In Brief

The Simpsons ‘embiggens’ English with official new word

Nonsense word from iconic TV show among 850 new additions to the Merriam-Webster dictionary

The Simpsons

After more than two decades, fans of The Simpsons will be pleased to hear that “embiggen” has finally found its way into the dictionary.

The word, which means “to make bigger or more expansive”, was among 850 new additions to the Merriam-Webster dictionary this year.

Other internet favourites, including dumpster fire (a disaster) and mansplain (to explain something to a woman in a condescending way that assumes she has no knowledge about the topic), also made the cut.

Embiggen was first heard on a 1996 episode of The Simpsons, in which students at Springfield Elementary find out that their town’s motto is: “A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man.”

“Embiggens? I never heard that word before I moved to Springfield,” says Bart’s teacher Mrs Krabappel, to which Lisa’s teacher, Miss Hoover replies: “I don’t know why. It’s a perfectly cromulent word.”

Supposedly, both embiggen and cromulent were the result of a dare, Business Insider reports.

“According to Simpsons lore, the showrunners challenged the episode’s writers to insert two real-sounding fake words into the script,” the website says. Both “instantly became running inside jokes among fans of the show.”

Embiggen isn’t the first catchphrase from the TV show to enter the official lexicon.

D’oh (to express frustration at the realisation that things have turned out badly) was added to the Oxford English dictionary in 2001, and the apathetic expression “meh” earned its place in the Collins English Dictionary a decade ago.

However, cheese-eating surrender monkey, Jebus, dollarydoos and yoink are yet to be officially recognised by lexicographers.

Recommended

Emmy Awards 2021 - in pictures
Olivia Colman
In pictures

Emmy Awards 2021 - in pictures

COP26: will China play ball on climate change?
Emissions in China
Today’s big question

COP26: will China play ball on climate change?

Covax: what’s gone wrong in fight against vaccine nationalism?
Shipment of Covid vaccines donated through Covax arrives at Bolivian Air Force base in El Alto
Expert’s view

Covax: what’s gone wrong in fight against vaccine nationalism?

The most extreme weather events in 2021
Wildfire in Greece
In pictures

The most extreme weather events in 2021

Popular articles

Doctor says we should not sleep naked because of flatulent spraying
The feet of a person sleeping in a bed
Tall Tales

Doctor says we should not sleep naked because of flatulent spraying

The man tasked with putting a price on 9/11’s lost lives
Kenneth Feinberg at a Congressional hearing
Profile

The man tasked with putting a price on 9/11’s lost lives

Abba returns: how the Swedish supergroup and their ‘Abba-tars’ are taking a chance on a reunion
Abba on stage
In Brief

Abba returns: how the Swedish supergroup and their ‘Abba-tars’ are taking a chance on a reunion

The Week Footer Banner