What catchphrase was actually created by the show?



Reiss pointed out that the slogans used by Bart Simpson (Cartwright) all came from pre-existing sources. “Cowabunga” was already in use in surfer culture, and ’80s guys were probably feeling it from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The writers of “The Simpsons” recalled the word used by Chief Thunderthud, a (sadly stereotyped) First Nation character from “The Howdy Doody Show.” Meanwhile, the interjection “¡Ay, caramba!” it has been in common use since the 1780s, originally associated with María Antonia Vallejo Fernández, alias La Caramba, a famous flamenco dancer and singer from Madrid who used it in her shows. “Don’t have a cow,” meanwhile, entered the American popular lexicon in the 1950s, and was revived in the 1980s through “valley girl” culture.

Homer’s “D’oh” was improvised by actor Dan Castellaneta, and stated that it was a shortened version of an interjection shouted by actor Jimmy Finlayson in the old Laurel & Hardy shorts. In the script, it was simply written as [annoyed grunt].

Reiss pointed out that only Nelson Muntz’s mocking “haw haw” was actually written into a script as “haw haw”. In the episode “The Simpsons War” (May 2, 1991), written by Jason Swartzwelder, Grandpa Simpson (Castellaneta) took off his belt, threatening to whip a misbehaving Nelson with it. When his grandfather’s pants fell, Nelson laughed derisively. It was Cartwright who, according to Reiss, gave Nelson’s laughter its musical cadence, particularly E#, C#. Cartwright ran it this way during the episode’s original table read (a “proof” of a completed script), and all the writers loved what he did. “Haw haw” is now used popularly as an expression of unapologetic schadenfreude.



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