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.

It’s Official: Merriam-Webster Has Added They to Its Online Dictionary as a Nonbinary Pronoun

psphotograph/iStock via Getty Images
psphotograph/iStock via Getty Images

Two and a half years after the Associated Press announced it would recognize they as a singular pronoun, America’s oldest dictionary is following suit. The Guardian reports that Merriam-Webster has officially added they into its online dictionary as a grammatically correct nonbinary pronoun.

Merriam-Webster notes in a blog post that people have been using they as a singular pronoun since the 1300s, and quoted an 1881 letter in which Emily Dickinson refers to a person of unknown gender with the pronouns they, theirs, and even themself. The post also mentions that using you as a singular pronoun wasn’t always considered grammatically correct, either: it was born out of necessity, gained popularity in casual conversation, and eventually became formally accepted as a singular pronoun.

Merriam-Webster does acknowledge that this new application of they differs from how the general public has most commonly used it in previous centuries. In the past, the singular they has referred to “a person whose gender isn’t known or isn’t important in the context.” For example, you would probably say “Tell each person that they are responsible for cleaning up their own trash,” rather than “Tell each person that he or she is responsible for cleaning up his or her own trash.” Now, however, we use they to describe a person who simply doesn't identify as either male or female.

It’s a much more direct use of the pronoun, and it’s this definition that Merriam-Webster is adding to the existing dictionary entry for the word they: “used to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary.”

And with that, “Don’t use they as a singular pronoun” has become nothing more than bad writing advice, much like “Don’t split infinitives” and these other grammar myths.

[h/t The Guardian]

Farther vs. Further: There’s an Easy Way to Remember the Difference, and When to Use Which

imtmphoto/iStock via Getty Images
imtmphoto/iStock via Getty Images

Even for native speakers, the English language is full of booby traps. That's why people are so hesitant to use whom instead of who, and why thinking about the differences between lay and lie is enough to give professional linguists a headache. One of the more common pitfalls is further vs. farther: Both words describe similar situations, and there's only one letter separating them. Though they're often used interchangeably, there is a difference between further and farther, and luckily for anyone who struggles with grammar, there's an easy trick to remember what it is.

Further and farther are both used in relation to progress, but the type of progress they describe differs. According to Quick and Dirty Tips, farther is reserved for physical distance, i.e. "the runner was farther down the track than his competitor," while further is used for figurative or metaphorical scenarios, such as "the senator was interrupted before she could go further in her speech."

The best way to remember this is to look at the first three letters of the words. Farther starts with far, a word that's associated with physical distance. This can remind you to use farther when describing things like car trips and walks, and save further for concepts like projects, movies, and dreams.

This distinction is clear enough, but things can get sticky when it's not totally obvious if a statement is dealing with physical or metaphorical distance. Take the sentence "the writer had gotten farther in her poem by the afternoon" as an example. If the progress being referred to is lines on a page, farther works just fine, but if the speaker is talking about the poem as a piece of art, further may be more more appropriate. In such instances, it's usually safest to default to further: Usage for farther is slightly stricter, and because further deals with situations that are already hard to define, you can get away with using it in more contexts. And if you still get them mixed up, don't let it bother you too much. Merriam-Webster notes that great writers have been using farther and further interchangeably for centuries.

[h/t Quick and Dirty Tips]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER