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10 Words The Simpsons Made Famous

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20th Television

After 550+ episodes—and with no end in sight—The Simpsons has changed the way we talk to one another. Here are 10 words that the show has made famous, either by inventing them or re-purposing them to make us laugh, think, and then laugh again.

1. CHOCOTASTIC

In the season seven episode "King-Size Homer," Homer tries to gain enough weight to tip scales at more than 300 pounds, which will get his big posterior on work disability. Naturally, he goes to see Dr. Nick Riviera to help him reach that unhealthy goal. The Hollywood Upstairs Medical College that educated Dr. Nick informed him of the three "neglected" food groups: the Whipped Group, the Congealed group, and the Chocotastic! (Emphasis Nick's.)

Strangely enough, when Homer asks how to speed up the weight gain process, he's told to substitute bread for Pop Tarts. Years later, stores in the UK and Australia started stocking "Frosted Chocotastic" Pop Tarts. Kellogg's states that in this case, Chocotastic means "Chocolate flavour filling in a frosted pastry," 198 calories at a time.

2. CRAPTACULAR

Unmoved by Homer's weak Christmas lights, Bart offers that the display looks "craptacular" in season nine's "Miracle on Evergreen Terrace." The word was likely used prior to the episode's December 1997 airing, but it became a popular way to say that something or someone was "spectacularly crappy" after the show's use of it.

Some examples of its post-Simpsons use are the 2002 Marvel Comics limited series The Craptacular B-Sides, a Howard Stern contest where contestants weigh the waste they generated after stuffing their faces for 24 hours, and an "Annual Holiday Craptacular" that benefits the San Francisco Food Bank.

3. CROMULENT

"Cromulent" is a word created by Simpsons writer David X. Cohen, who would go on to co-develop Futurama with Matt Groening. Cohen came up with the word for the season seven episode "Lisa the Iconoclast," where Ms. Hoover tells Mrs. Krabappel that the slightly less fictitious "embiggen" is a "perfectly cromulent" word.

Cromulent is now listed in Webster's New Millennium Dictionary of English, and its dictionary.com listing says that cromulent is an adjective meaning "fine" or "acceptable."

4. D'OH!

Even though "D'oh" isn't written on Simpsons scripts—"annoyed grunt" has always been how it appears on paper—it's listed in Webster's Millennium Dictionary of English and the Oxford English Dictionary as "Used to comment on a foolish or stupid action, especially one’s own." Dan Castellaneta started saying "D'oh!" as Homer to mimic actor James Finlayson's "Doooooooo" from Laurel & Hardy movies. After Matt Groening told Castellaneta to shorten it due to time constraints, it became "D'oh!"

Even though Castellaneta was thinking about a Laurel and Hardy actor, "D'oh" was uttered often between 1945 and 1949 by actress Diana Morrison on the BBC radio series It's That Man Again. Playing the secretary Ms. Hotchkiss, Morrison would leave a room saying "d'oh!" to vent her frustration dealing with her boss Tommy Handley.

5. EMBIGGEN

"Embiggen" first appeared in 1884 when C.A. Ward tried to come up with a suitably ugly new verb to make a point about neologisms. One hundred and twelve years later, it reappeared in "Lisa the Iconoclast" as Springfield's "cromulent" motto: "A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man."

Unlike cromulent, embiggen has yet to meet the standards of any legitimate dictionaries. That didn't stop a real-life team of physicists from writing that "...the gradient of the Myers potential encouraging an anti-D3 to embiggen is very mild" in their 2007 paper "Gauge/gravity duality and meta-stable dynamical supersymmetry breaking," published in the journal High Energy Physics [PDF].

6. JEBUS

Homer pleads for the help of "Jebus" in season 11's "Missionary: Impossible" while escaping from a bloodthirsty Betty White and her PBS pledge drive cronies. Despite the fact that Homer is a regular (albeit unenthusiastic) churchgoer, he was not referring to the Jebusites in the Old Testament who, before King David conquered it, inhabited and built a town called Jebus, which later became Jerusalem—he just got Jesus' name wrong.

