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?


Get the answer.

How many times has Homer Simpson’s trademark d’oh appeared in the dialogue of episode scripts for The Simpsons?


That’s right, the catchphrase that has come to define one of the most memorable characters in television history has never made an appearance in any script for that character’s television show.

First and foremost, d’oh is a creation of voice actor Dan Castellaneta — the voice of Homer — who conjured up the exclamation on the spot when asked to produce an “annoyed grunt” for the animated short “The Krusty the Clown Show.” That short appeared on the Jan. 19, 1989 episode of The Tracey Ullman Show, from which The Simpsons originated.

The word d’oh never appeared in that script. And by tradition, it hasn’t appeared in any subsequent script for any Simpsons episode. Rather than being prompted for a “d’oh,” the only instruction any of the Simpsons voice actors — not just Castellaneta — receive is to produce another “annoyed grunt,” which, as a bit of inside baseball for the show, is actually a prompt for the annoyed grunt. Namely, d’oh.

For the first nine seasons of the show, this tradition even extended to episode titles, which were often puns on the word d’oh. For example, the title “E-I-E-I-(Annoyed Grunt)” is a pun on “E-I-E-I-D’oh,” which is a pun on the “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” chorus “E-I-E-I-O.” The same is true of the G.I. Joe parody “G.I. (Annoyed Grunt),” the I, Robot riff “I, (Annoyed Grunt)bot,” and the pun on the Mary Poppins catchphrase Supercalifragilisticexpialidoscious, “Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)scious.”

Writers abandoned the tradition of including the pun in titles in season 10, with “D’oh-in’ in the Wind,” though the dialogue still calls for annoyed grunts rather than the explicit catchphrase. In some cases, this has led to “annoyed grunt” appearing instead of “d’oh” in the closed captioning of Simpsons episodes, as the caption writers were working off the recording scripts.

For the record, the Oxford English Dictionary defines d’oh as “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.” The reference also notes that the phrase dates back to 1945 but The Simpsons popularized it. This despite the fact that Homer & Co. were never scripted to say d’oh. That’s not just a pop-cultural accomplishment — it’s linguistically laughable Geek Trivia.

The Quibble of the Week

If you uncover a questionable fact or debatable aspect of this week’s Geek Trivia, just post it in the discussion area. Every week, yours truly will choose the best post from the assembled masses and discuss it in a future edition of Geek Trivia.

This week’s quibble comes from July 25 edition of Geek Trivia, “Game within a (video) game.” TechRepublic member jr_G-man pointed out an egregious misattribution on my part.

Zork (and Zork Zero) was published by Infocom, not Infogames.”

My bad, devoted Zorkers. Thanks for smacking me straight, and keep those quibbles coming.

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The Trivia Geek, also known as Jay Garmon, is a former advertising copywriter and Web developer who’s duped TechRepublic into underwriting his affinity for movies, sci-fi, comic books, technology, and all things geekish or subcultural.

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