The Simpsons aren’t new to being innovators. In fact they’ve already been here before. Back in 2001 the Oxford English Dictionary added Homer’s famous catchphrase ‘D’oh’ as a word meaning: ‘to express frustration at the realization that things have turned out badly.’
Now, The Merriam-Webster Dictionary has added the word ’embiggen’ to its dictionary meaning ‘to make bigger or more expansive.’ So where does this word come from? To find out we have to go back 22 years to 1996 to season seven’s ‘Lisa the Iconoclast.’
In that episode Springfield is celebrating its bicentennial and Lisa wishes to enter a report on the city’s founder ‘Jebediah Springfield.’ During her research she uncovers the truth about him in that he was actually a murderous pirate and not the noble founder he was made out to be.
At the start of the episode we see an educational video recreating Springfield’s life where the word embiggen was first used:
The word would eventually become part of the city’s motto: ‘a noble spirit embiggen’s the smallest man.’
Supposedly, both embiggen and cromulent (uttered by Ms. Hoover at the end of the video) 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.”
The word itself has recently been popularized by Marvel Comics, whose character Ms. Marvel has the power to embiggen herself. Marvel Entertainment immediately retweeted the news.
VOCABULARY: EMBIGGEN! 👊🏽
— Marvel Entertainment (@Marvel) March 5, 2018
Interestingly, writer G Willow Wilson, who also helped create the most recent version of the character, admits that she didn’t even get the Simpsons reference when she first started using the word.
Here is a true story: growing up, my parents didn't let us watch much TV, so the first time I encountered the word "embiggen" was in reference to sizing JPEGs. Didn't realize it was a Simpsons thing until years later.
— G. is on sick leave (@GWillowWilson) March 5, 2018
Other words added to the dictionary include mansplain, glamping and tzatziki. Their entry for embiggen also recognizes The Simpsons too, stating that ‘Lisa The Iconoclast’ was the first noted usage of the word.