One of the most important television shows of our time, The Simpsons is loved for its endless quotability and laughs. But now it has been recognised for actually coining words themselves.
Initially a joke between the show’s writers to see who could insert some made-up words into the dialogue, Merriam-Webster has announced the inclusion of “embiggen” into the dictionary more than 22-years after audiences first heard the word during the much-loved cartoon.
First appearing in the 1996 episode, “Lisa the Iconoclast”, students from Spring Elementary learn the town’s motto is “A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man” – with everybody’s favourite chain-smoking teacher Edna Krabappel quick to point out that she’d never heard “embiggen” used before coming to Springfield.
Her co-teacher Ms. Hoover responds with her own made-up word, saying: “I don’t know why. It’s a perfectly cromulent word.”
While ‘cromulent’ wasn’t lucky enough to be entered, Merriam-Webster’s lexicographer Kory Stamper explained to The A.V. Club that embiggen is a “stealth lexical champion”, which has been used in academic journals, hundreds of news articles and in other professional communication.
Thanks to its similar structure to other widely-used English words such as “embolden” and “enlighten”, many people have come to accept the word as fact. As language is constantly evolving and new terms and phrases replace old ones, Merriam-Webster have adapted their dictionary to keep up with the times.
In all, 850 new words were recently added, with “dumpster fire”, “welp”, “hate-watch,” “cryptocurrency” and “blockchain” all safe to be added to your daily lexicon.
In a statement, Merriam-Webster associate editor Emily Brewster explained: “In order for a word to be added to the dictionary it must have widespread, sustained, and meaningful use.” […] These new words have been added to the dictionary because they have become established members of the English language, and are terms people are likely to encounter.”