Derp: An irregular verb

by John Q on July 7, 2015

Following up on Noah Smith’s marvellous definition of derp, I thought I would add the first person to give the declension of this irregular verb

* I can’t see this happening
* You regularly restate your tight (low probability) prior
* He herped a flerp of derp, the twerp

The classic example, cited by Noah is that of people whose view that solar photovoltaics can never work has been unshaken by a decade of massive cost reductions and growth in installations (estimated at 55 GW this year, and predicted to exceed 100 GW in the near future). Even more important though, is the belief in market liberalism held by most people whose views were formed between 1975 and 1995, and haven’t been affected by the disasters of the subsequent two decades.



Tabasco 07.07.15 at 8:20 am

the belief in market liberalism held by most people [who] …haven’t been affected by the disasters of the subsequent two decades.

For the 1%, market liberalism has been excellent. Why wouldn’t they continue to believe in it?


Sasha Clarkson 07.07.15 at 8:44 am

I think it was Paul Krugman who first coined the excellent term moral derpitude. One could argue that the current Greek crisis is the consequence of the Troika and northern European population being mired in moral derpitude.

Also important is the difference between urp and derp!


Metatone 07.07.15 at 9:36 am

One might note that the press in general and various other commentators seem very happy to support Eurogroup statements that “Greece must show a credible plan” and “Greece must build trust.”

This seems bizarre given that the Eurogroup enforced years of policies on the theory of “Expansionary Austerity”- which failed – surely they should be the ones with the credibility problem? Why should anyone trust these people who got it so wrong to judge the best way forward?

I guess derp is the answer?


Ebenezer Scrooge 07.07.15 at 10:28 am

A higher moral tone is expected from the weak. It ain’t right, but it is how the world works.


BenK 07.07.15 at 10:58 am

the belief in market liberalism as the basis for [a non-trivially] stable society.
the belief in democratic socialism as the basis for stable society.
the belief in communism as the basis for stable society.
the belief in tyrannical dictatorship as the basis for stable society.
the belief in international associations of states as the basis for stable society.
the belief in technocratic bureaucracy as the basis for stable society…

and advocating any single organizational system composed of, conceived by, or derived from people as the solution on a blog named ‘crooked timber.’


Nattering Nabob 07.07.15 at 12:05 pm

A minor correction – despite the similarity between “herp” and “heap”, I believe it is in fact “flerp” that denotes a unit of derp, and “herp” that is the verb pertaining to the act of emitting derp. In which case it should be: “He herped a flerp of derp”.


Pat 07.07.15 at 12:07 pm

It’s got to be derp/darp/durpen, right? Archaic participles bedurpt and bedurpen would predictably remain acceptable yet decidedly non-standard. I like the predicate adjective usage of the former in expressions akin to “Woe to the bedurpt!” Nominative forms would include the plain derp and the diminutive derpling.

… or yet I’m sorry, have I radically misunderstood the request contained in the original post?


Alan 07.07.15 at 12:30 pm

Neologisms are almost always regular. The only stem-changing verbs in English derive from Old English and the average Old English speaker probably gave relatively little time to considering the virtues of market liberalism.


I derp
You (s) derp
He/She it derps
We derp
You (p) derp
They derp

The present participle would be derping. The past participle would be deride except in Australia and New Zealand which use past participles in -t more than theory English speakers. Australasians probably had derpt before anyone else.

In Shakespeare’s famous ‘The tragedy of Lear, king of Brussels’ the archaic second person singular ‘Thou deepst’ is surprisingly common. Ditto his ‘All’s well that ends really badly’ and ‘The merry wives of Swabia’.


Alan 07.07.15 at 12:31 pm



R.Porrofatto 07.07.15 at 12:31 pm

One of the most derped issues of recent decades here in the U.S. is universal health care, and it certainly fits your declension, including the ad nauseum repetition of strong priors as to why it’s impossible that such a thing could ever work.

As Noah Smith defined it, the Bayesian inference that might be derived from actually looking at the results of some form of universal health care in every other industrial country in the world never occurs.

They should give out medals for having to suffer this — a derple heart?


AcademicLurker 07.07.15 at 1:34 pm

So derp is a synonym for libertarianism? I suspected as much.


Rich Puchalsky 07.07.15 at 2:07 pm

I don’t really like this description of derping etc. because it basically covers the restatement of strong priors whether they are still justified or not.

For example, let’s say that towards the beginning of every great new war I go on the Internet and post something that comes down to “war is bad” or “war is wrong”. People then say, oh, stop derping your strong priors. We know where you stand on this; we’ve heard it before. No need to say it again.

Yet they keep supporting every new war suggested by our elite, and it’s not like many or even any of these wars have been great, wonderful wars that should have caused me to reconsider my priors. When it comes down to it in a U.S. context there are precisely 2 wars in all of history that they think should have made me reconsider, and these are pretty easily answered by “I don’t see Hitler conquering Europe” and “Have we started to hold slaves again?” In other words I’m not saying that there can’t be other things that are *more* bad / wrong, but that they are very rare.

