Meh

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Meh is an interjection used as an expression of indifference or boredom. It may also mean "be it as it may".[1] It is often regarded as a verbal shrug of the shoulders. The use of the term "meh" shows that the speaker is apathetic, uninterested, or indifferent to the question or subject at hand. [2] It is occasionally used as an adjective, meaning something is mediocre or unremarkable.[3]

Other Uses[edit]

Meh is popularly used as a catchall answer to any question. It is acceptably interchangeable with most responses.

“What time do you want to go out tonight?” “Meh.”

Also considered a non-committal response, “meh” can be used when disregarding a question or to refer to something they have no opinion or emotions about. [4] In expressing an opinion, it means the speaker’s opinion is that of apathy. However, some may respond with “meh” simply to avoid creating an opinion on the matter at all. This is true to the way an artist will draw a light source in their sketch to avoid rationalizing the proper placement of shadows.[5]

“Do you want to go to the party with me?” “Meh.”

“What did you think about the book we had to read?” “It was meh.”

It is also common to use the term in place of a sigh of boredom, as a way to grab someone’s attention, or as an exclamation of annoyance.

“MEH!!! I want my pizza!!!”

Origin[edit]

Some have speculated that the term’s origin is Yiddish because of its similarity to the interjection. "feh",[1] which appears in the 1936 Yiddish song Yidl Mitn Fidl. The rhyming of the two words is only one such link to the language. In Alexander Harkavy's “Yiddish-English-Hebrew Dictionary” the word is treated as a bleating or baa sound. Hooray for Yiddish, by Leo Rosten uses the word “mnyeh,” which is speculated to be an early variant of “meh.”[1]

Popularization[edit]

As early as 1992, "meh" appeared in a Usenet posting in a discussion referring to the television series Melrose Place.[6] The word's first mainstream print usage occurred in Canadian newspaper the Edmonton Sun in 2003: "Ryan Opray got voted off Survivor. Meh."[7]

Meh's popularity surged after its use on The Simpsons.[8][1] It was first used in the 1994 episode "Sideshow Bob Roberts",[1] when a librarian reacts to Lisa's surprise that voting records are not classified. It also appeared later in "Lisa's Wedding" after Marge weaves "Hi Bart" on a loom to try to pique her son's interest in weaving, to which he responds "meh". In the 2001 episode "Hungry, Hungry Homer", Lisa spells out the word for emphasis ("M-E-H"), after Homer tries to interest her (Lisa) and Bart into going to the theme park "Blockoland".[1] American lexicographer Benjamin Zimmer wrote in 2006, "Whatever Yiddish origins the interjection might have had, they have been lost in post-Simpsons usage."[9] Zimmer contacted Simpson's writer John Swartzwelder, who was responsible for "Hungry Hungry Homer," who said "I had originally heard the word from an advertising writer named Howie Krakow back in 1970 or 1971 who insisted it was the funniest word in the world."[1] Zimmer also contacted the writers of the other two episodes but they could not remember where they heard the word from.[1]

Lexicographer Grant Barrett wrote about meh and d'oh, "I suspect they're both just transcribed versions of oral speech, which has any number of single-syllable sounds that mean a variety of things."[6]

Even journalists and politicians have begun using the word in common place. On October 14, 2013 ABC News Online headlines: US Government Shuts Down, World Says, ‘Meh.' [10] The New York Times’s The One Page Magazine now features a “meh” list. [11] In December 2009, meh was included in the BBC News Online list of 20 words which defined the decade.[12]

Controversy[edit]

In November 2008, the word was added to the Collins English Dictionary, a British publication published by HarperCollins.[3][13] Cormac McKeown, senior editor for Collins dictionaries, said:

"This is a new interjection from the US that seems to have inveigled its way into common speech over here".

"It was actually spelled out in The Simpsons when Homer is trying to pry the kids away from the TV with a suggestion for a day trip. They both just reply 'meh' and keep watching TV; he asks again and Lisa says 'We said MEH! M-E-H, meh?!' "

The inclusion of a neologism in a dictionary caused some controversy. Sam Leith, writing in the Daily Telegraph, described the appearance of the word, following suggestions received from the public as a "gimmick", before concluding it was a "useful" word.[14]

In Canada[edit]

Harper Collins' definition of "meh" included a "real example" of usage:

"As in 'the Canadian election was so meh'."[15]

When complaints arose over this choice of example, Harper Collins' lexicographer Cormac McKeown, who chose the election reference, insisted that he meant "no slight to Canada."[15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Benjamin Zimmer (September 6, 2013). "A History of Meh, from Leo Rosten to Auden to The Simpsons". Slate. Retrieved February 26, 2014. 
  2. ^ The Zim Bob Way (January 27, 2003). "Meh". “Urban Dictionary”. Retrieved February 26, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "Bothered much? 'Meh' is a word". Sky News. November 17, 2008. Retrieved November 23, 2008. 
  4. ^ ME (December 13, 2003). "Meh". “Urban Dictionary”. Retrieved February 26, 2014. 
  5. ^ Seth Taylor (January 14, 2013). "The Death of Meh". “Babble RSS”. Retrieved February 26, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Bierma, Nathan (April 13, 2007). "'Meh' joins ranks of little words that do grunt work". Chicago Tribune. p. 2. Retrieved 2010-08-09. 
  7. ^ Barnes, Steve (May 5, 2007). "Meh...: A little word replaces the indifference of 'whatever' – like you care", Times Union, p. D1.
  8. ^ "'Meh' - The Simpsons Make Word History". Simpsons Channel. November 19, 2008. Retrieved 18 September 2010. [dead link]
  9. ^ "'Meh? Fail? GOP Debate Elicits Words of Disappointment'". Visual Thesaurus. Retrieved 15 April 2013. 
  10. ^ Chris Good (October 4, 2013). "Headlines: US Government Shuts Down, World Says, ‘Meh’". “ABC News Network”. Retrieved February 26, 2014. 
  11. ^ Willy Stalley (January 27, 2014). "Yes, We Believe That Pizza Is Meh". The New York Times. Retrieved February 26, 2014. 
  12. ^ Dent, Susie (2009-12-14). Words: The final 20. In A portrait of the decade, BBC News, 14 December 2009. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8406898.stm.
  13. ^ Hoyle, Ben (November 17, 2008). "Looking for a word to describe how bored you are? Try meh", The Times, p. 21.
  14. ^ Leith, Sam (November 17, 2008). "'Meh' is more useful than 'weaselnose'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved December 4, 2009. 
  15. ^ a b Boswell, Randy (November 18, 2008). "Canadian politics: The definition of 'meh'". Canwest News Service. Retrieved December 3, 2008. 

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