The Origin of "meh"?
May 17, 2005 10:40 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone provide me with the origin of the word "meh"? I mean, yeah, definition-wise, it almost undoubtedly comes from "ehh."

My sister first used it, then I picked it up -- and I started seeing it used by bloggers and other people as well. But all in all, it seems a relatively recent phrase.

But I suppose I'm curious as to how "ehh" became "meh" -- who coined the expression, what community it came from, etc., and when. Did it originate from the 'Net? From an author?

I suppose I'm curious about the path the meme took across the blogosphere -- its history. (Ah, two ultra-cliche words in one sentence: "meme" and "blogosphere".)

Dumb question, perhaps, but not the dumbest ever asked on Ask MeFi, I'm sure. ;-)
posted by WCityMike to Writing & Language (29 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Not the origin, but Lisa Simpson did use it quite specifically in "Hungry Hungry Homer" (Season 12, Episode 15, gods I'm such a dork)

Homer: Kids... how would you... like to go to... Blocko Land??
Lisa/Bart: Meh.
Homer: But ... the TV gave me the impression that ...
Bart: We said "meh".
Lisa: M-e-h. Meh.
posted by 5MeoCMP at 10:45 AM on May 17, 2005

5MeoCMP, you didn't write CABF09 which would have definitely been dorky.
posted by stevil at 10:48 AM on May 17, 2005

Best answer: "In late 1986, unreliable sources first reported that the Word was being spoken. One excerpt reads:
In the hallways of a nearby correctional institution, they call them high school, I heard the Word spoken. One being said to the other being, and I quote, "Meh." The second being was agitated, and they proceeded to dual using 'dem bones or dice, and I left the area."
from: OMG! - a whole website devoted to meh.
posted by peacay at 10:51 AM on May 17, 2005

I actually thought it was a net meme -- one early example of a lateral neologism to communicate feelings easily when typing. So '86 is not inconceivable - I would have thought it was a bit later though.
posted by peacay at 10:53 AM on May 17, 2005

FWIW, I didn't hear it until about 4 years ago, when all my geek friends started saying it (inspired by that Simpsons episode, maybe). I think it's just one of those sounds that so accurately fits the sentiment, that it springs up on its own.
posted by muddgirl at 10:55 AM on May 17, 2005

In a children's book I have, "Meh" is the noise a goat makes. It was printed in the late 40s/early 50s.

Most likely, totally unrelated. But I can hope for a grand goat noise/old goat/internet crumugeon conspiracy.
posted by Gucky at 10:57 AM on May 17, 2005

Best answer: In terms of Simpson lore... Mojo the helper Monkey beats Lisa's usage in "Hungry Hungry Homer" by three seasons. (See Girly Edition [That's 5F15 in nrrd]).

That's the origin that I'd peg as the first pop culture vocalization of 'meh'. I cannot read that word without instantly picturing a monkey in a diaper.
posted by togdon at 11:25 AM on May 17, 2005

Interesting question. I've posted a thread about it at Wordorigins; we'll see what turns up.
posted by languagehat at 11:32 AM on May 17, 2005

huh. I always thought it did originate in the simpsons. Interesting.
posted by mdn at 11:59 AM on May 17, 2005

Hm I swear it occurs in an earlier season of the Simpsons than season 12... I can't find when this exchange is:

Lisa: Principal Skinner, I will not call off this strike until you bring back music and art!
Skinner: What about gym?
Lisa: Meh..
posted by fleacircus at 11:59 AM on May 17, 2005

Dunno. My friends and I have been using it for years. Probably pre-dating the Simpsons, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was, once again, because of those darn Simpsons.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 12:22 PM on May 17, 2005

I thought it came from (I paraphrase):

Lisa: We belong to the MTV generation. We experience neither highs nor lows.
Homer: How do you feel about that:
Bart: Meh
posted by sourwookie at 12:23 PM on May 17, 2005

Isn't it the the Simpsons Hullapoloza episode again. Something about Generation X and Homer asks Bart and Lisa how it feels and they say 'Meh'

Am I wrong?
posted by daveirl at 12:26 PM on May 17, 2005

The BlockoLand reference is actually rather late, but particularly good because of it. It's sort of an in-joke because they make explicit the use of the word as an expression of non-enthusiasm.