7. KWYJIBO

In the season one episode "Bart the Genius," Bart attempts to cheat in a game of Scrabble by putting "kwyjibo" on the board. When asked what a kwyjibo could possibly be, Bart said it was a "big, dumb, balding North American ape ... with no chin," a thinly veiled description of how he perceived Homer. The invented word from The Simpsons' writers' room has since been used as one of the aliases for the Melissa mass-mailing computer virus that affected some Windows users in 1999. Kwyjibo is also the name of an Iron Oxide Copper Gold deposit in Quebec, and an advanced yo-yo trick. (Make sure you don't attempt that trick near a fish tank.)

8. MEH

An investigation into the etymology of "meh" discovered that it may have Yiddish origins, but the first use of "meh" as a word expressing indifference came from a July 9, 1992 Usenet post complaining about Melrose Place. John Swartzwelder was credited with first introducing "meh" into a Simpsons script, and when reached for comment, he claimed he heard it from an advertising writer who said it was the funniest word in the world—in the early '70s. No matter its origins, The Simpsons was responsible for making it one of the 20 words that defined the 2000s, according to BBC News online.

9. UNPOSSIBLE

Ralph Wiggum famously proved that he deserved his grade when he said, "Me fail English? That's unpossible!" in "Lisa on Ice." Well, it turns out that "unpossible" is an actual word that can be found in Shakespeare's Richard II; it's just another way to say "impossible." It can also be found in 1829's A Glossary of North Country Words, In Use. After Ralph brought the outdated word back to life, unpossible has since been used as a title for a short story collection and a popular game.

10. YOINK

Simpsons writer George Meyer has been credited with coming up with the idea to have a character say "yoink" when taking an item from someone or something. Former showrunner Bill Oakley tweeted recently that Meyer actually got "yoink" from Archie Comics. Still, after being said 23 times on The Simpsons, "yoink" has become the word of choice to make light of a situation when someone's property is being taken. It's also the name of a popular drag and drop app.

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Karrah Kobus/NPG Records via Getty Images
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Pop Culture
5 Killer Pieces of Rock History Up for Auction Now (Including Prince’s Guitar)
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Karrah Kobus/NPG Records via Getty Images

If you’ve ever wanted to own a piece of rock history, now is the time. A whole host of cool music memorabilia from the 20th century is going up for sale through Julien’s Auctions in Los Angeles as part of its “Icons and Idols” sale. If you’ve got the dough, you can nab everything from leather chairs from Graceland to a shirt worn by Jimi Hendrix to never-before-available prints that Joni Mitchell signed and gave to her friends. Here are five highlights from the auction:

1. ELVIS’S NUNCHUCKS

Elvis’s nunchucks
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

Elvis’s karate skills sometimes get a bad rap, but the King earned his first black belt in 1960, and went on to become a seventh-degree black belt before opening his own studio in 1974. You can cherish a piece of his martial arts legacy in the form of his nunchaku. One was broken during his training, but the other is still in ready-to-use shape. (But please don’t use it.) It seems Elvis wasn’t super convinced of his own karate skills, though, because he also supposedly carried a police baton (which you can also buy) for his personal protection.

2. PRINCE’S GUITAR

A blue guitar used by Prince
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

Prince’s blue Cloud guitar, estimated to be worth between $60,000 and $80,000, appeared on stage with him in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The custom guitar was made just for Prince by Cloud’s luthier (as in, guitar maker) Andy Beech. The artist first sold it at a 1994 auction to benefit relief efforts for the L.A. area’s devastating Northridge earthquake.

3. KURT COBAIN’S CHEERLEADER OUTFIT

Kurt Cobain wearing a cheerleader outfit in the pages of Rolling Stone
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

The Nirvana frontman wore the bright-yellow cheerleader’s uniform from his alma mater, J.M. Weatherwax High School in Aberdeen, Washington, during a photo shoot for a January 1994 issue of Rolling Stone, released just a few months before his death.

4. MICHAEL JACKSON’S WHITE GLOVE

A white glove covered in rhinestones
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

A young Michael Jackson wore this bejeweled right-hand glove on his 1981 Triumph Tour, one of the first of many single gloves he would don over the course of his career. Unlike later incarnations, this one isn’t a custom-made glove with hand-sewn crystals, but a regular glove topped with a layer of rhinestones cut into the shape of the glove and sewn on top.

The auction house is also selling a pair of jeans the star wore to his 2003 birthday party, as well as other clothes he wore for music videos and performances.

5. WOOD FROM ABBEY ROAD STUDIOS

A piece of wood in a frame under a picture of The Beatles
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

You can’t walk the halls of Abbey Road Studios, but you can pretend. First sold in 1986, the piece of wood in this frame reportedly came from Studio Two, a recording space that hosted not only The Beatles (pictured), but Pink Floyd, Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, and others.

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5 Dubious Historical Antidotes for Poison (and What Actually Works)
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An artificial bezoar stone from Goa, India
Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

When it comes to their health, humans will believe just about anything. In this extract from the new book Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything, authors Lydia Kang, MD, and Nate Pedersen discuss some of the more questionable ways people once tried to protect themselves from poison—whether or not the methods actually worked.

Poison is everywhere. Naturally or unnaturally, it can be in the soil (arsenic), in the air (carbon monoxide), in your drinks (lead), and in your food (cyanide). With so much danger around, it’s no wonder humans have obsessed over finding a universal antidote—the one thing that could save us from all toxins. Imagine you’re a medieval prince about to inherit the throne. Chances are, there are a lot of power-hungry wannabes waiting in the wings. A little arsenic or hemlock might be your best friend or your worst nightmare. Just in case, best have an antidote on standby.

For millennia, a certain amount of magical thinking was employed when arming oneself against poison because science was inconveniently slow to catch up. So grab your handy unicorn horn and a bezoar, and let’s take a look.

1. BEZOARS

Bezoars have been used for centuries as antidotes to poisons. A bezoar is solid mass of undigested food, plant fibers, or hair found in the digestive tracts of animals, including deer, porcupines, fish, and, yes, humans. Anyone with a cat is familiar with the less-cool feline version: hairballs.

Bezoars and other stone-like items created by animals often had a good story behind them. Legends told of deer that would eat poisonous snakes and become immune or cry tears that solidified into poison-curing stones. First-century Arabic author al-Birumi claimed bezoars could protect against one poison called “the snot of Satan,” which we hope never ever to encounter. By the 12th century, when Europe became plagued with, uh, plagues, the bezoar crept into pharmacopeias as panaceas and alexipharmics (poison antidotes).

Bezoars were a seductive notion for the rich and royal, who were at risk of assassination. The stones were often enclosed in bejeweled gold for display or worn as amulets. Indian bezoars, in particular, were sought for life-threatening fevers, poisonous bites, bleeding, jaundice, and melancholy. Consumers were also known to scrape off a bit of bezoar and add it to their drinks for heart health and kidney stones. These tonics were sometimes adulterated with toxic mercury or antimony, which caused vomiting and diarrhea, making buyers think they were effective.

But were they? One team of researchers soaked bezoars in an arsenic-laced solution and found that the stones absorbed the arsenic or that the poison was neutralized. Hard to say if it worked well enough to cure a fatal dose. Ambroise Paré, one of the preeminent French physicians of the 16th century, was also a doubter. The king’s cook, who’d been stealing silver, was given the choice between hanging or being Paré’s lab rat. He chose the latter. After the cook consumed poison, Paré looked on as a bezoar was stuffed down his throat. Six hours later, he died wracked with pain. Perhaps he chose ... poorly?

2. MITHRIDATES

This antidote was named after Mithridates VI, the king of Pontus and Armenia Minor. Born in 134 BCE, he pretty much invented the phrase “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” by consuming poisons daily to prevent his own assassination. His royal home was stocked with stingray spines, toxic mushrooms, scorpions, mineral poisons, and a poisonous plant–filled garden. He was so unpoisonable that after his son took over his kingdom and he faced execution, he couldn’t even commit suicide by poison! He begged a guard to stab him to death. (It worked.)

