DUH v. DOH – All You Need to Know

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Late one Saturday night, Karen Swim and I were having a little email exchange about Project Confident Friendship. The word duh came up, and it got me wondering about duh versus doh.

Let's Dissect Duh and Doh

Duh rose to popularity in the 1980's as one of the four or five words that constituted the Valley Girl vocabulary. At our house back then, both "Duh!" and the rather cryptic expression "No duh!" were heard up to 500 times a day. The American Heritage Dictionary defines duh as follows --

Used to express disdain for something deemed stupid or obvious, especially a self-evident remark.

Doh, Homer Simpson's favorite expression, is clearly ready for prime time. Believe it or not, the word was added to the Oxford English Dictionary way back in 2001. Merriam-Webster defines doh as follows --

Used to express sudden recognition of a foolish blunder or an ironic turn of events.

What are we to make of this? Are duh and doh synonymous, or might there be a sliver of difference? After wasting time on pondering the question, I eventually decided the meanings of these two words are indeed, probably, different.

Point 1. Thanks to Webster, we see that doh expresses sudden recognition. Therefore, if you committed your foolish blunder two days ago, you want to call attention to it by exclaiming duh! rather than doh! In contrast, duh is not time dependent at all, which perhaps explains why certain individuals repeat the word again and again and again.

Point 2. Duh is more derisive than doh. Perhaps because the word is associated with Homer Simpson, doh has a humorous quality about it. Duh is sometimes deployed with humorous intent, but more often for the purpose of mocking oneself or another. Put another way, saying duh in the wrong place at the wrong time could ignite a bar brawl. To my knowledge, no physical violence has ever been sparked by the word doh.

Point 3. Based on the dictionary definitions I was able to find, duh has a narrower range, since American Heritage tells us it applies mainly to remarks. Here I beg to differ. The other night my wife and I were at a crowded restaurant, and as we sat down, she mentioned that I was wearing my patterned golf shirt inside out. I can't recall whether I exclaimed Duh! or Doh!, but I believe either would have been appropriate. What do you think?

Clarifying Examples

For understanding fine grammatical points, examples are often helpful.

  • If you swerve suddenly to avoid hitting an animal with your car, say "Doh! A deer!"
  • If someone asks you where Jesus performed his first miracle, say "Cana, duh."

(Sorry, I never met a pun I didn't like.)

Duh Bottom Line

Precise use of words is the grease that keeps the wheels of industry turning. That's why we should help each other cross our duhs and dot our dohs, you know what I mean? When you hear people say duh when they mean doh, or doh when they mean duh, gently correct them by responding with duh or doh, whichever is appropriate -- something along the lines of, "Doh, not duh, duh!".

Are we clear? I for one am more confused now than when I started writing this post ... DOH!

(This post is part of the Problogger Killer Titles group project!)

(Photo - Homer, by supernova3688 on Flickr)

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