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Language Lessons From "The Simpsons"

Linguistic Laugh Lines From Bart, Lisa, Sideshow Bob, and Krusty the Clown


Language Lessons From

Bart Simpson TM and © FOX and its related entities

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.)

On Words

  • 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.

  • Connotations
    Lisa: A rose by any other name smells as sweet.
    Bart: Not if you call them "Stench Blossoms."

  • Confusables
    Dr. Nick Riviera: Who would have thought? Inflammable means flammable!

  • Suffixes
    Homer: Good things don't end in -eum; they end in -mania or -teria.

  • Synonyms
    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.

  • Oronyms
    Bart: I will not scream for ice cream.

  • Euphemisms
    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!

  • Buzzwords
    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.

  • Reduplicatives
    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.

  • Superlatives
    Kent Brockman: Another of Springfield's belovedest citizens has been murdered.

On Sentences

  • Existential Sentences
    Bart: There was no Roman god named "Fartacus."

  • Fragments
    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?
    Audience: Krusty!
    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.

  • Imperatives
    Homer: Shut up, Brain, or I'll stab you with a Q-tip!

  • Exclamations
    Homer: I can't believe it! Reading and writing actually paid off!

On Figurative Language

  • Metaphors
    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.

  • Hyperbole
    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.

  • Irony
    Sideshow Bob: I'm aware of the irony of appearing on TV in order to decry it.

  • Sarcasm
    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.

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