Friday, May 5, 2017

Word up

A lot of us don't know it, but in many ways we are all residents of Springfield USA, the home of The Simpsons.  I can't tell you how many pop culture references have come out of that venerable show, but I can tell you for sure that their latest episodes this year have been as strong as the early ones, and you don't see that on many TV shows, except for QVC's "Spring Fashion Extravaganza."

It's one thing to quote something Bart said on Monday morning around the Keurig machine at the office, but quite another when a word that the show made up from loose letters they had around the office becomes part of our everyday lexicon.

Image result for Lisa the IconoclastIn the episode "Lisa the Iconoclast" from the seventh Simpsons season (2/18/1996) two words were introduced to the world, and they just turned 21! The episode showed Lisa doing research on Jebediah Springfield, the founder of her home town, and finds that, in fact, he was a barbarous pirate named Hans Sprungfeld.

Image result for Lisa the IconoclastBeing a murderer is not the sort of thing we like in our town founders (Nathan Towson, founder of my home town, was a major general in the War of 1812 and a tavernkeeper!) but Lisa is loath to tell the town the real scoop. Springfield was quoted as having said, "A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man," which became the town's official motto.

In a school assembly, when that quote was read aloud, Bart's teacher, the one and only Edna Krabappel, said she had never heard the word "embiggen" until she moved to Springfield, to which fellow teacher Mrs Hoover said, "I don't know why; it’s a perfectly cromulent word."

Well, sir.  A certain minor political figure started a linguistic debate last fall by constantly chanting a word that some took as "bigly," some took as "big-league," and all took as trumpery

Does "embiggen" not sound like a real word, these 21 years later? Sort of like "embolden"? 

And as for cromulent, no, Webster's and the Oxford English Dictionary, our best word wizards, have not yet embiggened it by including it in their glossaries, but more and more, it sounds like it could be used to mean something perfectly acceptable.  

Try it, next time you're dining out. If the server says they don't have Coke, just Pepsi, say, "Oh that would be cromulent with me" and let me know how that goes!

Just, please, don't be crapulous about it.

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