Predating it is simple.
posted by gramschmidt at 12:28 PM on May 17, 2005

"Lisa's Wedding," in 1995, is pretty early. Bart reacts to Marge's loom-weaving with, "Meh".
posted by gramschmidt at 12:32 PM on May 17, 2005

It sounds vaguely yiddish, like "Feh."
posted by jonmc at 12:41 PM on May 17, 2005

I had a french textbook in grammar school where they were illustrating the sounds that animals make in French - "meh" was in the voice bubble next to the cow.

Not sure if that's related.
posted by superkim at 1:16 PM on May 17, 2005

at least four or five years ago and as long as six or seven, my friends and I were very creative with our online expressions of apathy- feh, meh, sneh, and bleh were the main ones.
I think it must have been the simpsons that popularized meh, but what's really interesting about the word is what peacay said- that its a rare example of a word that has nothing to do with the internet that was derived there.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 1:48 PM on May 17, 2005

Like BuddhaInABucket, I've been using it [and similar-sounding 'words' like gah, bah, feh, bleh, blah, nargh, blargh and pleh] with friends for years. I sporadically try out new variations. Because everyone needs more words that express disgust/apathy/resignation.
posted by ubersturm at 3:12 PM on May 17, 2005 [1 favorite]

I find it interesting because I learned in my linguistics classes that English doesn't have words that end in lax vowels... and yet, there's [m?], flying in the face of that generalization. I wonder if it is not considered a "real" word because it's more onomatopoeic?
posted by heatherann at 6:41 PM on May 17, 2005

Best answer: 1992, Usenet. But it wasn't very prevalent; at that time there were many uses of "meh" as a representation of "me" or "my" in some kind of creole. That wouldn't happen today.

I think "meh" was culturally necessary in the age of Beck's "Loser" and other slacker anthems.

heatherann: I thought that linguists called things like "meh" utterances. As such there are quite a few in English that have lax vowels: yeah, huh, and wha? for a few.

Slightly off-topic, I was once actually confused by sf author Larry Niven's writing "yah" instead of "yeah", thinking it might be Californian dialect or a future-history neologism, but now I've come to use it exclusively. I wonder if that's a trend, and whether it has anything to do with vowel-shifting, or conversely, influence of Germanic languages with "ja".
posted by dhartung at 10:43 PM on May 17, 2005

... everyone needs more words that express disgust/apathy/resignation.

Don't you mean mehsignation?
posted by joe lisboa at 12:05 AM on May 18, 2005 [1 favorite]

Damnit, dhartung beat me to it. I think of it as a usenet-ism too. Like plonk, fnord and furrfu.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:35 AM on May 18, 2005

I_am_joe's_spleen, "fnord" predates usenet by some years.
posted by yankeefog at 6:07 AM on May 18, 2005

I really think the origin of this word in popular culture can be attributed in some way to Adam Sandler. Granted, I haven't seen the movie in years, but did he say "meh" somewhere in Billy Madison (a movie which, released in 1995, predates simpsons season 12)? Even if it wasn't in Billy Madison, I'm sure Adam Sandler had something to with this -- if only because some of my friends have been saying this for years, at least since the 90s. (In fact, I think I can imagine just about any of those SNL guys usuing the word - David Spade, Chris Farley, etc.)
posted by ebeeb at 6:32 AM on May 18, 2005

[and similar-sounding 'words' like gah, bah, feh, bleh, blah, nargh, blargh and pleh]

Yeah, I've used lots of those, too - tho' I feel like bleah/bleh/blah & probably blargh could be found in old bloom county strips. 'meh' seems a bit different because it's specifically shoulder-shrugging, who cares. It seems a lot lighter than most of those, except maybe feh.
posted by mdn at 7:59 AM on May 18, 2005

Like jonmc, I always thought meh was Yiddish. In fact, I seem to recall a panel in Maus where Vladek utters the phrase.

A little Googling on "meh" and "Yiddish" turns up a Yiddish song from the 1930s with these lines:

"A goat stands in the meadow/And bleats a sad 'meh!'"

(Didn't someone mention a children's book about a goat with meh in it?)

I give the Simpsons craptacular and sacrilicious, but I have a feeling meh predates the show.
posted by Sully6 at 8:37 AM on May 18, 2005

I somehow think there's going to be a single onomatopeic goat origin diverging into our cultural meme in the last 10 or whatever years and also continued usage as the goat sound. I'm just not sure how to make a concordance check through old lit. without knowing a book title.

I imagine it's also in a few languages. It means mother in Vietnamese.
posted by peacay at 10:20 AM on May 18, 2005

I always thought it sounded like a corruption of the Italian phrase mezzo mezzo, or "so-so".
posted by Soliloquy at 10:18 PM on May 23, 2005

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