11 Best Uses of Bad Grammar from The Simpsons

it's a perfectly cromulent word, via fox
it's a perfectly cromulent word, via fox

When it comes to comedy, sometimes a little grammatical wrongnity is exactly what’s called for. Here are 11 examples from The Simpsons that are bad in just the right ways.

1. A NOBLE SPIRIT EMBIGGENS THE SMALLEST MAN

Episode: “Lisa the Iconoclast”

The town motto of Springfield takes the air out of the hifalutin’ pretentiousness of lofty sloganeering by sticking a simple “big” where it doesn’t belong. When Mrs. Krabappel questions the correctness of “embiggens,” Ms. Hoover responds that it's a "perfectly cromulent word.” Both “embiggen” and “cromulent” have gone on to successful careers as words in the real world.

2. ME FAIL ENGLISH? THAT’S UNPOSSIBLE!

Episode: “Lisa on Ice”

A classic Ralph Wiggum moment. Sweet cluelessness compounded. He thinks he’s winning an award, but is instead handed an “academic alert.”

3. ONE SPRINGFIELD MAN IS TREATING HIS WIFE TO AN EXTRA SPECIAL VALENTINE’S DAY THIS YEAR, AND INTROBULATING THE REST OF US.

Episode: "I’m with Cupid”

When Kent Brockman delivers his Valentine’s Day news report he creates a new word for “getting in trouble” that allows him to maintain the newscasters’ convention of introducing a personal interest story with the frame “and Xing the rest of us.”

4. ME LOVE BEER

Episode: “Trilogy of error”

When Lisa introduces Homer to Linguo, her grammar correcting robot, he says “me love beer.” When Linguo corrects him, saying “I love beer,” the correction angle goes right over Homer’s head, and taking Linguo at his word, Homer gets him a beer. Friendliness trumps grammatical chagrin for the win.

5. IF YOU’RE SO SURE WHAT IT AIN’T, HOW ‘BOUT TELLING US WHAT IT AM!

Episode: “Lisa the Skeptic”

Moe says this to Lisa after an archaeological dig turns up a mysterious skeleton that the residents of Springfield think is an angel. Lisa is trying to convince them that there must be a more rational explanation. He challenges her eggheaded pleas with the folksy “ain’t” and “’bout,” and caps it all off with the ultimate anti-smarty-pants challenge, “it am.”

6. YOU KNOW WHAT REALLY AGGRAVAZES ME? IT’S THEM IMMIGANTS. THEY WANTS ALL THE BENEFITS OF LIVING IN SPRINGFIELD, BUT THEY AIN’T EVEN BOTHER TO LEARN THEMSELVES THE LANGUAGE.

Episode: “Much Apu about Nothing”

Another great line from Moe, capturing the all too real phenomenon of people complaining about immigrants’ language skills while showing their own lack of skills. Homer responds, “Hey, those are exactly my sentimonies.”

7. STOP IT YOU WANT-WIT! I COULD GET STUNG BY A BUMBLED BEE!

Episode: “Goo Goo Gai Pan”

While giving Mr. Burns a driving test so he can replace his expired license, Selma, suffering a hot flash, tries to open the convertible top. Mr. Burns yells this at her in his signature style—nonsense that sounds convincingly like old-timey sense.

8. DOES EVERY SIMPSON GO THROUGH A PROCESS OF DUMBENING? HEY, THAT’S NOT HOW YOU SPELL "DUMBENING." WAIT A MINUTE, DUMBENING ISN’T EVEN A WORD!

Episode: “Lisa the Simpson”

Lisa writes this in her diary, worrying that she is losing her intelligence due to a “Simpson Gene.” But even though she’s supposed to sound like her smarts are in question, the use of “dumbening” is very Lisa. “Go through a process of dumbening” is much more bookish sounding than “get dumber.”

9. WE MUST FACE UP TO THE UNFACEUPTOABLE

Episode: “Trash of the Titans”

Mayor Quimby’s comment on the budget crisis caused by Homer’s disastrous run as Sanitation Commissioner is easy to understand, despite its grammatical sins.

10. WE’VE SQUOZEN OUR WHOLE SUPPLY! TO THE LEMON TREE!

Episode: “Lemon of Troy”

Milhouse shouts this after all the lemons have been used up at his lemonade stand. If we have “freeze-frozen,” why not “squeeze-squozen”? It sounds like a completely reasonable antiquated past participle. The form fits well with Milhouse’s dramatic, slightly Shakespearean rallying cry.

11. JUDGE A PIG COMPETITION? BUT I’M NO SUPER GENIUS … OR ARE I?

Episode: “Simple Simpson”

Homer, of course. Even better than the presupposition that judging a pig competition involves being a super genius is the ridiculous, devious, and oh so Homer “or are I?” that follows. You am, Homer. Of course you am.

For more Simpsons language play, check out Heidi Harley's collection of linguistically relevant Simspons jokes here.

Presidents Day vs. President's Day vs. Presidents' Day: Which One Is It?

iStock
iStock

Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" implies that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.


Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

Can You Tell an Author’s Identity By Looking at Punctuation Alone? A Study Just Found Out.

iStock.com/RyersonClark
iStock.com/RyersonClark

In 2016, neuroscientist Adam J Calhoun wondered what his favorite books would look like if he removed the words and left nothing but the punctuation. The result was a stunning—and surprisingly beautiful—visual stream of commas, question marks, semicolons, em-dashes, and periods.

Recently, Calhoun’s inquiry piqued the interest of researchers in the United Kingdom, who wondered if it was possible to identify an author from his or her punctuation alone.

For decades, linguists have been able to use the quirks of written texts to pinpoint the author. The process, called stylometric analysis or stylometry, has dozens of legal and academic applications, helping researchers authenticate anonymous works of literature and even nab criminals like the Unabomber. But it usually focuses on an author's word choices and grammar or the length of his or her sentences. Until now, punctuation has been largely ignored.

But according to a recent paper led by Alexandra N. M. Darmon of the Oxford Centre for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, an author’s use of punctuation can be extremely revealing. Darmon’s team assembled nearly 15,000 documents from 651 different authors and “de-worded” each text. “Is it possible to distinguish literary genres based on their punctuation sequences?” the researchers asked. “Do the punctuation styles of authors evolve over time?”

Apparently, yes. The researchers crafted mathematical formulas that could identify individual authors with 72 percent accuracy. Their ability to detect a specific genre—from horror to philosophy to detective fiction—was accurate more than half the time, clocking in at a 65 percent success rate.

The results, published on the preprint server SocArXiv, also revealed how punctuation style has evolved. The researchers found that “the use of quotation marks and periods has increased over time (at least in our [sample]) but that the use of commas has decreased over time. Less noticeably, the use of semicolons has also decreased over time.”

You probably don’t need to develop a powerful algorithm to figure that last bit out—you just have to crack open something by Dickens.

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