Remember when The Simpsons first came on the air? Remember when “D’oh!” was a weird, unnatural-sounding nonsense noise instead of a ubiquitous expression of frustration, and “Don’t have a cow, man,” “Ay caramba,” and “Cowabunga, dude!” were the show’s big catchphrases? If you don’t, no sweat; The A.V. Club barely does either. But a ridiculous number of other catchphrases from the show have leaked into our cultural vocabularies and our daily lives. Here are just a few Simpsons lines that The A.V. Club uses in day-to-day parlance—and recommends for everyone else’s daily use too.
Episode: “Treehouse Of Horror VIII” (season nine, episode four)
Context on the show: While reading a comic and loudly lecturing Aquaman on his romantic choices, the Comic Book Guy sees a missile bearing down on him and comes to sad terms with his impending death.
Real-life uses: Useful at virtually any moment of self-realization or self-awareness, unless you cured cancer today or something, big shot.
Episode: “Marge On The Lam” (season five, episode six)
Context: While trying to understand why a studio audience is laughing appreciatively at a dryly serious Garrison Keillor-like performer, Homer pounds the family TV, trying to improve its humor reception.
Real-life uses: Whenever frustrated with any form of insufficient humor, from your friends’ lame jokes to, um, sub-par episodes of The Simpsons.
Episode: “Mom And Pop Art” (season 10, episode 19)
Context: Milhouse utters these immortal words in joy when the rolled-up cuffs of his “flood pants” keep his cuffs “bone-dry” after Homer floods Springfield as an elaborate piece of conceptual art. Beat that, Christo!
Real-life uses: Useful for celebrating any lucky, unexpected sequence of events, no matter how comically minor or insignificant. (Note: this phrase need not be reserved solely for people actually named “Milhouse.”)
Episode: “The Boy Who Knew Too Much” (season five, episode 20)
Context: Corrupt, distinctly Kennedy-esque Mayor “Diamond” Joe Quimby offers his William Kennedy Smith-like nephew Freddie Quimby this self-serving toast at a fancy birthday party.
Real-life uses: Can be applied to any scandal-prone wild child of privilege whose obnoxious behavior threatens to hit the tabloids. It’s especially useful for the scions of powerful families with surnames like “Hilton,” “Kennedy,” “Bush,” or “Trump.” It can also be employed by Page Six freelancers after successfully shaking down publicity-conscious billionaires for hush money.
Episode: “A Star Is Burns” (season six, episode 18)
Context: When the audience at the Springfield Film Festival boos Montgomery Burns’ entry, Smithers reassures his boss that the crowd is actually chanting “Boo-urns.” The audience then reiterates that no, they were actually booing, though Hans Moleman mutters that in his case, at least, Smithers was right.
Real-life uses: It can be an actual, gentler substitute for booing—complete with exaggerated frowny-face—or, in keeping with the original spirit, it can be a way to express that you aren’t going along with the crowd.
Episode: “Deep Space Homer” (season five, episode 15)
Context: After Homer and Barney compete for a spot on the space shuttle, the scientist in charge of the project reassures them, “In a way, you’re both winners,” then clarifies the point.
Real-life uses: Substitute any victorious team and/or person for “Barney,” and you’ve got a smart-ass way to answer the question, “Hey, who won the game last night?”
Episode: “Fear Of Flying” (season six, episode 11)
Context: Homer’s response when Lisa informs him that the Chinese use “the same word for ‘crisis’ as they do for ‘opportunity.’”
Real-life uses: As an irrationally exuberant response to any impending crummy situation.
Episode: “A Star Is Burns”
Context: When Steven Spielberg isn’t available to direct the self-aggrandizing opus “A Burns For All Seasons,” Mr. Burns demands the next best thing. Enter Steven Spielbergo.
Real-life uses: Any time you have to settle for second best. For example, virtually everyone turned down the male lead in Basic Instinct 2. Thus David Morrissey becomes Michael Douglas’ non-union, Mexican equivalent.
Episode: “Bart Gets An Elephant” (season five, episode 17)
Context: Air-headed KBBL DJs Bill and Marty find their jobs in jeopardy when their boss threatens to replace them with a machine, the DJ 3000. It can play music automatically and has three varieties of “inane chatter,” such as “Hey, hey. How about that weather out there? Whoa! That was the caller from hell. Well, hot dog! We have a wiener!” Bill chuckles “Man, that thing’s great!”, but Marty chides him.
