Sam Sifton and 'Meh'

mehIn his latest restaurant review, Sam Sifton wrote: "Aureole, as the New York expression goes, is meh." Which is funny, but also not true! The term "meh" may be used in New York City, but it is, foremost, an internet neologism, the blunt hammer of internet f-cktards, the second cousin of "FAIL." A correction may be necessary.

Consulting the Wikipedia oracle on "meh," we discover that:

  • Apparently in the first season of The Muppet Show (1976), the character George the Janitor used the term "quite often to express displeasure of having to constantly clean up after the crazy antics of his fellow Muppet cohorts."
  • One of the first cited uses appeared in The Simpsons, in the 1994 episode "Sideshow Bob Roberts" and the 2001 episode "Hungry, Hungry Homer."
  • The Scottish newspaper Daily Record, upon learning news of the Collins English Dictionary inclusion of "meh" and its claims that "meh" originated in the US and Canada, wrote: "This, of course, is utter nonsense. Everyone knows that 'meh' has been in common use in Dundee for generations, almost always accompanied by the word 'peh'."

And any discussion of the term "meh" should also include John Hodgman's take on "meh" through a series of tweets (granted, the context is internet commenters and not New York Times restaurant critics):

Did I ever tell you people how much I hate the word "meh"? Nothing announces "I have missed the point" more than that word... It is the essence of blinkered Internet malcontentism. And a rejection of joy... But in use, it almost universally seems to signal: I am just interested enough to make one last joyless, nitpicky swipe and then disappear... It's part of the toxic Internet art of constant callous one upsmanship...

—Raphael Brion

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Comment Feed

  1. Thought it was just me -- I really did tell Bob, when he asked what it meant, that it was an internet thing because our friend Diego uses it in email (as do some silly sites I see). I didn't get past the third graf of the review and had no idea until Eater that he had defined it wrong. Copy desk, I suspect your tight sphincters are to blame.

    (Also liked the Bizday reference to "the Peanuts character" rather than Charlie Brown. As if readers would get one and not the other in a paper with no comics.)

  2. I think the closest New York expression is "feh." But that's a shade more negative than "meh."

  3. Ellen

    Meh has its uses. I am passionate about many things and curious about most things, but there are some things, tiresome overblown things, for which the instinctive reaction is a meh. At those times when I'm too toasty to muster anything but apathy and annoyance, I'm grateful to have a meh in my arsenal of responses. The natural world never inspires a meh, it's advertising and trendazoid blather and pundits that brings it out of me. A meh is a defensive weapon. It saves energy. Meh is what you say when you have better ways to engage yourself.

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