The Word “Derp” Seems to Have Originated in South Park, but is That True?

If you’ve committed the crime of being on the internet lately, you’ve undoubtedly been exposed to “Derp.” Perhaps you made the mistake of being worse at “Fortnite” than a 10-year-old. Perhaps you have expressed your ideas on social media. Whatever your transgression, “Derp” was ready. “Derp” is constantly awaiting.

The common belief is that “South Park” is where the word “derp” originated, although the truth is a bit more nuanced. True, series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone are responsible for the origin of “derp,” but “South Park” wasn’t the first to use the term.

Where Did Derp Come From?

South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone (who may have picked up the gibberish word from the Muppets’ Swedish Chef) popularised the term derp. In the 1998 comedy Baseketball, Stone’s character is caught studying a woman’s vibrator and yells “Derp!”

In 1999, Parker and Stone introduced derp to South Park in an episode where Mr. Derp temporarily replaced Chef. Mr. Derp performed numerous stupid yet amusing slapstick routines, such as beating himself on the head with a hammer and exclaiming “Derp!”

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The Word "Derp" Seems to Have Originated in South Park

The writers of South Park continued to include derp in episodes, and the term caught on with 4Chan users and other internet users. By this point, derp has gone viral, acting as the foundation for other memes and entering the common vernacular of many individuals.

The Rise of Derp, Parker & Stone, and Basketball

New York Magazine links the origin of “derp” to a moment from the 1998 comedy “BASEketball,” which Matt Stone previously called “the stupidest movie ever produced” and which Trey Parker and Matt Stone only consented to create because they believed “South Park” would be canceled.

When Stone’s character, Doug Remer, is discovered in the process of doing unspeakable things to his crush’s mother terrible things, his exclamation of “Derp!” feels fairly naturalistic.

Stone could not have anticipated that, with a single syllable, he would create a cultural touchstone. The next year, Trey Parker and Matt Stone introduced the character Mister Derp to the “South Park” family of weirdos, bolstering the word’s entry into the lexical zeitgeist.

The Word "Derp" Seems to Have Originated in South Park

Mister Derp, a substitute cafeteria worker while Chef was getting married, had a tendency of beating himself in the skull with a hammer and yelling his own name like a self-loathing Pokémon.

Short version: “South Park” did not invent “derp,” but its producers did, and “South Park” fanned the “derp” flames until they became a raging conflagration. Derp.

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Other Forms of Derp

Because derp has been in use for some time, it has multiple versions. People may call you derpy, the adjective version of derp, if you behave foolishly, for instance. Derp can also be extended to herp derp and herp de derp, which are typically used to criticize remarks that are dumb or uninformed.