"Meh" quietly entered our lexicon back in the early 2000s, when The Simpsons began to use it on a semi-regular basis. In this teensy clip, Bart and Lisa literally spell it out:
In this later episode, the word needs no explanation. It speaks for itself:
Pretty soon it started showing up everywhere, including, in 2008, dictionaries. The Collins English Dictionary defines "meh" as "an interjection to suggest indifference or boredom - or as an adjective to say something is mediocre or a person is unimpressed." I'd say that pretty well sums it up.
So what's wrong with meh? There's been a minor backlash against it of late, spearheaded, if you can call it that, by man-about-town John Hodgman, who on his Twitter feed recently declared (in several 140-character chunks):
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. By definition, it may mean disinterest (although simple silence would be a more damning and sincere response, in that case), but in use, it almost universally seems to signal: I am just interested enough to make one last joyless, nitpicky swipe and then disappear
I love that Hodgman argues against meh by making an argument for joy. Is meh really a rejection of joy? What do you think?
It reminds me of a song from the Arcade Fire's new album. (An aside: I think I've decided they're the spokesband for my generation.) The lyrics go:
Now the kids are all standing with their arms folded tight The kids are all standing with their arms folded tight Now, some things are pure and some things are right But the kids are still standing with their arms folded tight I said some things are pure and some things are right But the kids are still standing with their arms folded tight So young, so young So much pain for someone so young, well I know it's heavy, I know it ain't light But how you gonna lift it with your arms folded tight?
Listen, it's catchy.