John Hodgman explains what's wrong with "Meh"

Waxy's got a reprint from John Hodgman's Twitter feed yesterday, a 140-char-at-a-time masterful rip into the most odious of Internet jargon: "Meh."
hodgman: Did I ever tell you people how much I hate the word "meh"? Nothing announces "I have missed the point" more than that word.

hodgman: It is the essence of blinkered Internet malcontentism. And a rejection of joy. Also: 12 hive mehs in the replies SO FAR

hodgman: By definition, it may mean disinterest (although simple silence would be a more damning and sincere response, in that case)

hodgman: But in use, it almost universally seems to signal: I am just interested enough to make one last joyless, nitpicky swipe and then disappear

John Hodgman on "meh"


  1. You gotta love The Hodge. His piece on the latest installment of This American Life about the “Cuervo Party Guy” is super awesome.

    Also, what about this: *shrug*

  2. @2 Xeni

    There it is! I feel better now that that’s done.

    (Side note: that was easily the most energetic, spirited expression of nonchalance I’ve ever seen! +1 Internets)

    @3 Wingo

    The Hodge’s Ted Talk laying out his reasons for the existence of aliens was outstanding, too.

  3. Hallelujah! I’ve been ruminating over my own anti “meh” diatribe for a long time, but I’m relieved instead to see a writer of superior skill tackle it with such razor wit.

  4. Meh is just a derivative of blah, which served the same purpose on BBS’ of old.

    and Twitter is just a wall thats been ported from MBBS.

  5. I think it’s probably a bit more useless online. In person, it’s a way of providing a response when one is requested.

    1. Thank you. That is EXACTLY why I despise “meh.” And I agree w/ post #111… don’t get me started on “woot.”

  6. The Hodge makes a very good point, it’s definitely an overused twitticism. But when you’re surrounded by so much intense mediocrity so often, “meh” is often the best thing to say. Meh and move on.

  7. “feh” is Yiddish:
    “Feh (interj.)
    Indicates disapproval or displeasure: Feh, don’t touch that dirty thing.”

    Shouldn’t the new meh be wholly new coining? I mean feh is good, but something more internetty?

  8. @Takuan

    Replacement? For a null-word essentially meaning “I’d make a snarky comment, but this subject isn’t interesting enough to do so. This posting indicating to all that I’ve seen it and didn’t care will just have to do”?

    It’s called not responding in the first place unless you have something to say.

  9. Expressions of nonchalance are fine as long as one doesn’t go out of their way to make them. A “meh” to express disinterest in some aspect of an ongoing conversation is one thing, but using it in response to a blog post is like writing a letter to the editor to say that you didn’t read an article in the newspaper.

  10. Meh to Hodgman’s grammar, meh to verbicide: he means uninterest or noninterest (denoting lack of interest in something), not disinterest (denoting lack of a personal stake in something). Bored teenagers are uninterested in what their parents say and do; a judge is disinterested in the outcome of a courtroom proceeding (unless it’s a PA juvie court, ha), but (presumably) quite interested in the proceedings nevertheless.

  11. @16: Do we need a replacement? How about simply not posting a comment?
    I can’t say I’ve ever personally commented on anything about which I was not interested, because (and I know this is crazy) I was not interested.
    Why do some people think we require constant reports even on their ambivalence?

  12. meh is full of nuance. Everything from “too tired, more beer now” to “wert thou were clean enough to spit upon!”

  13. “But in use, it almost universally seems to signal: I am just interested enough to make one last joyless, nitpicky swipe and then disappear”

    Almost? That’s exactly what I mean.

  14. But meh is so zen. A nonrespodant response. It allows for reflection back on what is being said without actually saying anything.

  15. Wait, I thought “meh” was for a state of indifferent dislike/malaise.

    “How are you today?”

    “How was the movie?”

    That’s pretty much how I’ve always used it. Or as the summary of a critique: “Lots of people liked Serenity, but I was very ‘meh’ about it. It paled in comparison to Firefly.”

