SMARTLINE Archives

The Mendacity of Meh

meh"Meh," that ever-popular expression of indifference or existential apathy, entered into our collective vernacular thanks to a boost from The Simpsons. But whence did meh come from originally? Language talkin' guy Ben Zimmer has been looking into its etymology for years and seems to have traced it back to Alexander Harkavy's Yiddish-English-Hebrew Dictionary from 1928. In trying to find out where the Simpsons writers got it, Zimmer managed to get a response from reclusive shaman John Swartzwelder:

...Swartzwelder did have a memory of where he first came across meh, though it wasn't in Mad. "I had originally heard the word from an advertising writer named Howie Krakow back in 1970 or 1971 who insisted it was the funniest word in the world," he told me. So let's thank Mr. Krakow for his unwitting role in the spread of the meh meme.

Case closed, maybe?

[Language Log via Slate]

Dead Homer Society Spawns A Book

zombie simpsonsFor the past few years, Dead Homer Society has been the finest source of Simpsons criticism on the internet, dutifully diagnosing the symptoms of what it affectionately calls "Zombie Simpsons." Well, now the site's frontman Charlie Sweatpants has written a whole mini-book on the subject, Zombie Simpsons: How the Best Show Ever Became the Broadcasting Undead.

In it, he meticulously lays out not only why The Simpsons is so ridiculously bad now but also how it got that way, with charts and footnotes and stuff! The whole treatise will be parceled out chapter by chapter on the website over the next couple weeks, but if you have a Kindle you can get the whole dang thing right now for just three bucks. Do it or else a Zombie Simpson will fly into your kitchen and make a mess of your pots and pans

[Dead Homer Society]

New York Times Art Critic Really Likes Simpsons Stamps

New York Times senior art critic Roberta Smith wrote a blog post describing her fascination with the recently released Simpsons postage stamps:


The Simpson palette has always seemed as radical and subversive as the show's social commentary and close in artifice to that of innovative colorists like Andy Warhol, Bruce Nauman and Matthew Barney. Five amped-up hues suffice: egg-yolk yellow, magenta, Marge-Simpson's-hair blue, darkened chartreuse and lavender, plus important bits of white (mainly eyes and teeth) and touches of red. Subtle distinctions of tonality are made. Homer's yellow head is seen against a slightly darker yellow background. Marge's hair is slightly darker than the blue behind Bart. Red defines only Homer's tongue, Maggie's pacifier, Marge's beads and the smidgeon of Bart's T-shirt.


Third, less is more. The "Simpsons" gestalt is boiled down to its essence and so is stampness. The images are stripped of detail except for the letters USA and the number 44 (cents, the new first class). No fussy engraved textures, no identifying names. This allows color to take over and the faces to pop out. Like a Richard Serra sculpture, only smaller and a whole lot cheaper, the stamps prove the adage that scale has nothing to do with size. They strike David-like blows against the Goliaths of American visual illiteracy.


Don't have a Nauman! [Arts Beat]