Monday, December 6, 2010

'Embiggen' is okay, but 'Cromulent' should only ever be used interfrastically...

'Embiggen' is a real word: 100% FACT!

'Embiggen' and 'Cromulent' were invented as 'fauxcabulary' by the authors of the Simpsons for the Episode: 'Lisa the iconoclast'.
However, unbeknownst to the scriptwriters, 'embiggen' was, it seems actually in usage as far back as 1884!

How do we know? Because it's mentioned in a letter published in volume 10 of 'Notes and Queries: A Medium of Intercommunication for Literary Men, General Readers, Etc'.

"...But fresh slang coming up destroys old slang, and it is this we must look to, and not to grammarians, to rid the dictionaries of jargon that "neweth everyday"? Are there not, however, barbarous verbs in all languages? ἀλλ' ἐμεγάλυνεν αυτοὺς ὁ λαός, but the people magnified them, to make great or embiggen, if we may invent an English parallel as ugly. After all, use is nearly everything..." C.A. Wardof Haverstock Hill(p135).

I can't tell you how much I have enjoyed researching this, th'oul interweb's great.

I am a sad character indeed. Incidentally on the first page, (p9 of the scan) of this excellent publication, there is an advertisement for a 'portmanteau'!

(The suitcase, that is, not the word that's made up of blending two words; like' brunch' for example)


Aint life wonderful?

Here if you don't believe me.


  1. I slipped 'Cromulent' into an official complaint once and no one noticed! Those in the know found it very funny afterwards.

  2. They were entirely unaware of the epistles' cromulentary content!

  3. If you read the quote,

    "... embiggen, if *we may invent* an english parallel so ugly..."

    It's clear he has just made up the word on the spot, and as a an example of how one may make up ugly words that aren't real. Doesn't this actually argue against your point where you say it was 'actually in use'? If I write this sentence:

    "Oopulary is not a real adjective"

    Can you really consider the word 'oopulary' to be "actually in use" in the year 2011? I think you're stretching the term 'in use' a little ;)

  4. You are, of course, quite right about this. It is stretching the term 'in use' . Still, it was nice to find it.