Legendary comedy writer John Swartzwelder speaks on the origins of the word “Meh” and how The Simpsons helped popularize the term.
Highly acclaimed Simpsons writer, John Swartzwelder, speaks on his involvement in integrating the word “meh” into The Simpsons’ script and, in turn, constructing it as a widely used word. The acclaimed comedy writer left the show almost 20 years ago, having written 59 episodes, which is more than any other writer achieved, and has gone on to write 13 novels. He has also written for shows such as Saturday Night Live, but nothing compares to the legacy he established during his time on The Simpsons.
Swartzwelder was part of the original writing team for The Simpsons, which first aired in 1987. He was scouted by writer and producer Sam Simon, who admired Swartzwelder’s work in a small comedy zine called Army Man. Swartzwelder has gone on to be one of the most renowned writers of the show, with the term “Swaltzweldian” now being used to describe such ingenious dumb comedy similar to his. And while he speaks on being responsible for many gags, such as many of “The Itchy & Scratchy Show” skits, the most notable is arguably his invention of a new word that is now used daily in the English language.
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During his conversation with The New Yorker, which happens to be his first major interview ever, Swartzwelder shared his point of view regarding the initiation of the word “Meh.” After being asked if he was responsible for the word’s usage, Swartzwelder states:
“I do claim credit for that. 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. I don’t know when it was invented, or by who, but I got the impression it was already very old when Howie told it to me.”
This isn’t the only word that The Simpsons invented that has earned its place in English dictionaries. Other words include “Cromulent,” meaning “fine,” and “D’oh” which is defined as “Used to comment on a foolish or stupid action, especially one’s own.” These words are both featured in Webster’s Millennium Dictionary of English. These words are always just referred to as “grunting noises” in Simpsons scripts, but “D’oh” has even achieved a place in the Oxford English Dictionary.
Whether the word had been used before its introduction in The Simpsons vocabulary is irrelevant, as the word became mainstream after this event. It’s undeniable that Swartzwelder played a part in its universality in the English language. It has since been added to the Collins English Dictionary and used in multiple official publications. The word was first used during season 6, episode 5, “Sideshow Bob Roberts” in 1997, which is rather late in Swartzwelder’s journey with The Simpsons. Regardless, Swartzwelder’s impact during his time on The Simpsons was magnificent, and it’s certainly understandable why he is now considered to be one of the greatest comedy minds of all time.
Source: The New Yorker
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