After Hours

Geek Trivia: Cheaper by the d'oh-zen

How many times has the word 'd'oh' appeared in the dialogue of a script for The Simpsons?

In a recent paper titled "Gauge/gravity duality and meta-stable dynamical supersymmetry breaking," a group of Stanford physicists introduced a new word to the string theory lexicon: Embiggen. Quoth the paper: "We could argue that there is a competing effect which can overcome the desire of the anti-D3s to embiggen, namely their attraction towards the wrapped D5s."

While the exact meaning of that sentence is almost certainly lost on persons not trained in particle physics, the word embiggen is familiar to millions of everyday shmoes all over the planet — but from a different context. Quoth Jebediah Springfield: "A noble spirit embiggens even the smallest man."

That line comes from "Lisa the Iconoclast," a fan-favorite episode of The Simpsons. Physicist Shamit Kachru cops to grabbing the term from the animated Simpson clan, whom he describes as "a source of knowledge for all serious theoretical physicists" (quote courtesy of Scientific American).

While the fact that embiggen isn't a real word is a minor plot point of the episode, Kachru has done his part to legitimize just one of many unofficial contributions to the English language made by Matt Groening's cartoon sitcom icons. Take, for example, kwyjibo — a "big, dumb, balding, North American ape with no chin" — invented on the spot by Bart Simpson to win a game of Scrabble.

Then there are yoink and meh, which are perhaps not original to The Simpsons but have nonetheless found more widespread popularity thanks to the show, coming to be accepted exclamations for expressing malicious glee (usually in response to a successful theft) and apathy, respectively. Of course, one cannot overlook okily-dokily, Ned Flanders' irritatingly upbeat over-pronunciation of okay, which has now (often ironically) entered common usage.

Still, the granddaddy of all Simpson-isms has been and always will be d'oh, Homer's trademark yelp of frustration, annoyance, and/or pain. It's the only Simpsons-popularized word ever to be included in the Oxford English Dictionary, proving that if a term appears often enough in The Simpsons, it will eventually be enshrined in the definitive authority on the English language.

So, exactly how many times has d'oh appeared in a Simpsons script?


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Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger — amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

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