LINGUIST List 10.261

Thu Feb 18 1999

Sum: Embiggens & Cropulent in "The Simpsons"

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Sean Witty, Embiggens and cropulent

Message 1: Embiggens and cropulent

Date: Thu, 18 Feb 1999 15:17:08 KST
From: Sean Witty <>
Subject: Embiggens and cropulent

Greetings all!

Reference: Linguistlist 10.97, Disc: Adjectives to Verbs; where I wrote, 
"On a side note, one of my favorite episodes of "The Simpsons" is the 
one where the town honors its founder, and we learn that his motto 
involves the V "embiggens" (if anyone knows the motto, please send it to 

1. The town motto. The episode referred to involves the town of 
Springfield celebrating its bicentennial and its founder, Jebediah 
Obediah Zacharia Jebediah Springfield. As with the American 
bicentennial celebrations, the school is observing the occasion by 
reviewing the great achievements of the town's founder and rehashing his 
inspiring words, also inscribed beneath a statue of the great pioneer, 
"A noble spirit EMBIGGENS the smallest man."

What is truly fascinating about this, is the fact that responses came 
from all over the glove. I watch "The Simpsons" on Star TV, out of Hong 
Kong. Other respondents, see below, hailed from Pennsylvania, my home 
state, Japan, Hawaii, London, Wisconsin, and York. Truly this program 
is global signficance for its thought provoking humor. Equally 
interesting, and more linguistically relevant, is that, while eight 
individuals answered the question, there were several variations 
(apparently no one could remember the expression completely):

 "A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man.": 5 respondents 
 "A noble heart embiggens the smallest man." : 2 respondents
 "The spirit of Jebediah embiggens us all." : 1 respondent

While we were unable to agree on the exact wording of the motto, as 
inscribed under the statue, everyone remembered the word EMBIGGENS. It 
would seem that the subject of the sentence, which some would argue is 
equal in importance to the preterit, is not as significant.

2. Etymology of "embiggens". Having clarified the trivial above and 
gleened a possible avenue of research for some industrious undergrad 
(the relative importance of subjects and preterits), it would seem 
negligent to comment further without at least exploring the 
"correctness" of this term.

Obviously, the verb is a construct of the "enlighten" variety. Its 
morphological parts are "em-big-en-s". Each of these parts is essential 
to derivation of the meaning:

 "-big-": as the adjective stem, provides the basic meaning of the 
word thus created.

 "em-" : variant of "en-"; when used in verbs formed from 
adjectives and nouns it means to cause to become.

 "-en-" : to cause to be.

 "-s" : third person singular.

Thus, to answer the question posed by Mrs. Kraboppel, "Yes", EMBIGGENS 
is a perfectly good, although highly infrequently used, word.

3. "cropulent". Many respondents also made reference the the usage of 
this word, but dismissed it as having no meaning. As it turns out, this 
is not necessarily true. "cropulent" is and adjective of the 
"flocculent" variety, with morphological parts "crop-ulent".

 "crop-" : from the verb meaning to cut off short, or trim.

 "-ulent" : meaning that abounds in a specific thing.

Thus, "cropulent" means to abound in shortness. Turning the attention 
back to the statue of Jebediah, one will recall that the plague beneath 
his feet was quite small. Thus, EMBIGGENS, which is a cropulent way to 
express the real message, was chosen so that it would fit onto the 
plague. Ergo, Jebediah could not have possibly said the motto, which 
fits right into the plot of the story.

Yes folks, the people at Fox are very creative!

4. Acknowledgements.

Thanks to the following for supplying the information necessary to piece 
this together:

Martha McGinnis
Norvin Richards
Keira Ballantyne
Gerry Nelson
Dave Vinson
Helen Lawrence
Georgia Green
Timothy Boelke

As always, comments and thoughts are invited and may be directed below. 
Now the fun is over, get back to work!

Sean M. Witty, PBK
Linguist/Foreign Language Specialist
Kwangwoon University-KILE, Adjunct Professor of English

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