Though the king’s actual recipe for the antidote is nowhere to be found, versions began to circulate after his death, and they became synonymous with the king himself. Compounds with lengthy and expensive ingredient lists prevailed, including iris, cardamom, anise, frankincense, myrrh, ginger, and saffron. In the first century, Pliny the Elder snarkily remarked, “The Mithridatic antidote is composed of fifty-four ingredients ... Which of the gods, in the name of Truth, fixed these absurd proportions? ... It is plainly a showy parade of the art, and a colossal boast of science.”

Showy or not, people would take the extensive mix of herbs, pound them together with honey, and eat a nut-sized portion to cure themselves. At least it endowed them with expensive-smelling breath.

3. HORNS

An apothecary shop sign in the shape of a unicorn
An ivory pharmacy sign in the shape of a unicorn's head
Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

Unicorn horns have been considered a part of antidote legend since the mythical beast galloped into literature around 300 BCE. For centuries afterward, real earthly beasts would sacrifice their lives and their horns to slake our thirst for the miraculous, nonexistent animal, including rhinoceroses, narwhals, and oryx. Even fossilized ammonites were used. It was believed that drinking vessels made of such horns might neutralize poisons, and wounds could be cured by holding them close by. In the 16th century, Mary, Queen of Scots reportedly used a unicorn horn to protect her from poisoning. Too bad it didn’t prevent her beheading.

4. PEARLS

Pearls have long been thought to be powerful antidotes. A beautiful, rare gem created by the homely oyster, a pearl is born out of annoyance (the mollusk secretes iridescent nacre to cover an irritant, like a parasite or grain of sand). Pretty as they are, they’re about as useful as the chalky antacid tablets on your bedside table; both are chiefly made of calcium carbonate. Good for a stomachache after some spicy food, but not exactly miraculous.

Pearl powder has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of diseases, and Ayurvedic physicians used it as an antidote in the Middle Ages. It was also reported to make people immortal. An old Taoist recipe recommended taking a long pearl and soaking it in malt, “serpent’s gall,” honeycomb, and pumice stone. When softened, it would be pulled like taffy and cut into bite-sized pieces to eat, and voilà! You would suddenly no longer need food to stay alive. Cleopatra famously drank down a large and costly pearl dissolved in wine vinegar, though in that case she wasn’t avoiding poison. She didn’t want to lose a bet with Antony—which might have fatally injured her pride.

5. THERIAC

Albarello vase for theriac, Italy, 1641
A vase for theriac, Italy, 1641
Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

Theriac was an herbal concoction created in the first century by Emperor Nero’s physician, Andromachus, who was reported to have Mithridates’s secret notes. It was a mashed formula of about 70 ingredients, including cinnamon, opium, rose, iris, lavender, and acacia in a honey base. In the 12th century, theriac made in Venice was branded as particularly special, and Venetian treacle (derived from a Middle English translation of theriac) became a hot commodity. Its public, dramatic production often attracted curious crowds.

By the 18th century, cheaper golden syrup was substituted for honey. As treacle began to lose its luster as a treatment, its definition as an herbal remedy disappeared from common vernacular. But the sweet syrup remained. Which is why when we think of treacle, we think of treacle tarts, not a fancy means of saving ourselves from a deathly poisoning.

BONUS: WHAT ACTUALLY WORKS

Thankfully, science has brought us a wide range of antidotes for many items we shouldn’t be exposed to in dangerous quantities, if at all. N-acetylcysteine, fondly referred to as NAC by doctors, saves us from acetaminophen overdoses. Ethanol can treat antifreeze poisoning. Atropine, ironically one of the main components of plants in the toxic nightshade family (such as mandrake), can treat poisoning from some dangerous fertilizers and chemical nerve agents used as weapons. For years, poisonings were treated with emetics, though it turns out that plain old carbon—in the form of activated charcoal—can adsorb poisons (the poisons stick to the surface of the charcoal) in the digestive system before they’re dissolved and digested by the body.

As long as the natural world and its humans keep making things to kill us off, we’ll keep developing methods to not die untimely deaths.

We’ll just leave the fancy hairballs off the list.

The cover of the book Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything
Workman Publishing

Excerpt from Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything by Lydia Kang, MD and Nate Pedersen/Workman Publishing. Used with permission.

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