In the article Homer Simpson's Figures of Speech, we looked at some of the ways in which Homeric rhetoric traveled from The Odyssey to The Idiocy by way of America's favorite animated character. In this piece, several other citizens of Springfield join Homer to illustrate a broad range of linguistic concepts.
Will these laugh lines from Simpsons characters stand the test of time? Can wisecracks from the likes of Sideshow Bob, Krusty the Clown, and Linguo the Grammar Robot endure alongside passages from Shakespeare, Twain, and Churchill?
Probably not. But for your momentary edification and amusement, here are some brief language lessons from The Simpsons. (To review a definition in our glossary, simply click on the term.)
- Stipulative Definitions
Wally: I can't believe I fell for counterfeit Superbowl tickets. The guys will be crestfallen when they find out.
Homer: Yes, if by "crestfallen" you mean they're going to kill us.
Lisa: A rose by any other name smells as sweet.
Bart: Not if you call them "Stench Blossoms."
Dr. Nick Riviera: Who would have thought? Inflammable means flammable!
Homer: Good things don't end in -eum; they end in -mania or -teria.
Lisa: Relax? I can't relax! Nor can I yield, relent, or . . .. Only two synonyms? Oh my God! I'm losing my perspicacity!
Homer: Well, it's always in the last place you look.
Bart: I will not scream for ice cream.
Mr. Prince: We'll see you when you get back from image enhancement camp.
Martin Prince: Spare me your euphemisms! It's fat camp, for Daddy's chubby little secret!
Mr. Burns: Oh, "meltdown." It's one of those annoying buzzwords. We prefer to call it an "unrequested fission surplus."
- Mass Nouns
Bart: Fun does not have a size.
- Double Negatives
Bart: I won't not use no double negatives.
Newspaper editor: We're looking for a new food critic, someone who doesn't immediately pooh-pooh everything he eats.
Homer: Nah, it usually takes a few hours.
Kent Brockman: Another of Springfield's belovedest citizens has been murdered.
- Existential Sentences
Bart: There was no Roman god named "Fartacus."
Lisa: Almost done. Just lay still.
Linguo the Grammar Robot: Lie still.
Lisa: I knew that. Just testing.
Linguo: Sentence fragment.
Lisa: "Sentence fragment" is also a sentence fragment.
Linguo: Must conserve battery power.
- Yes-No Questions
Scully: Homer, we're going to ask you a few simple yes or no questions. Do you understand?
Homer: Yes. (Lie detector blows up.)
- Wh- Questions
Krusty the Clown: Hey kids! Who do you love?
Krusty: How much do you love me?
Audience: With all our hearts!
Krusty: What would you do if I went off the air?
Audience: We'd kill ourselves!
- Leading Questions
Kent Brockman: Apu, will you ever stop selling spoiled meat?
Apu: No. I mean, yes. I mean--uh oh.
Homer: Shut up, Brain, or I'll stab you with a Q-tip!
Homer: I can't believe it! Reading and writing actually paid off!
On Figurative Language
Carl: According to the map, the cabin should be right here.
Lenny: Hey, maybe there is no cabin. Maybe it's one of them metaphorical things.
Carl: Oh yeah, yeah. Like maybe the cabin is the place inside each of us, created by our goodwill and teamwork.
Lenny: Nah, they said there would be sandwiches.
Kent Brockman: Ladies and gentlemen, I've been to Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and I can say without hyperbole that this is a million times worse than all of them put together.
Sideshow Bob: I'm aware of the irony of appearing on TV in order to decry it.
Lindsey Naegle: Do I detect a note of sarcasm?
Frink: (with sarcasm detector) Are you kidding? This baby is off the charts.
Comic Book Guy: Oh, a sarcasm detector. That's a really useful invention!
For further insights into language from Springfield's resident rhetorician, visit Homer Simpson's Figures of Speech.