Did South Park Really Invent The Word 'Derp'?

And so we've arrived at the day we all knew would eventually come, when mouth noises from a show with a singing Christmas turd become the subject of etymological study.

If you've committed the crime of being on the internet lately, you've probably been exposed to "derp." Maybe you made the mistake of being worse than a 10-year-old at "Fortnite." Maybe you made your opinions known on social media. Whatever your sin, "derp" was waiting. "Derp" is always waiting.

Common knowledge says that the word "derp" comes to us via "South Park," but the truth is a little more complicated. It's true that series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone are responsible for the genesis of "derp," but the word's appearance on "South Park" wasn't its first. If you're familiar with Parker and Stone, it should come as no surprise to learn that this — one of their countless, seemingly begrudging contributions to the cultural lexicon — came courtesy of a gig that they didn't really care about. Derp.

Parker and Stone, BASEketball, and the rise of derp

New York Magazine attributes the creation of "derp" to a scene from the 1998 comedy "BASEketball," an absolute banger of a dumb, dumb film that Matt Stone once described as "the stupidest movie ever made" and which the duo famously only agreed to make when they thought that "South Park" was going to be canceled. "BASEketball" enjoys a largely improvised comedic style, so when Stone's character, Doug Remer, is caught in the act of doing unspeakable things to his crush's mom's unspeakable things, his exclamation of "Derp!" feels roughly organic.

Little could Stone have guessed that, with a single syllable, he had given birth to a cultural touchstone. The introduction of the word "derp" to the linguistic zeitgeist would see support the following year when Trey Parker and Stone debuted the character Mister Derp to the "South Park" family of weirdos. A substitute in the cafeteria while Chef was getting married, Mister Derp had a habit of hitting himself in the head with a hammer and proclaiming his own name like some sort of self-hating Pokemon.

Long story short: "South Park" didn't create "derp," but the creators of "South Park" did, and then "South Park" stoked the "derp" flames until they became a raging fire. Derp.