What Is a Purple Monkey Dishwasher?

There’s a topic of confusion in the dishwasher industry of late, and the controversy is surrounding the subject of the “purple monkey dishwasher.” All the big retail chains are getting requests for the purple monkey dishwasher, but they simply have to tell customers that their hands are tied. That’s because it’s not an actual brand of dishwasher, but rather simply a gag that originated on a cartoon television program. We’ll give you the full story on how the myth of this fake dishwasher turned into a full-blown, faddish internet spin cycle.

What Is a Purple Monkey Dishwasher?

purple monkey dishwasher

Did you ever play “telephone” as a child? It begins when one person whispers a phrase to another person, who in turn whispers it to someone else, and so on and so forth until the phrase gets whispered to a final person at the very end of the line. This uninventive scenario was pictured in a 1995 episode of The Simpsons, which has been known to misrepresent reality a time or two.

The truth of the matter is, the featured PMD phrase is simply an afterthought of the writer of an animated teleplay. For some reason, keyboard jockeys looking to kill time on the internet, particularly Simpsons fans, have sought to create what might be described as a meta-rumor which is best described as “purple monkey dishwasher.”

The Motivation Behind Promoting PMD

This greatly exaggerated fame of the PMD term is partially commercially motivated and partially motivated by idle minds and the endless echo chambers of various internet chatter on sites such as Reddit where the topic has received prolonged revivals. As our collective American vocabulary continues to fall prey to increasing media influence, both that of television and social media, PMD is a phrase that the creators who stand to benefit from sales of the Simpsons hope very much becomes “a thing” through blogs like this, because that means more DVD sales.

However, at the end of the day, PMD is a phrase which has little intrinsic benefit except, of course, for the “stakeholders” at the Simpsons who invented the phrase, so that their alleged genius, or rather their cartoon hype–might be lauded–should the phrase gain widespread use. However, it would be a shame if anybody mistook the phrase “purple monkey dishwasher” as a legitimately useful English phrase. If you’re trying to learn English for the first time, as a native American English Speaker, we apologize for wasting your time with this article, on behalf of good Americans everywhere.

Where Did the Term Originate?

First, “purple monkey dishwasher” isn’t a term. It’s a gimmick designed to take up space on a cartoon called “The Simpsons” during the aforementioned game of telephone pictured in this cartoon. The writers of the Simpsons delighted in introducing new phrases to see how many television-addicted Americans would “monkey see, monkey do.” Unlike “Monkey see, monkey do,” PMD is not an actual oral tradition of American culture, but rather a commercial gimmick.

The Difference Between Real Proverbs and Television Catch Phrases

best one-liners from tv series

By the way, “Monkey see, monkey do,” is an example of an actual, legitimate American mantra or proverb. “Monkey see, monkey do” is an actual proverb because it is a part of American oral tradition and likely written tradition as well. “Monkey see, monkey do,” did not begin with the media, but rather, it was developed and grew organically among people who used it through word of mouth the way they do with other popular mantras.

“Monkey see, monkey do” is a succinctly phrased keen observation that, because of its profound and relevant truth, has been adopted by people without the necessity of television to fuel its widespread use.

Comparing an Organically Developed Cultural Proverb With a Television Gag

In other words, “Monkey see, monkey do,” is a phrase that possesses intrinsic merit. It stands in for a much larger discussion about how people often imitate each other as a most primal instinctive habit. For this reason, Americans and others have spread this phrase in our oral tradition because each person that has passed it on has realized its profound nature.

In contrast, the phrase, “purple monkey dishwasher” has not been propagated into mainstream use organically. In order for this to happen, the phrase would need to have some kind of organic profundity that would actually compel Americans, who are inherently intelligent, to desire to convey something that other English terms are inadequate to represent.

Because the phrase PMD has no such merits, the only reason it has caught the attention of less imaginative, bored internet users, particularly millennials, is that millennials have a relatively small frame of reference as compared with previous generations. This lack of a proper frame of reference or worldview is due to generations of overexposure to television and social media influence.

In other words, because millennials grew up watching lots and lots of television, and particularly cheaply made television cartoons like The Simpsons, millennials are more prone to think that such phrases represented by cartoons like the Simpsons represent reality. In actuality, PMD is merely a gag that served a plot purpose in a cartoon teleplay. That’s the only reason that anyone ever took note of it. However, the phrase provides little use to anyone aside from being a cheap television gag.

Where Has Purple Monkey Dishwasher Appeared in Popular Culture?

Since we’ve already established that purple monkey dishwasher is not an actual term with a definition of its own, another distinction must be drawn to illustrate the depths of the hoax. This distinction is particularly relevant when answering the question of where PMD has appeared in pop culture. Often times, when we ask a question, sometimes the question poses a false dichotomy or either or. In this case, the question would seem to force us to want to look for places that PMD has appeared in popular culture. In this regard, it is a deceptive question.

