Yiddish origin of “meh”
Posted: 16 September 2008 03:19 AM   [ Ignore ]
Total Posts:  20
Joined  2008-03-23

I’ve seen a reference that “meh” originated in Yiddish, not from the Simpsons. Any help?


Posted: 16 September 2008 05:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Total Posts:  2637
Joined  2007-01-30

I seem to recall that there was a thread about this a few years ago but I don’t remember what it turned up and I can’t for the life of me find it. Here’s a very interesting discussion on LanguageHat from last year.

Posted: 16 September 2008 10:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Total Posts:  3251
Joined  2007-01-31

I found this Metafilter discussion in which languagehat mentions posting the question at Wordorigins, and I vaguely remember the thread, but unfortunately the link in lh’s post is broken (which routinely happened when the threads were archived) and even searching the archive corresponding to that date turns up nothing.  Possibly a victim of the hacker attack on EZboard?

Posted: 16 September 2008 11:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Total Posts:  114
Joined  2008-04-24

Michael Hann writing in The Guardian March 2007, just before the Wordorigins “meh” thread (RIP):

No one is quite sure where it comes from. Graeme Diamond, principal editor of the new word group at the Oxford English Dictionary, says it’s not yet suitable for the OED, but he does have a “meh” file, and the first recorded print usage occurred in the Edmonton Sun newspaper in Canada in 2003: “Ryan Opray got voted off Survivor. Meh.”

He thinks, however, it sprang into common usage from the Simpsons.

I can enlighten him further. Some credit the 2001 episode Hungry Hungry Homer with the first use of “meh” as a dismissal, when Homer asks Lisa and Bart if they want to go to the Blockoland theme park and receives the answer, “meh”. But the Language Log website notes a 1995 episode in which Bart dismisses Marge’s discussion of weaving with a “meh”.

Some amateur etymologists on the web reckon meh is derived from Yiddish, pointing to a 1936 song that uses it as the sound of a goat bleating. A poster on Artblog.net called it a “Yiddish interjection used to express disdain that borders on apathy”, but did not source it. “Many North American English interjections do have some basis in Yiddish,” accepts Diamond. But does this one? “I can’t say.”

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