‘simples’: meaning and origin

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The colloquial British-English interjection simples is used humorously—usually immediately after a statement giving a solution to a problem—to indicate that something is very simple or straightforward to do, understand, resolve, etc.

This interjection occurred, for example, on two occasions during a debate on Brexit which took place in the House of Commons on Tuesday 26th February 2019—source: Hansard, the official report of all Parliamentary debates:

1-: First, the Conservative stateswoman Theresa May (born 1956), then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, replied as follows to Ian Blackford (born 1961), Scottish National Party MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber:

The right hon. Gentleman talked about uncertainty: the uncertainty of not having the arrangements in place. If he wants to end uncertainty and if he wants to deal with the issues he raised in his response to my statement, then he should vote for a deal—simples.

2-: Then, Jim McMahon (born 1980), Labour (Co-op) MP for Oldham West and Royton, sarcastically quoted Theresa May when addressing her:

If this process was at all “simples”, it would be comparethesinglemarket.com, whereas the Prime Minister seems to be very much stuck in confused.com territory.

Jim McMahon was referring to the fact that the interjection simples was originally the catchword uttered by Aleksandr Orlov, an animated Russian meerkat, in a television advertising campaign for comparethemarket.com, a British price-comparison website. This advertising campaign was launched on Monday 5th January 2009.

This is the first advertisement for comparethemarket.com, based on the similarity between the nouns meerkat and market: Aleksandr Orlov, a Russian aristocrat, points out the confusion between comparethemeerkat.com, the website that he has founded, and comparethemarket.com (incidentally, comparethemarket.com. uses comparethemeerkat.com as a redirect to its website):

The earliest occurrence of the interjection simples that the Oxford English Dictionary (online edition, March 2022) has recorded is from the following tweet (i.e., message on the Twitter website) dating from Wednesday 7th January 2009—that is, only two days after the launch of the advertising campaign:

@Shtev21 Managed to fix some ie6 issues. Simples!

The following, by Helen Pidd, is from The Guardian (London and Manchester, England) of Wednesday 27th October 2010:

Simples! Aleksandr the Meerkat gives the dictionary his word
Cleggmania, bigotgate and broken society also debut in the latest volume of Collins
It’s been a momentous week for Aleksandr the Meerkat. First, the fictional mammal released his autobiography *; now “simples!”, his catchphrase from the comparethemarket.com advert, has made it into the Collins English Dictionary.

[* This refers to A Simples Life: My Life and Times (Ebury Press, 2010), by ‘Aleksandr Orlov’, that is to say, comparethemarket.com.]

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