Today’s Observation on the Subject of Language
Posted on January 16, 2010 Posted by John Scalzi 27 Comments
“D’oh!” is a shockingly (and perhaps, depressingly) useful addition to our matrix of human verbal expression.
(Also, this is all I have for the day. Hey! It’s Saturday! Cut me some slack.)
Let’s look at the pros and cons:
1) It gets the point across: “I am unpleasantly surprised / chagrined / disappointed.”
2) It’s more acceptable in polite company than most of the exclamations I’ve used over the years.
1) It indicates that I have, indeed, watched Fox Television at some point.
Yep, sure is.
What’s even sadder is that “cromulent” has become a real word.
My personal favorite D’oh moment was years ago when I worked at a McDonalds. (Hey, I was a kid so shaddup). I can’t remember what I did, but I do remember it was incredibly stupid, so I turned to my coworkers and said:
“Well that was a Homer moment.”
As they stared at me, their confusion at my statement plain on their faces, I slapped my forehead and exclaimed “D’oh!” in the best Homer Simpson impression I have done and are likely to ever do. After that they understood my chagrin at performing such a blatantly stupid action that I would feel the need to compare myself to Homer.
Well, the Simpsons were on for 7 years before the Fox News channel. I guess I don’t have enough political correctness to be retroactively ashamed of anything.
The Simpsons have enriched our vocabulary not only with “d’oh” and “cromulent,” but also “embiggen” and many other great words and phrases. Like it or not, it’s part of our culture.
“D’oh!” is more polite than “Duh!” which I think is a reason for it’s prominence. When I say, “Duh,” I could be calling either myself or someone around me a bonehead – it’s nonspecific. When I say, “D’oh!” I’m calling usually calling myself a dunderhead by imitating pop culture’s idiot-du-jour. I have gotten someone’s ire up by using “Duh!” without enough context. “D’oh!” has never yielded such results.
My now-three-year-old daughter, by the time she was eighteen months old, had picked up both “D’oh!” and “Woo-hoo!” as an extremely useful and opposing pair of interjections. She gets them from her father. I was impressed at how naturally and correctly she fits them into the appropriate situations.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if “D’oh” went the way of “Okay?” At least we’ll have documentation of the origin of the utterance.
I love “D’oh!”, it’s been around for an entire generation and is as pure as language can be. It comes from the heart, the soul, and, without any explanation, it is universally understood. It says so much within that one syllable and there really is no other word (in the English language, anyway) that can take its place. Great word!
“D’oh”? Oh dear, a new meme I fear.
I’ve been known to use the patented Marge Simpson growl & glare effectively on more than one occasion.
I hate to interject an older person’s experience, but “duh!”, the original version, has been around since 1966, according to Merriam Webster Dictionary. The forehead slapping is from an early 1980s advertising campaign for v8 juice; The Simpsons started in 1987.
Sooo, while I’m more than willing to give The Simpsons credit for a lot of cultural input, I stand firm in remembering “Oh, duh!” as a self-deprecating “man, that was sooo stupid of me!” turn of phrase from my childhood, which (alas) predates The Simpsons by quite a while.
Useful, si. Also as noted: safe for work, unlike the usual last words on many flight recorders: “Oh, s***!” :)
And it does not necessarily indicate you watch any TV at all. I know (and occasionally use) it, and I haven’t watched commercial TV/cable/whathaveyou in over fifteen years.
Mr. Etymology Fun Fact: Back at the beginning of The Simpsons (in late ’80s Tracy Ullman days), a script called for Homer to respond to something with an “annoyed grunt,” and Dan Castallaneta improvised “D’oh!” It remains written “annoyed grunt” in scripts to this day, I believe.
MWT@4: Why is it sad? “Cromulent” is a perfectly,… um,… fine,… word.
Well apparently D’oh is more acceptable in our office than grumbling about my inevitable blonde moments.
It does indeed, remain “annoyed grunt.” So much so, that the episode with the nanny “Sherrie Bobbins” was titled “Simpsonscalifragilisticexpiali(annoyed grunt)cious.”
I don’t think it has to be seen as an admittance to having seen any particular show. I’ve never seen the Simpsons, never seen American Idol, never seen, in fact, most (if not all) of the shows now on TV. I haven’t had a cable hookup in the house since sometime in the mid 80’s, in fact. I have a huge TV that we use to play games and movies.
And yet, I know enough (way too much) about the Simpsons to be able to translate this addition to the “matrix of human verbal expression,” which is a phenomenon that might actually be worthy of a discussion of its own.
Be interesting to compare the words/phrases/usages added to the vernacular by TV (Simpsons, Buffy) and by fiction (Wilde, Shakespeare).
I am sure there is at least one thesis out there…
Actually, if were going to get into the derivation of D’Oh (what a concept) Dan Castellenata has indicated that he borrowed it from actor James Finlayson, whose D’Oooh was the punchline in a number of Laurel & Hardy films. (/geek)
Useful phrase. And part of one of the all-time great moments on TV: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvph0eSb-Hg
Also? Mmmmmm…forbidden doughnut.
Hey, if it’s in the Oxford English Dictionary, it’s gotta be an important part of our language!
Doh: Expressing frustration at the realization that things have turned out badly or not as planned, or that one has just said or done something foolish. Also (usu. mildly derogatory): implying that another person has said or done something foolish (cf. DUH int.).
Whereas “duh” has an element of obviousness to it. As in, “duh! I’ve missed something plainly obvious!” Or at least that’s how I’ve always interpreted it. It’s not a synonym of “d’oh!” to me.
I saw a t-shirt with a picture of Homer eating a Doughnut. The caption read “D’oh Boy”. It made me laugh. Laughter is an expression of delight. I was delighted. Mmmmmm, D’oh Nut.
I find that using “D’oh!” is a lot more acceptable than yelling out “Dammit!” or other more colourful curse words, and perfectly sums up the situation; I’ve done something stupid, and now I have to clean up the mess without the benefit of scriptwriters.
Somehow, I don’t see how the preexistence of “duh” changes anything about “d’oh”, especially since they are similar but still basically different expressions.
Also, I’m pretty sure thar forehead slapping in personal annoyance/frustration predates the “I should have had a V-8” commercials.
In other words…your point?
This posting of yours got linked on Language Log! Congratulations, I felt like it would be.
Don’t forget purple monkey dishwasher!