Friday, February 16, 2007

Meh: Credit Where It's Dued

Today Slate has an article about various meaningless interjection words, which I didn't actually read, except for what it has to say about the word "meh."

What it doesn't say about "meh" -- and what I'm going to get into the record right now -- is that I honestly believe the term was, if not coined outright, at least firstly or nearly firstly popularized by my good friend, Mr. Insert Namehere, aka, Foojang, who started using "meh" as a stand-in for pretty much any situation calling for a resigned expression of mild "je ne sais quois"-nitude, at least as early as the early-to-mid mid-1980s -- much, much earlier than the episode of The Simpsons that is credited with meh-ing the term to Internet meh-pularity. Take note, linquists. Uh, I mean, linguists. Linquists sounds like a family of Swedes. So take note, linguists. Or not.



Mr. Insert Namehere said...

Hah! Well thanks for the credit, although I probably have to pass it on to somebody else. I discovered that word in the wild, so to speak, as something a rather geeky grade school friend of mine would frequently utter, generally as some grunt of acknowledgment that you were making sounds at him while he was preparing to say whatever he needed to say to you.

He was totally unaware of this habit, but once I pointed it out to him, it sort of became a self-aware jokey thing. At some point around 1980, I took on a completely ridiculous and un-serious attempt at defining the word, which was pretty much what you've found in that article. So that's a good 20 years ahead of the Simpsons and various others who have since claimed to "invent" it... which, in case it is not obvious here, I do not do. I just sort of codified it. I "coined" it only in the literal sense of the word, as in taking some naturally occuring substance and refining it into some universally accepted verbal currency.

Since then, it has been interesting how the use of the word has spread to nearly everyone I've met, and then to their friends, and several other degrees outwards, like some vernacular virus. By the time I graduated high school, almost everyone in the class was aware of it as some kooky thing people said, if not actually using it themselves.

Of course it only spread during my days at old NIU, where I could shoot my meh seed all over the greater DeKalb cable subscription area on the now defunct WKDI FM. I incorporated the word into several wacky zines in the 80's and in various Portland cable access tv shows as well, not so intentionally but just as a staple of my spicy way of talkin'.

It may also be worth noting that a couple of years before that episode of the Simpson's aired, I was good friends with the best friend of one of Matt Groening's personal assistants. So it's not unreasonable to think that the virus made its way to the petrie dish of the Simpson's writing team, with just a couple of degrees of separation from ole Mr Insert Namehere (me.)

But I don't care if I'm never credited with seeding the language with meh. I like the word a lot and enjoy seeing it used on TV quite a bit.

Mr. Insert Namehere said...

ps- "foojang," I will demand sole credit for, however. I birthed that word from loins hewn from petrified wood lined with fool's gold, and minted it into the 2nd level domain name that America loves to hate and/or be totally ignorant of.