Over at Language Log, Geoffrey Pullum celebrates the appearance of embiggen in a perfectly serious article in The Economist and wonders whether the word, which Dan Greaney coined for The Simpsons, “might really be taking off as a mainstream item of vocabulary.”
One can only hope.
D’you remember when The Simpsons was a Dangerous Influence? We knew people who would not watch it or allow their children to watch it. Bart Simpson’s pride in being an underachiever was thought to send the Wrong Message to Our Young People. Homer Simpson was thought to belittle American men by portraying them as obese, boorish clods.*
Even though my son thinks that the show peaked about a decade ago and has been coasting ever since, with occasional flashes of the old verve, my suspicion is that in years to come the collected episodes will tell more about the American people and American culture than a library shelf of earnest sociological studies. The writers have got us down.
And now, they are also infiltrating the dictionary. That’s perfectly cromulent.
Professor Pullum also weighed in the other day on the issue of whether Australians are better at distinguishing lie and lay than Americans, an assertion made in a comment on this blog. He is doubtful, and I invite you to look at the comments on his post for a glance at the intricacies of research into how people actually use the language.
*Seriously, have those people ever been to a football game? Seen how men dress for air travel?