Real-life uses: Any time a person speaks positively about something that’s a potential threat, or simply not worthy of compliments.
Episode: “King-Size Homer” (season seven, episode seven)
Context: After gaining weight to get on financial disability, Homer finally achieves his dream of working at home, but he’s immediately stymied by a computer prompt.
Real-life uses: Whenever you’re betrayed by technology, especially over something so simple that even a 4-year-old child could figure it out. This could lead right into another classic quote, courtesy of Groucho Marx in Duck Soup: “Run out and find me a 4-year-old child. I can’t make head or tail of it.”
Episode: “Who Shot Mr. Burns? (Part One)” (season six, episode 25)
Context: After a torrential gush from Mr. Burns’ slanted oil well smashes Bart’s treehouse and hospitalizes his dog, the Simpsons have to take the pup to the local veterinarian. Though it temporarily has a cone around its head, the vet promises a full recovery.
Real-life uses: Good for when you or a loved one are recovering from any minor injury or illness, and are ready for further punishment.
Episode: “Bart’s Comet” (season six, episode 14)
Context: Newscaster Kent Brockman expresses his disgust after Congress rejects a bill to save Springfield from a comet impact after one senator attaches a $30 million rider “to support the perverted arts.”
Real-life uses: Useable on a bipartisan basis by anyone disappointed or irritated by the behavior of our elected officials. You’ll never, ever run out of reasons to use this quote.
Episode: “Rosebud” (season five, episode four)
Context: Already forlorn over his missing teddy bear Bobo, Mr. Burns suffers further insult at a birthday bash, where the Ramones end their raucous rendition of “Happy Birthday To You” with the send-off “Go to hell, you old bastard.” Burns orders Smithers to avenge this insult, but gets the band’s name wrong.
Real-life uses: Useful after witnessing a substandard performance by any performer other than The Rolling Stones.
Episode: “Treehouse Of Horror VII” (season eight, episode one)
Context: Alien Kang, masquerading as presidential candidate Bob Dole, settles on this crowd-pleasing policy statement after bombing with his previous attempts: “Abortions for all!” and “No abortions for anyone!”
Real-life uses: Sunday-morning political chat shows, campaign season, C-SPAN congressional coverage, Rose Garden press conferences—whenever you see a politician pandering, appealing to patriotism, or proposing a plan that pleases everyone and fixes nothing.
Episode: “The Twisted World Of Marge Simpson” (season eight, episode 11)
Context: After her soft-pretzel operation has trouble getting off the ground, Marge decides to kick-start the business by handing out free samples at a baseball game. Unfortunately, this coincides with Mr. Burns winning a rigged ticket lottery for a Pontiac Astrowagon, which draws the crowd’s wrath.
Real-life uses: Inflection counts on this one, so the quote only works if you can manage at least a passable Vin Scully impersonation. Try it whenever a public figure gets rebuked on a mass scale, like when Barry Bonds steps up for an at-bat away from Pac Bell Park, or when Hester Prynne shows up with that “A” stitched to her blouse.
Episode: “Who Shot Mr. Burns? (Part Two)” (season seven, episode one)
Context: Spoken by Jasper (Grandpa Simpson’s bearded buddy) to indicate he hadn’t noticed Smithers putting a bullet in Jasper’s wooden leg.
Real-life uses: As a slick replacement for such stuffy phrases as “Excuse me, I did not hear what you just said,” or “Could you repeat that? I am confused.”
Episode: “Treehouse Of Horror VI” (season seven, episode six)
Context: Spoken by a chilly Homer, looking at misprinted 13-month calendars purchased by Springfield Elementary.
Real-life uses: A fun way to bitch about the weather—particularly during an unseasonably chilly Midwestern “spring,” when every day feels like Smarch.
Episode: “The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show” (season eight, episode 14)
Context: The Comic Book Guy emphatically dismisses the latest episode of Itchy & Scratchy, in a pointed parody of the way Simpsons viewers typically reacted to each and every new episode in Internet forums at the time.
Real-life uses: Replace “episode” with any noun or phrase. (Let’s just say it for you and save you some time… “Worst A.V. Club featurette ever!”) Then pile on the Comic Book Guy’s smug superiority, and you’ve got an instant dismissal of anything and everything, or an ironic mockery of such dismissal. Possibly both at once. And it even works when reversed! Best! Quote! Ever!