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The Unexpected Origin Of One Of The Simpsons’ Most Iconic Catchphrases

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In 2021, celebrity comedy writer and longtime creator on The Simpsons, John Swartzwelder, revealed the origin of “meh”: a term of indifference or disinterest used by several characters on the show. “I originally heard the word from Howie Krakow, my creative director at Hurvis, Binzer & Churchill, in 1970 or 1971. He said it was the funniest word in the world,” Swartzwelder told the New Yorker, adding he has no idea who invented the term. “I felt like it was very old when Howie told me,” he says. Still, he went ahead and made it a permanent feature of the show.

As it turns out, the earliest use of the term “meh” may date back to the late 1920s. According to Slate, one of the first recorded definitions of the word comes from Alexander Harkavy’s Yiddish-English-Hebrew Dictionary, published in 1928. It is defined as a phrase meaning “either way”. which is certainly consistent with how “The Simpsons” and the world populace are using it almost a century later. Despite its inclusion in Harkavy’s dictionary, and later its widespread use on The Simpsons, it wasn’t until 2008 that “meh” was officially added to the Collins English Dictionary.

Though it predates them, thanks to John Swartzwelder and the influence Howie Krakow had on him, “meh” is now part of the Simpsons legacy and our cultural lexicon.



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