A Bill & Ted-Inspired Exploration Into The Origin Of ‘We Just Melvined Death’

The act of yanking a person’s underpants up their butt: is it a melvin, a murph, or a wedgie? Growing up, my cousins and I called it a “melvin” (they were older, and frequently melvin-ed me). Then at a certain point, someone corrected me, saying that what I was describing wasn’t actually called a melvin at all: it was a “murph,” or a “wedgie.”

It’s a hill I’ve been willing to die on for probably 30 years now, and it’s only gotten progressively lonelier. These days, a trip to Urban Dictionary’s entry for “melvin” nets you, as its top definition, “a frontal wedgie,” where the underwear “ride up into the labia.” Number three for “murph” is “a naturally occurring wedgie.” Based on the definitions of the previous two, do we even need to look up wedgie?

This is melvin erasure and I won’t stand for it. I base my stubborn conviction on a landmark nugget from pop culture. That’s right, I’m talking about Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, the 1991 sequel to Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) which sees our lovably dopey, time-traveling Valley bros sent to hell. Where, in a climactic moment, they get out of a jam with the Grim Reaper by telling him his shoe is untied and then yanking his underwear up his butt crack (from behind!).

This leads to the immortal line, arguably the most memorable of the movie, “I can’t believe we just melvined Death!”

With Bogus Journey‘s long-overdue sequel, Bill & Ted Face The Music, opening this weekend, I reached out to screenwriters Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson (who’ve written all three Bill & Ted movies) to pick their… uh… brains. I wanted to know: whether they invented “melvin,” the background of their decision, and why we are right about this and everyone else is wrong. (Fun facts neither here nor there: Matheson is the son of prolific science fiction writer Richard Matheson, while Solomon’s ex-wife is the daughter of John Cleese).

ED SOLOMON: To Melvin someone was something we did way back in fifth grade. I always resisted calling it a “wedgie” cause it was so prosaic. And “we just Melvined death” sounded better. It was exactly the kind of low tech pop culture means of defense that is perfect for Bill and Ted.

CHRIS MATHESON: We definitely didn’t invent it. I vaguely remember hearing it [called that] from junior high, early high school. ’71-’75 basically. We did think it was funny, yeah.. can’t remember much more than that…

There you have it, folks. Pulling someone’s underwear up their butt is called a “melvin.” It’s been called that at least since the seventies. You could call it “wedgie,” if you want to sound like a philistine, but we all know what time it is. A front wedgie? God, what is wrong with you people.

‘Bill & Ted Face The Music’ opens August 28th on OnDemand. Vince Mancini is on Twitter. You can access his archive of reviews here.