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Nancy Cartwright On The Origins Of Bart Simpson's Catchphrase

The catchphrase that launched hundreds of t-shirts has a pretty innocent origin.


There was a time when Bart Simpson was seen almost as a national threat to corrupting the youth. His catchphrases were jotted across all types of clothing, especially his "don't have a cow, man" expression. Voice actor Nancy Cartwright, who has voiced Bart since his start on the Tracey Ullman shorts in the late 1980s, revealed that the origin for that particular phrase was tied to her marching band days in high school.

Answering fan questions and spouting fun facts on Twitter, Cartwright explained that the line was ad-libbed as she thought of something she used to do while playing her trumpet.

"It was high school. I was in the marching band. I was a squad leader. Trumpet player. And we were marching [and screaming] 'eat my shorts! Eat my shorts!'," she said. "[There were] 200 of us saying eat my shorts! Years later, at a reading for The Simpsons and this was just at the top of my head. It was an ad-lib that Bart called out, and was like BAM! Locked it in. And that became the first catchphrase for Bart."

The phrase can be heard all the way back in the second episode of the show, "Bart The Genius." Bart became so synonymous with the saying that it was one of the only two audio lines included in the video game The Simpsons: Bart vs. the Space Mutants, the other being "Cool Man".

It was long speculated that Simpsons creator Matt Groening got this phrase from the stoner rebel John Bender (Judd Nelson) in the John Hughes 1985 classic, The Breakfast Club. That theory was seemingly supported by Groening's use of the character's last name for Futurama's foul-mouthed mechanical menace. In another weird connection, "Eat my shorts!" is also exclaimed by a main character in Stephen King's 1986 movie Maximum Overdrive, coincidentally starring the voice of Lisa Simpson, Yeardley Smith.

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