin".



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Whether "D'oh!" will last is another question. David Crystal, honorary professor of Linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor, and author of A Little Book of Language, said most catchphrases fade from use after the show that made them famous goes off the air.

Occasionally, however, they outlast their origins, such as "Me Tarzan, you Jane".

Professor Crystal said: "That never turned up in the films, but everyone knows it and everybody uses it still."

hnews@herald.ie

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