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"well, duh!" - informal linguistic accuracy

Posted by Smokey Stover on November 03, 2003

In Reply to: "Well, duh!" - informal linguistic accuracy posted by Anders on October 20, 2003

In this forum and elsewhere I have seen numerous references to the expression "Duh!" Sometimes it is misspelled "Dah" or "Doh," but it seems always to be used with the same meaning, that is, "What you say is obvious," sometimes with the further implication that "You must be some kind of dummy to make such a fool remark." Well, old-timers like myself will remember that it was, indeed, a dummy who turned this innocent expression into a viable English locution. The dummy was Mortimer Snerd, Charlie McCarthy's friend and stable-mate. While Charlie was a wise-cracking cosmopolitan, and dressed the part, Snerd was a rustic bumpkin, dressed as the hayseed that he was. He was very good-natured, but something of a dim bulb, and was always amazed at the marvels of the age, that is, at the simplest things imaginable. "Who'd a thunk it?" he would sometimes say. But his most characteristic expression, as anyone who have ever heard Snerd's words will know, was "Duh." It was his way of saying "Uh," and was an expression of confusion. Thus, when someone nowadays says "Duh" they are evoking Mortimer Snerd, for whom nothing was ever obvious, and who therefore stated the obvious as though it were a revelation (which to him it was). If there is someone out there who is old enough to have heard Snerd, I would be glad to hear his or her confirmation or denial of my brief explanation of this expression.