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In an episode of the Simpsons, Season 28, Episode 1 Mr Burns is reminiscing about an audition he did when he was a little boy. His mother has a pet name/term of endearment for her son, "little butterscotch."

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After the flashback finishes the scene returns to the present day where Mr Burns laments that the butterscotch soon turned into "bitter squelch."

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Being familiar with his character, I think I understand the gist of what he's saying, but I looked up "squelch" in a number of dictionaries and failed to find a fitting listing for his use:

The closest I've seen are squelch as a verb meaning to "forcefully silence or suppress," with "squelch" being listed in some dictionaries as a noun as the act of "squelching".

(Informal) the act of suppressing or silencing; esp., a crushing retort, answer, rebuke, etc.
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Though even that doesn't make complete sense because he says the butterscotch (him), turned into "squelch", the butterscotch being the person, and the squelch being the act.

What am I missing? Or is it that the writers took extreme liberty in using the word? This would have made perfect sense to me if "squelch" was a food or drink, the juxtaposition of sweet butterscotch and the "bitter squelch" would have been very clear as a metaphor.

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"Bitter squelch" sounds very similar to "butterscotch." In that sense, it's a kind of eggcorn (Merriam-Webster).

I don't think that two are supposed to have a related meaning, other than the fact that they sound the same.

To me, without more context (I haven't seen the episode), it seems he was a sweet ("butterscotch") boy who's childhood dreams and optimism were silenced ("squelched") over the years, turning him into the "bitter" man that he is now.

Even thought the phrase has the same sound (appearance), it no longer means the same thing. So, there's only a superficial similarity.

Analogously, this would be like having what was a diamond wedding ring on the date of your marriage turn into a visually similar cubic zirconia ring on the date of your divorce.

  • I hadn't realised that butterscotch and bitter squelch do actually sound alike. Thanks. I still don't quite understand it completely as I don't know what "bitter squelch" means. But Simpsons often has some pretty obscure and unorthodox parts to it. – Zebrafish Aug 1 '18 at 19:19
  • @Zebrafish- They don't really sound alike, but they do employ a kind of "half rhyme" with the repeated consonant sounds /b/, /t/, /sk/, /tch/ and the same cadence (Dactyl) – Jim Aug 2 '18 at 0:00

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