    So, no, I will not abandon meh, because I don’t use it as an excuse for not communicating anything of substance.


  16. Ripping into your opponent’s grammar is much more effective and satisfying. Grammar-flaming a tweet warms my cockles even more. And if the offender misspells something? It. Is. On.

  17. Usage of “meh” is almost as annoying as having a problem with something of which you have a full and complete understanding. “What’s the deal with sushi? If you want fish, you fry up a trout. Amirite?”

  18. One thing I love about BoingBoing is that the commenters can get passionate about *anything.* Case in point: We’re getting passionate about expressing indifference.

  19. Expressing indifference is entirely appropriate if people are asking for your opinions – i.e. in a forum where the intent is to get the opinion of as many people as possible, and knowing that many people are indifferent.

    And, in that case, “meh” is different from “I see both sides of the argument but have no strong opinion” or “while I have an opinion, I never express it because it is more important to me that people shut up about this stupid argument” or indeed “blah”, “feh”, or “pththbpbpb”

    Not commenting is not the same – it shows that you are considerate of the questioner’s request to know the community’s opinion, but indifferent to the thing itself.

    On a forum like this, where the intent is to let people who are interested discuss something, and everyone else can ignore it, I agree – piping in just to say you’re uninterested is lame.

  20. The expression of distinterest you are trying to say “Meh” has been changed.

    Please try the new expression:

    (Bugs Bunny voice:) “Ahh Shaddup!”

  21. Pshaw.

    You young folks with your innernet ways and your websights don’t know how good you have it. When I were knee high to a grasshopper we had only one expression of contempt among the sixteen of us, and if Granny caught us using it on a Sunday we had to clean the outhouse with a mastodon tail we’d harvested ourselves, barefoot in the snow, uphill both ways.

    Now get off my lawn.

  22. I am afraid I must beg everyone’s pardon, but following a considered reflection upon the subject discussed above herein in this forum publica, I regret that I have assembled a disinterest so profound in this matter as to merit a comment regarding my psychological reaction, which can only be described as quintessentially nonplussed.

    Precisely what internet does Mr Hodgman profess his desire be a participant in? The same organ of discourse that afforded a resounding welcome to his call for the invention of a thousand names for fictional vagrants? Perhaps this is what is implied by the folk pluralisation of word internet: It is a venue for the cornucopia of human converse.

    Meh is merely the contemporary expression of disinterestedness, and a far more civilised abbreviation than its antecedent, a careful typing out of the word yawn. I therefore would be unsurprised if Dr Johnson, a great appreciator of the economy and precision of words, would have incorporated meh into a Twenty-first Century edition of his celebrated dictionary.

  23. i submit that “FAIL” is a far more worthless term. at least “meh” has good pedigree, coming from the simpsons and all.

  24. I personally hate QQ on the WoW forums. I think it means “quit quying” or something like that, but invariably it seems some d-nozzle’s response to somebody else’s more thought-out post. (Like during the zombie invasion that went bad, there were a few people making cogent points about how zombie invasion was forcing PvP play on people who had signed onto a PvE server, etc, and you’d get a horde–NPI–of kiddies saying, “QQ.” Gah!)

  25. “QQ” may have been retro-acronymed to stand for “quit qurying,” but I’m pretty sure the original usage just comes from the fact that the two Q’s look (vaguely) like a pair of crying eyes . . .

  26. #53, 54 – It’s an emoticon from the Korean school of emoticons – Americans use side-turned emoticons that focus on the expressions of the mouth, Koreans use upright emoticons that focus on the expressions around the eyes.

    I’m sure these apply outside the American and Korean cultures, but in this case, I’m pretty sure it comes to Blizzard gamers through the Starcraft gamers in Korea.

    QQ is open eyes with tears streaming out while TT or T_T is squeezed shut eyes with tears streaming out, ^^ or ^_^ is smiling, -_- is sleeping or unimpressed, >.> and <.< is looking shifty (side to side), @_@ is eyes spinning with confusion or surprise, etc. They make more sense if you're familiar with manga and anime convention, I'm sure.