The Third Answer

When attempting to answer loaded questions, it’s always important to examine other options that simplistic questions do not necessarily predispose themselves toward revealing. “How often do you beat your wife” is a similar question, in that it presupposes that the respondent beats his wife. This question is forcing us to presuppose that PMD appears in popular culture, but the fact is that purple monkey dishwasher is not a product of popular use, nor is it the product of culture, unless one considers a particularly unimaginative cartoon pop culture.

Granted, The Simpsons was a popular television program. However, just because The Simpsons was a popular television program does not imply that every bit of script in the program is an integral part of pop culture. More importantly to our discussion, as we pinpoint the cartoon television origin of the PMD phraseit is particularly important to reiterate that the term is a case of life attempting to imitate “art” (if one considers television cartoons an art form).

Life (Attempting to) Imitate Art

In any case, it is most definitely not art imitating life, though, as we’ve covered, many have attempted to portray the term as such. As we previously covered, the term originated on television. Many are trying to make it appear as if the phrase had some significant English language use previous to the television show, which of course is not true. For that reason, it may be considered a non sequitur, albeit a non sequitur that nobody actually uses in real life.

Purple Monkey Dishwasher in The Simpsons

purple monkey dishwasher origin

Again, purple monkey dishwasher didn’t merely “appear” in the television cartoon, The Simpsons.The Simpsons invented the phrase “purple monkey dishwasher” as part of a “gag” or comedic bit that comprised a part of the episode. That’s what we’re going to discuss here, for reasons of equally obscure origins.

In the Simpsons bit, featured on season 6, episode 21 of The Simpsons, class clown Bart Simpson whispers to the ending person in a long line of people, “You know, I heard Skinner say the teachers will crack any minute.” In his class clown theatrics tom-foolery, Bart says as an aside before whispering the line, “Now, for ‘operation strike make go longer.'”

Edna Krabappel, the dysfunctional teacher leading the strike, hears the comment after it has been warped from being whispered from person to person. Due to the communications noise introduced through the chain of whispers, the original remark gets changed to include a new, nonsensical phrase which incenses Edna even more. This noise warping, through telephone-game-like shenanigans, makes class clown Bart Simpson’s plan work, above and beyond Bart’s making it sound like an adult came up with the phrase of his own volition.

Edna takes the nonsensical “purple monkey dishwasher” bit personally. She attributes her increased anger at Principal Skinner to the PMD remark. This highlights how gossip can take a bad situation and make it even worse. This is the lesson, of course, intended when children are taught to play the telephone game, whereby the original message is warped through repeated oral transmission.

Pseudo Pop Culture: The Beer Brand

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To highlight just how weak the case is for the featured phrase being an actual pop culture phenomenon, one of the only other references our editors could find for the “Purple Monkey Dishwasher” is a variety of beer. Even now, this is going to sound like a paid ad. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, Purple Monkey Dishwasher is a cool, robust, smooth and well-textured beer bringing together ingredients not normally found in your average brew.

Just in case the suds of a dishwasher doesn’t whet your palate, the odd combination of hops, peanut butter powder, and a darker-chocolate tainting most definitely will as you feel your gullet coated with that unmistakable peanut-butter sheen. Because who doesn’t want to get a kiss from someone who’s been drinking peanut-butter beer? But if you drink enough of the PMD beer, you might just be drunk enough to attempt such a peanut-flavored kiss.

We’d like to highlight once again that this beer brand is not an actual pop culture example of the use of the PMD phrase. Rather, it’s a commercial attempt to piggyback or ride the coat-tails of a phrase that was manufactured by the imagination of a cartoon-maker. And frankly, there’s not really much in the way of smarts or conversational effectiveness to ride on here.

One might say that even if you vomit up the beer the next morning, you’ll still feel your mouth has been assailed by a kind of nightmare consisting of purple, monkeys, and dishwashing suds. Perhaps this is the true meaning of the phrase “purple monkey dishwasher.”


Purple Monkey Dishwasher

Okay, so perhaps we’ve had a little fun at the expense of some rather mundane cartoon characters that are near and dear to the hearts of our readers. If any Simpsons were harmed in the making of this story, we sincerely apologize. But the truth is, there’s a big, wide world out there, and we simply don’t want you to be wasting your time with a bunch of purple monkey dishwashers, when there are real, actual dishwashers that do a bang-up job that you could be using today! Because that’s generally what we cover–real dishwashers.

Purple Monkey Dishwasher, Defined

So is there any useful purpose for this term which some struggling TV cartoon scriptwriters came up with, probably while drinking something similar to the beer now bearing the PMD name? Perhaps “purple monkey dishwasher” is a name for what is more articulately and accurately called “communications noise.” This would be the technical name for the interference, or unwanted, message-warping noise that is introduced in any form of communication–like telephone communication. Basically, it’s what happens in the telephone game, and so we all have fun and shout it gleefully and move on to the next thing.

The phrase is perfectly illustrated in the Simpsons episode. In this meaning, the term used in context might be exemplified as, “The original meaning of the message was distorted by purple monkey dishwasher occurring in the chain of whispers.” Or could it be that perhaps this whole discussion of the term is really nothing more than a bunch of purple monkey dishwasher?

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