Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Happy Birthday to The Simpsons!

I’ve been a vegetarian for over a decade and inevitably, when I meet someone new, they end up asking me questions. How and why did I stop eating meat? Do I miss it? Do I cheat? Long ago I stopped telling them the real story (which is dreadfully boring) and started recounting the scene below from The Simpsons.

I imagine I’m not the only one out there that uses The Simpsons to prove a point. Well, our friends over at the DNB have created a very special happy birthday treat for The Simpsons fans. Keep reading!


April 19th marks the twentieth anniversary of the first appearance on television of the characters who star in what is possibly the greatest television series ever; arguably the greatest situation comedy; and certainly the greatest cartoon: the Simpsons.

Our sibling dictionary, the OED, has long since acknowledged the importance of the Simpsons. They are cited fifteen times in the OED (svv eg nerts, nuh-uh, num, and, of course, doh). But we have hitherto neglected them . The anniversary is an opportunity to for us to redress this. If the Simpsons didn’t exist, it would be necessary for us to invent … the Simpsons, recast from the Oxford DNB.

There are already sixty Simpsons in the ODNB. Two have recognizably Homeric features. Fat and lazy, Homer would have approved of Simeon Simpson‘s invention of the ‘adjustable self-supporting trouser, obviating the need for belts or braces’. And Edward Simpson shares Homer’s eye for a fast and easy buck. He made his living forging stone age tools and selling them to credulous archaeologists. Marge would have disapproved. We have, of course, our own American Mrs Simpson. Frederick Simpson might be an eccentric uncle. And precocious Evelyn Simpson, like Lisa, awed her school fellows with her learning.

But there’s no reason that we should only cast Simpsons as Simpsons. So, our choice for the ODNB Simpsons is:

Homer Simpson: As an amiable modern Everyman, he is hard to find in the pages of the ODNB. He is Quixotic, like William Martin; he looks, unhappily, a bit like Dr Crippen, but we choose a man who, like Homer, never wrote a great novel; whose genius, like Homer’s, lay in failure; a man notable for his ‘greed, his sloth, his gourmandizing, his inconsistency and melancholy': Cyril Connolly. (This may surprise you.)


To find out who else the ODNB cast in the Simpsons click here.

Read More in…

Recent Comments

There are currently no comments.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *