Hello. Today we are going to derive the etymology of the colloquial interjection 'duh.' This is an exclamation that I've had in my life literally as far back as I can remember. I'm positive that any of my fellow 'children of the 80s' will certainly relate to 'duh' without any doubt or hesitation.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines 'duh' as "expressing inarticulacy or incomprehension. Also (usually mildly derogatory): implying that another person has said something foolish or extremely obvious."
The OED cites the first published instance of 'doh' as being from the 1943 Merrie Melodies cartoon Jack-Wabbit and the Beanstalk. Following is the relevant quote from the Giant:
Duh... Well, he can't outsmart me, 'cause I'm a moron.
Etymologically, the OED tells us a whole lot of nothin' with respect to 'doh.' Specifically, the entry says [Imitative.]. Think-ink.net does have a somewhat more extended etymology for us, citing the good ol' American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language:
The American Heritage Dictionary describes the etymology of "duh" as "Imitative of the utterance attributed to slow-witted people." "Duh" evolved from the filler word "duh" (similar to "umm" or "uhh" in English) used to fill a pause while groping for appropriate words.
Neal Whitman at the Literal-Minded weblog discusses three variants to 'duh' that are near and dear to me: 'no duh,' 'no durr!' and 'no doy!' We used all of these colorful interjections in my elementary and middle schools in Upstate New York when I was a boy.
An important cognate to 'duh' is 'd'oh' or 'doh.' Wikipedia describes the expression in this way:
"D'oh!" is the comical catch phrase of Homer Simpson, from the long-running animated series The Simpsons. It is typically used when Homer injures himself, realizes that he has done something stupid, or when something bad has happened to him.
The author of Think-ink.net provides some cool insight as to the origin of 'D'oh!':
In an interview with the creator of Homer Simpson, Matt Groening says that "Doh!" was originally written into the script as "Annoyed Grunt." Groening explains that "Doh!" is taken from an old character actor named James Finlayson, who was famous for his exaggerated double-takes in Laurel and Hardy films.
So there you have it. I enjoy these playful words very much. Not so I can direct them to other people in a disparaging manner, but instead so I can apply them to myself in a humorously self-deprecating way. I know it sounds corny and the words are captured from a Reader's Digest column, but "Laughter is the Best Medicine."
Enjoy your day!