Matt Groening

Posting on Underdog reminded me that this would be a good time to pay homage to that animated monument of language play, Matt Groening’s The Simpsons (along with his Life in Hell cartoons, many of which are linguistically interesting).

On Groening, from Wikipedia:

Matthew Abram “Matt” Groening (pron.: /ˈɡreɪnɪŋ/ gray-ning; born February 15, 1954) is an American cartoonist, screenwriter, producer, animator, and voice actor. He is the creator of the comic strip Life in Hell (1977–2012) as well as two successful television series, The Simpsons (1989–present) and Futurama (1999–2003, 2008–present).

Life In Hell has come up in Language Log, where Mark Liberman posted about the “Mistakes were made” strip; and in this blog, in connection to a “Tribute to Life in Hell” collection from other cartoonists. Many LiH strips are so busy that they don’t reproduce well on screen; this is especially true of the “Forbidden Words” strips, which appeared ever year for several years. But here’s one, a burlesque of the Pledge of Allegiance, that’s more legible:

That’s “Just kidding” in the last panel.

On The Simpsons, there’s an enormous amount of writing about the vocabulary of the show. Here’s Mark Liberman in 2005 on “Homeric objects of desire”:

The Simpsons has apparently taken over from Shakespeare and the Bible as our culture’s greatest source of idioms, catch phrases and sundry other textual allusions.

(a topic Mark returned to last year, here).

A representative posting from other blogs:

Posted on 2/10/10:

While it has added important new foodstuffs like the nacho hat to our collective cookbook, the real importance of the show has been how it has added to the English language.  Consider, for example, that two of the show’s made-up words, d’oh and meh, are already in the dictionary [doh/d’oh in the OED, meh in the Collins English Dictionary]. Here’s 10 more Simpsons words that deserve to become real English.

Like most writing about The Simpsons and dictionaries, this one assumes that a word isn’t “real English” until it appears in “the dictionary”; from the point of view of lexicographers, this is exactly backwards:

words get added to dictionaries when they’re in sufficiently common use.

The link at the end of the paragraph above is to a blog written by Jake Wysaski, where he nominates these ten Simpsons words for dictionary status:

yoink, diddly, glayvin, meh, kwyjibo, car hole, frogurt, craptacular, unpossible, embiggen

and adds some more that didn’t quite make the cut:

jeebus, blurst, debigulator/rebigulator, foilage, saxamaphone, tramampaline, avoison, choctastic, groin-grabbingly, sacrilicious, science pole, squishee

Others will have their own nominations. Language Log and this blog now use embiggen routinely. On meh, see this Language Log posting of mine, which has an inventory of Ben Zimmer’s postings on meh.

4 Responses to “Matt Groening”

  1. the ridger Says:

    Embiggen is routinely used by a subset of astronomy (and some other science) bloggers, as well, as here, where Phil Plait tells you, of a picture: “[Oh yes, you want to click to embiggen that—it’s only one piece of a much bigger picture that I cropped and shrank to fit the blog—or you can grab the ridiculously over-the-top 376 Mb 16,000 x 16,000 pixel version if you have a skyscraper you need to wallpaper.]

  2. Words | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] A blog mostly about language « Matt Groening […]

  3. Ellen Says:

    What, no “cromulent”? Everyone in my social circle seems to be fond of that one.

  4. Jeff and Akbar explore their sexuality | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] (LiH postings on this blog here and here.) […]

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