So I think that widened acceptance of “derp” is just going to give people a new way of dismissing challenges to their strong priors. The strongest priors are the ones that people never have to restate because society accepts them as obvious.


Brett 07.07.15 at 5:17 pm

So is “derp” the same as “resisting the results of a falsified prediction”? They seem really close but not quite the same.

Of course, if you’re going to have Derp, you need to define “Not-Derp” as well. If the town builds a giant waterslide, I predict disaster from the diverted water, and two weeks later the town comes to me and says, “See, the trees haven’t died from the diverted water! You’re wrong!” am I Derping? Or do I have a legitimate case that not enough time has passed, but it will occur?

In fact, just generally I’m reluctant to throw around “Derp” unless they made a time-specific prediction.


Sasha Clarkson 07.07.15 at 5:21 pm

Noah’s definition is of a noun: the act of reiterating strong priors is derp.

How would it translate into, say, German? What gender would it be? (A sensitive point!) If feminine, one could qualify the first article of the German constitution:

Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar, aber die Derpe der Merkel ist unglaubbar! (Human dignity is inviolable, but Merkel’s derp is unbelievable.)


Tom Slee 07.07.15 at 5:24 pm

The problem with the word is the one JQ points to implicitly, which is that there is no first person singular or plural, except perhaps in the past tense, reflecting on the derpiness of one’s youth. I do like it as a casual shorthand diss, but it has no meaning if used outside of one’s own political in-circle.


Sasha Clarkson 07.07.15 at 5:27 pm

Brett @13 You reminds me of a classical conversation :)

Caesar: “The ides of March are come”

Soothsayer: “Aye Caesar, but not gone!”


Paul Davis 07.07.15 at 8:34 pm

Rich Pulasky @12: I think you missed the point. Herping derp happens in response to new evidence that adds to the case that your priors are weak or in fact wrong. It does not happen in response to a situation in which you merely restate your priors in relation to their subject matter.


G.W. Bush: Iraq was involved in 9/11, Hussein is bad, we must go to war!
Rich: War is bad, war does not solve problems.

… NOT derp.

arbitrary anti-war pundit: this was has failed to solve any of the problems it claimed to be about, thus adding to the case that war is bad.
donald rumsfeld: no, this war was good.


arbitrary neo-lib market fundamentalist: market pricing reflects the state of human knowledge better than any political system can, and is thus the right way to organize macro-economics.
arbitrary sensible person: but markets fail to account for many human attributes and desires, and have done so many times.

… NOT derp.

arbitrary sensible person: the depression of 2008 to the present day started as a result of the failure of market mechanisms to adequately describe, respond to and contain human fallibility
arbitrary neo-con market fundamentalist: but markets are good!



Paul Davis 07.07.15 at 8:35 pm

For those who can’t even be bothered to read the original article, but got this far into the comments:

the noun is : DERP
the verb is: HERP
the unit is: arbitrary, but FLERP is suggested

DERP is not a verb. You do not derp, you herp derp (or you do not herp).


Manju 07.07.15 at 9:03 pm

I propose making “derb” a word too… in honor of John Derbyshire.

The idea of the Confederate flag coming down has certainly bought out the derb…. standing athwart history, yelling Derb!


dilbert dogbert 07.08.15 at 2:54 am

In science important units are give names of famous Derpers. I have suggested Ferguson as that unit. There are many many others who qualify.


SC 07.08.15 at 5:26 am

Debryshire? Hmmmm, I always assumed “derb” was short for “The kind of thinking that takes place on Radio Derb, the Taki’s Magazine podcast mostly run by John Derbyshire.” The BASEketball and the South Park usage seem to predate Radio Derb. Is it possible that Radio Derb is an ironic usage? Yikes. That seems unlikely . . . Radio Derb herps massive flerps of derb with no apparently irony. Hmmmmm.


Seth 07.08.15 at 6:42 am

Verbs have “conjugations”, nouns have “declensions”. English generally declining to decline nouns, the topic of a declension for the noun “Derp” would be dull. Fortunately, we Americans (others too?) love to “verb” nouns, or “noun” verbs, so why not freely conjugate “Derp”? “I don’t need no stinkin’ grammar!”, he derped.

Wouldn’t miss it for all the Derp in Yurp (that place where neoliberal Derp is crushing Greece).

Alan@8, thanks for the derpified Bard titles, LOL. But didn’t Lear, King of Brussels, break Yurp into three parts and live to regret it? “All’s Well That Ends Really Badly” is more to the point: rather derpy of Helena to persist in chasing Bertram, the cad. Tell me again: why *does* Greece still want to be in the EMU?


Alan 07.08.15 at 6:53 am

I forgot to mention ‘Two derpletons of Verona’.


John Quiggin 07.08.15 at 8:41 am

@Nattering Nabob: Fixed now, thanks


js. 07.10.15 at 1:02 am

I do wish “derp” would die a speedy and mildly painful death. I know it’s not going to happen, but one lives on hope!

Still, enjoyable thread, this.

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