Today's Criticwire survey cuts to the heart of American popular culture: What's your go-to Simpsons quote? For a generation (or two) that grew up quoting The Simpsons with abandon, to the point where the quotes have long served as a shorthand for actual adult communication, it's not a question to be taken lightly. Of course, we as a society have been quoting The Simpsons for so long that patterns have begun to emerge. The quotes one chooses to employ from the show can define that person's sensibilities, and the characters one chooses to quote most often are quite telling. By carelessly quoting an overexposed Simpsons character, you're communicating a lot about yourself, perhaps without knowing it. You're saying that you don't care to keep up with the changing face of reference-based comedy shorthand. That's not the message you want to send out to the world. We can help.
Ralph Wiggum: Oh. You're still quoting Ralph? This is probably going to be an awkward conversation, then. There's nothing wrong with quoting Ralph Wiggum. "Me fail English? That's un-possible!" is a masterpiece of short-form joke structure, with a smidge of social commentary about the state of the American education system thrown in to taste. It's a fine quote. It's also ... what's the word, Beyonce? Oh, right: basic. Entry-level. Simpsons for beginners. Ralph Wiggum was one of the first Simpsons tertiary characters to gain a real fan following, but if you're still rocking "I bent my wookiee" in 2013, your quote game has, quite simply, failed to evolve.
Comic Book Guy: It's almost impossible not to quote the Comic Book Guy, we realize. "Worst. Episode. Ever." and probably "I've wasted my life" have leapt free of the Simpsons orbit and into the actual lexicon. Fine. But it would behoove us all, as a society, to check ourselves when it comes to the further proliferation of Comic Book Guy quotes. The world has moved beyond this particular vision of the Harry Knowles-style nerd. See? That's the first time you've thought of Harry Knowles in literally three years. Case closed.
Chief Wiggum: Easily the most preferable Wiggum. Actually, this is a good strategy plan: every time you find yourself about to quote Ralph Wiggum, think about his old man. Consider referencing his fear of ghost cars on highways. Let fly with an overconfident malapropism like "Bake him away, toys!" Or an awed appreciation of the proud esquillax. Chief Wiggum is your next-level Wiggum. Use him until we're able to crack the code on Sarah Wiggum.
Homer Simpson: Nobody's going to think less of you if you quote Homer Simpson. He's like quoting Lincoln -- sure, everybody does it, but what are you gonna do? Better than Lincoln? Better than Homer? No. Don't bother wringing your hands about it and let out a "tram-bop-oline!"
Milhouse: Just as Chief Wiggum can be your gateway drug away from Ralph references, so too should Milhouse Van Houten be the methadone that helps wean you off of the black tar that is Comic Book Guy. All your inclinations towards making deprecating nerd jokes can just as easily -- and much more successfully -- be funneled through four-eyed wiener Milhouse. Whether it be his proprietary claim on one-shoulder backpacks or his insistence that his mom thinks he's cool, Milhouse has a sweet, sad quality that makes him rather timeless. Much like ALF, who often makes a comeback in pog form.
Le Mot Juste
Marge Simpson: If you're going to quote a member of the Simpson family proper, do us all a favor and make it Marge. Consider writing the dictionary people because a word sounds like a mistake to you. Fret about Main Street being all cracked and broken. You'll feel better about yourself.
Sideshow Bob: You'd think Sideshow Bob would be another overused quotable, but he's really not. Mostly, we suspect, because classic theatrical delivery lends itself to unfamiliar snooty phrases that may well be in French. Honestly, though, if you're not using "Oh, Cousin Merle, really!" as a way to express frustration, there are some real questions as to whether you should be employing Simpsons quotes at all.
Agnes Skinner: Here we are. The holy grail of Simpsons quotables. The goal we should always be striving to attain. Even if you don't often find yourself in pitched disagreements with your adult son, you can still recount how you kept "screeching and screeching" at someone. Agnes was only used sparingly in the Simpsons glory days, but that's what's kept her so quotably fresh. Any moment of exasperation, where you don't feel like you're getting your due, is the perfect moment to bust out her "lamb of God" moment:
Sarcastic Guy: This one is basically extra credit. It's a character so tertiary to the run of the show that he doesn't even get a real name (fine, fine, some die-hards call him "Raphael"). We'll only say this: if you encounter someone in your life who lets loose with a "bingo, bango, sugar in the gas tank," trust us: marry that person.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.