  27. Luckily, my first exposure to “meh” was in the form of lolcatspeak, meaning “me”. Also, my cat says “meh” all the time. “Who wants cat foods?” “Meh!”

  28. My <.< and the rest of the line got eaten by HTML! The missing line is

    “>.> and <.< are eyes looking shifty (left to right, or sidelong), etc.”

  29. I don’t think I’ve ever responded “Meh” to anything, but in place of this, I would love if people posted literally the words, “joyless, nitpicky swipe” instead.
    I am a huge fan of literalism.

  30. I had the word “meh” only because of the way it reads and sounds and is overused. I think the value of “meh” is reduced by the thumbs up, thumbs down voting.

    One user writing “meh” is wholly different than some other user. It requires community context. Just reference Xeni’s response above.

    Sometimes I read it as shorthand for “please stop posting things like this to your blog” or “I’ve seen this already” or “could you post something along these lines, but more newsworthy?”

    I see it more as a letter to the editor saying “I read this article and later wondered why you wasted my time, so I’m wasting your time with this response. But I’m being effecient about it.”

  31. I’m having an increasingly difficult time pretending that the Internet isn’t a horrible place full of horrible people.

  32. nah

    “hodgman: 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

    Meh is cousin to “nah”, it does indeed signal “I find this subject uninteresting and I can only just bear to grunt a vague yet ironic nega-response”

    But to say that simple silence or no-response would acheive the same aim. Nah. Silence does not signal the tediousness of the subject OR the negative response, not to mention the world-weary coolness a well place Meh aims to convey.

    Q: “Just how great is that WOW add-on pack!”
    A: ” ”

    Q: “isn’t the news about Sarah Palin’s grandchild simply thrilling!”
    A: ” ”

    I submit to the Twittering classes that “meh” > ” “.

  33. I have two thoughts on this.

    First, as a father of a teen, I’ll take ‘meh’ over silence any day because it is at least an attempt at communication. I work really hard at keeping the line of communication open with my son. Anybody who has been the recipient of stony silence knows that participating in conversation or dialogue just enough to express disinterest is still better than not participating at all. ‘Meh’ can be a toehold toward more expansive conversation later.

    Second, there is a difference between personal opinion and corporate commentary. I think the problem I see people having with ‘meh’ is when in the course of communication, one person thinks another person’s opinion has no value. Opinion is perspective, not law. We have have differing opinions without coming to blows. ‘Meh’ can be a personal opinion, not necessarily a condemnation of you or your value system. ‘I don’t care’ is not necessarily the same as ‘your idea sucks and you are stupid.’

  34. Buckethead, you could not be more wrong. His 15 minutes are just getting started.

    P.s. How many times have you been on the Daily Show?!

  35. Wait wait wait. I’m new to twitter, and am only following 4 friends and have 3 followers, so forgive me. People actually bother the *respond* to other people’s twitters with “meh”???

    And this is common enough that a bunch of people have seen it?

    What is wrong with people? Why, exactly, do they bother responding at all?

    Perhaps I’ve misunderstood how twitter works…

  36. teh intrawebs were so much cooler before all those adult edumacation classes showed old people where the ON button is.


  37. @22:“using it in response to a blog post is like writing a letter to the editor to say that you didn’t read an article in the newspaper.

    Actually that’s more of a tl;dr situation!

  38. I’ve been saying “meh” since at least 20 years before teh intertubez. One friend’s mom declared it to be the noise a cat makes when thinking about chorking a hair-ball. Not the noise of the chork itself, which is, “Chork.”

    My dad used to say that “meh-meh” was what you got if you mixed belly button lint with chocolate milk.

    Why would you do that? Why not?

    Among my current crowd, “meh” means “one step above ‘crappy,’ one below ‘fair to middlin””. As in:

    “How was the new Jack Black vehicle?”

    “Meh. Wait ’till it gets to the dollar flick.”

  39. Well, goodness! My feeling for any human being anywhere on the planet posting anything at all about any subject whatsoever on Twitter is:

    Please stop.

