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.

8 Persnickety Rules From the Associated Press Stylebook

iStock.com/AndreyPopov
iStock.com/AndreyPopov

Serving as an authority for working journalists on grammar, capitalizations, abbreviations, spelling and so much more, the AP Stylebook can be found in almost every newsroom in the country. Although some publications (such as The New York Times) stray from the guide, it's become almost like a bible since its beginnings in 1953. Updates are officially made every year as each new edition is published, and to stay culturally relevant, new rules are added. The committee of editors who set style aren't messing around: They've determined what makes a boat a boat and a ship a ship, the spelling of "Daylight Saving Time," and that numbers above 10 must use numerals. Here are nine rules from the AP Stylebook that you might never know unless you looked them up.

1. OK

None of this okay business. It's OK, OK'd, OK'ing, and OKs. (Yeah, it's going to look like you're shouting. It's OK.) This spelling may draw from the origins of the phrase.

2. Health Care

Although many in the industry spell it healthcare (one word), the AP persists in spelling it as two words—health care, although it's a hotly debated item that could change soon.

3. Toward

Add an s to the end of this word, and prepare for the wrath of every American copy editor's red pen. (Ditto on forward.)

4. Co-working vs. coworking

The people you see every day in the office (or the people on your team, even if they're halfway around the world) are your co-workers. But if you rent a shared work space, those are your coworkers, without a hyphen. And yes, that means it's called a coworking space.

5. Champagne

Grab the bottle and check the label. If it's from the Champagne region of France, always capitalize. If made elsewhere, call it "sparkling wine."

6. Percentages

For a long time, the AP Stylebook said to never use the little symbol for percent and always spell it out. For example, "About 80 percent of AP Stylebook users actually know this rule." (We just made that statistic up.) As of 2019, however, the AP Stylebook says the percentage sign is acceptable when paired with a numeral in most cases.

7. No Hyphenation on Dual Heritage Terms

In a new change for 2019, the Stylebook says not to hyphenate terms like African American, Asian American, and Filipino American.

8. No Italics

The Associated Press doesn't use italics. Instead, writers who follow the AP Stylebook put quotation marks around the titles of books, movies, plays, and the like.

9. Trademarks

It's OK to use brand names if you're actually talking about the brand name. But if you're unsure of whether it's the good stuff or generic, use common terms like "facial tissue" for Kleenex and "flying disc" for Frisbee.

A version of this list first ran in 2013.

4 Fake Grammar Rules You Don't Need to Worry About

iStock.com/nzphotonz
iStock.com/nzphotonz

There are many grammar rules that students of English must learn about in order to understand how the language works. There are some rules, however, that don’t reflect how the language works at all and are simply passed down from generation to generation just because. It’s good to be familiar with them for the same reason it’s good to know arbitrary dress code customs, which is to say, because someone might judge you for not following them. But they have little to do with logic, clarity, the facts of English, or even being a good writer.

In honor of National Grammar Day, here are four grammar rules that aren’t really rules at all.

1. Don't split infinitives.

The rule against splitting infinitives says that nothing must come between a to and its verb. It is incorrect to boldly go. One must instead arrange to go boldly, or boldly to go. But this rule has no real justification. In fact, this rule was never mentioned in any treatises on English until an 1834 anonymous article proposed it, claiming that keeping the to and the verb next to each other is what good authors did. But plenty of good authors had in fact been splitting infinitives for hundreds of years, from John Wycliffe in the 14th century to Samuel Johnson in the 18th century.

Though many writers thought this imaginary rule was unnecessary and even sometimes harmful to clarity (George Bernard Shaw said, “Every good literary craftsman splits his infinitives when the sense demands it”), it somehow made its way into a number of usage guides and stayed there. Read Tom Freeman's history of the rule here

2. Don't end a sentence with a preposition.

We are told not to end a sentence with a preposition. What is this rule for? I mean, for what is this rule? Wait, would anyone really use the second construction to ask this question? Ending a sentence with a preposition is completely natural in English and not at all wrong. The rule came about during the 17th century when scholars were deeply immersed in the study of Latin and took to emulating Latin as a model of linguistic purity. Because a preposition can’t be stranded in Latin, some thought that the same should hold for English. But English differs from Latin in countless ways, and to cling to a prohibition that forces you to swap It’s nothing to worry about for It’s nothing about which to worry does not encourage good style or clarity of expression. Don’t believe me? Ask Oxford Dictionaries.

But what about sentences like Where’s he at? or Do you want to come with? Should those be considered correct, then? No. Those are examples of non-standard grammar because they're used in non-standard dialects, not because they end with prepositions. At where is he? does not sound any better, and if the problem with come with is the ending preposition, why doesn’t come along sound just as bad? 

3. Don't use they as a singular pronoun.

The rule says that because they is a plural pronoun, it must have a plural antecedent. This means that the sentence If anyone has a problem with that, they should tell me is wrong because anyone is singular and they is plural. They should be switched to a singular pronoun, but which one? “Generic he” was the prescription in the 19th century (If anyone has a problem with that, he should tell me), but as it became clear that he was neither generic nor neutral, the suggestion was to either use the cumbersome “he or she” (If anyone has a problem with that, he or she should tell me) or to rewrite the sentence entirely (Got a problem with that? Let me know).

Sticklers have been wringing their hands about how to reconcile this rule with guidelines for nonsexist language for decades now, but the solution has been right there all along. Just use singular they. The pronouns they/them/their have been used with singular antecedents for centuries. It’s perfectly good English. It sounds completely natural. Great writers like Shakespeare and Jane Austen used it. Does anyone really think Everyone clapped his hands sounds better than Everyone clapped their hands?

Editors like John McIntyre of The Baltimore Sun have been letting the singular they through for a while now and most of the time no one notices. What we have in singular they, according to linguist Geoff Pullum, is “a logically impeccable construction that expert users of the language regularly employ and experienced listeners unhesitatingly accept. I wonder what more one would need to take something to be grammatical.” 

4. Don't start a sentence with hopefully.

The ban on hopefully as a sentence adverb meant that you were only to use it to mean “in a hopeful manner.” So I waited hopefully was good, but Hopefully, the bus will get here soon was bad. Buses don’t do things in a hopeful manner! What you were supposed to say in that situation was It is hoped that the bus will get here soon.

Hopefully was being picked on rather unfairly. No one had a problem with fortunately/clearly/unbelievably/sadly/mercifully the bus will get here soon. There are plenty of other adverbs that can modify a whole sentence without causing a stir. Hopefully was singled out because it was new in the '60s, people noticed it, complained about it, and made up a reason to justify their complaints. It is still one of those gotcha words that attract the red pen, but even the AP Stylebook has given up trying to enforce the ban. 

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