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interjection informal

used to say that something is not complicated and very easy to understand

'If Everton won't sell him, City can't buy him, simples – City must move on and bid for other defenders …'

Vital Football 11th August 2009

'Nokia have left entering the netbook market for some time but here's their first foray into the market with what they prefer to call a "mini laptop" … It has HDMI out. Plug into your TV and watch your HD video … Simples!!'

Sys-Con Media 25th August 2009

On being interviewed after his gold medal success in the triple jump at the world championships in Berlin, British athlete Phillips Idowu reportedly chuckled: 'Hop, step, jump, 17.73. Simples!' Idowu's neat little summary of his moment of triumph is embellished by an expression which has in the last few months become increasingly popular in informal British English: simples – a new interjection which describes something as being easy, straightforward, not remotely complex.

the word simples seems to function as a kind of generic, catch-all expression of straightforwardness

Of course in reality, the road to gold medal success is far from simples, but the expression itself is everything it encompasses: easy to say, interpret and use. And I'm guessing that it's for this reason that simples has rapidly entered the popular consciousness. After all, it's not as though the English language were short of ways to say that something is easy or uncomplicated – with expressions like easy peasy, a piece of cake, a no-brainer, plain sailing, child's play, a doddle, no sweat to name but a few. But each of these brings their own particular shades of meaning, and would only be appropriate in certain contexts. Simples on the other hand, can be slipped in anywhere, can stand alone or as part of a sentence, and seems to function as a kind of generic, catch-all expression of straightforwardness. It's therefore beginning to pop up in both spoken and written form in a variety of contexts, as the citations above illustrate.

Background – Aleksandr Orlov the meerkat

The new interjection simples is in fact the lexical by-product of a highly successful TV advertising campaign for price comparison website comparethemarket.com. The expression was 'coined' by Aleksandr Orlov, a CGI Meerkat and 'owner' of spoof website comparethemeerkat.com. (The website does actually exist, and yes – you really can compare meerkats!) The adorable Aleksandr Orlov gently points out to us the difference between the two web addresses, declaring that the distinction is: 'simples!' The campaign has had such popular appeal that Aleksandr Orlov the meerkat is now enjoying cult status in Britain, attracting over half a million fans on Facebook. One group is campaigning for him to become Prime Minister under the slogan 'Anybody but Labour. SIMPLES.' His catchphrase has leapt into the lexicon of popular culture, and there's now even a web-based petition to get simples added to the Oxford English Dictionary. Meanwhile the ad has also paid dividends for comparethemarket.com, which has reportedly seen sales double since it was launched.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

Last week …

Read last week's BuzzWord. Round pound and psychological pricing.

This article was first published on 9th September 2009.

Open Dictionary

Dunning-Kruger effect

the phenomenon by which an incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence

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