  40. Nothing announces “I have missed the point” more than quadruple posting on Twitter. If it takes more than 140 characters to say use a real blog.

  41. Everything in it’s place.

    There’s nothing wrong with “meh” when you are specifically, non-rhetorically, asked for your opinion on something so un-worth your attention that you don’t bother to form an opinion about it, yet was so unavoidable that you can’t help but have knowledge of it.

    Outside of that scenario, though, it’s use is unintentionally ironic.

    (If somebody specifically asked you “What did you think of Ivan256’s comment in the ‘meh’ post….)

    @SCUBA SM: If it’s not worth being pedantic, is it even worth living?

    @Hodge: Come back and guest blog again!

  42. If there wasn’t a person I’m more MEH about, it’s Hodgman. A little bit of him goes a long way. Thanks for almost ruining that BSG episode the other week.

  43. IVAN,

    I said I liked it. And I wasn’t being sarcastic. :) (or is it ^_^ ? I can’t keep track anymore. :p)

  44. I’ll just point out that fmeh = banf. And I’ll award 13 bazillion nerd points to anyone who gets the reference. Googling allowed.

  45. You can use “meh” to good effect in conversations, though. For instance, when you’re not particularly interested in a subject or a question but it would be rude to just be silent to the point of ignoring the other person.

    Also as a declarative statement of ambivalence in response to a specific question.

  46. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with “meh”, but at this time I’m right with Hodgman on this.

    At first I loved it, because it seemed a wonderful shield to the rising tide of mediocrity all around me:

    “ZOMG! [Insert your least favorite, bad, over-hyped, entertainment product here] IS THE MOST AWEZOME, COOLEST, CUTEST, MOST MEANINGFUL THING EVARRRR!!!”


    See? You can dismiss someone entirely, without getting yourself riled up going to the trouble to explain to them, point by point, why they are stupid. Very useful indeed.

    But look at the exchange again. Essentially, the first person is saying “I am very excited and passionate about something,” and the second person is responding “I am not. Indeed, I find it lame to be passionate about things like this, and much cooler to find things boring.”

    “I just built a robot to shuffle cards!”

    “I just learned the national anthem to all the African countries!”

    “I just recorded a country music song!”

    See the problem? Maybe you aren’t interested in or passionate about any of these particular things, but what’s wrong with someone else finding passion in something? Why go out of your way to point out that you don’t appreciate something? Wouldn’t that time be better spent pursuing something that you are passionate about?

    More and more, “meh” seems like a kind of giving up on life to me. And life’s to short…etc.

  47. Just as *whom* is meant to make us all sound like English butlers, so *meh* is meant to make us all sound like Jewish grandmothers.

  48. But in use, it almost universally seems to signal: I am just interested enough to make one last joyless, nitpicky swipe and then disappear

    Wait, did I just hear him describe the essence of Internet comments?


  49. “Meh” has been a life-saver for me. As i find it really hard to type sms messages on my (rather antique) mobile, i slowly began replacing long sentences with a simple “meh”. Although it initially confused my dudes, they have now adopted it for their own use as well. So now we exchange a lot of “mehs” back and forth, but the word is so freakingly nuanced there’s absolutely no communication breakdown at all. “meh” should have been invented along time ago. Imagine all those long historical speeches and essays replaced by a single “meh”. Heck i’m now sure that “meh” was the word uttered by God when he created this (wonderfull) mess we call universe.

  50. In essence, Hodgman said “meh” to “meh,” using a lot of additional and unnecessary words, and then everyone Twittered back and replied here saying, in far too many words, “meh.”

  51. I believe pronunciation is important. While I don’t like the meaning of the word – it’s not easy to say it just right and I always feel slightly pleased with myself if I get it ‘just right’ – with a gravelly finish…

  52. While on the subject of usage, and conceding that I am one of siz people in the world still fighting this battle, the word you were looking for in the original post is “uninterest,” not disinterest. Descriptivist lexicographers will give you a pass these days, but it’s still wrong (harumph).

  53. Hodgman’s reaction to “meh” is pretty much my reaction to people using Twitter as an IM client.

  54. LOL@96

    ‘Meh’ cuts to the quick (in real life anyway, not sure about internet speak… not a chatter or twitter myself). Yes, its dismissive but its not a conversation killer. It often leads to more discussion along the lines of “Oh really? Why not?” or “Hmmm… you think so? Please explain yourself.”

    Its just trendy and should probably be used more sparingly, but you know teenagers! Relax, Western civ is not collapsing.

  55. I think ‘meh’ is being used in wider ways than J. Hodgman is currently aware. It’s quite the useful piece of syntax, and fills a space the doesn’t currently have a word in American English.

    For example: “I’m going to redecorate the kitchen…. meh?”

  56. Most meh comments I have read in my life have been accompanied by clarification, therefore I do not have a problem with them.

    I, however have never used it except with very intimate associates in order to prevent any harmful confusion about my meaning. My friends know the contextual truth of meh as I state it. Even then I use it very carefully so as not to trample the nuances that lie between the meh/non-meh binary. I have to admit, even when I say meh, a part of me means non-meh in the sense that if nothing else there is a notable absence of some very interesting and lively subjects to behold like the Gay Hanky Code or JT Leroy’s connection to the character Iola Leroy in an 1892 “passing” novel (in which the protagonist ultimately refuses to pass for white) or monkey sign language!

  57. Hodgeman can’t tolerate the concept that someone might not give a crap about the irrelevant drivel that has become his schtick.

    Wow, he’s soooo clever. The clever seems to be working out for him, so he’s going to keep it up.

    “Meh” conveys a level of contempt that I feel for Hodgeman’s work that silence doesn’t capture.

    Hodgeman is smarter than this. I wish he would do something awesome and intelligent instead of squandering his gifts on being quirky. Its such a waste.

  58. @#30 I agree completely.

    “Meh” is a nice, concise way of describing something as underwhelming or just expressing a lack of interest (which is often more polite/appropriate than silence).

    “Meh” is not inherently trollish.

  59. “Meh” communicates a response of uninspired disinterest. Not posting a response leaves open the probability that your post has not been read. Of course it doesn’t work using doctrines of communications established for verbal communication, because verbal communication can’t be easily ignored. The first thing you learn as you acclimate to online communication is that a lack of responses does not mean the same thing as silence addressed at you means IRL. On BBS with large post:thread ratios, it serves the dual purpose to keep the item in conversation by bumping it to the frontpage, in front of the “Let’s play the 10,000 post forum game” post.

    Explained to me by several adena farmers in Lineage 2: You’re seeing QQ in MMORPGs because the symbols resemble the Chinese symbols for “Xie xie”, or “thanks”.

  60. The neologistic phrases not so much and meh mystified me for a while, not as to their obvious meaning but in terms of how they had suddenly saturated the language.

    Eventually I discovered (guess how) that they have been ultimately attributed to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Simpsons respectively.

    Now how the obscure hygienic term douche bag recently became as common a personal insult as the perennial asshole, that is still a mystery.

  61. @34, Fame for people who enliven the culture and acutally have something to say for it doesn’t last 15. It lasts as longs as they do.


  62. No one even SAYS ‘meh’ when speaking. We SAY ‘eh.’ Meh bugs me just as much as ‘woot’—come on people, it’s ‘wooh!’…ugh.

  63. “it was ok, I guess. It could’ve been worse, but ultimately, it was not that exciting. There is a chance you might like it, but I don’t think you’d be missing much if you didn’t bother with it.”



    One must admit, its nice and concise.

    Admittedly, its annoying when people needlessly share opinions when not asked, but when asked specifically to respond to something, it is a valid and succinct answer.

    There are facial expressions, shrugs, and other non-verbal (and even some verbal) alternatives to convey this same thought, but they usually don’t translate well to text. “Meh” does so I believe it has a use. Its overuse is a different question.

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