LINGUIST List 10.261
Thu Feb 18 1999
Sum: Embiggens & Cropulent in "The Simpsons"
Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <karenlinguistlist.org>
Sean Witty, Embiggens and cropulent
Message 1: Embiggens and cropulent
Date: Thu, 18 Feb 1999 15:17:08 KST
From: Sean Witty <wittysanhotmail.com>
Subject: Embiggens and cropulent
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!
Thanks to the following for supplying the information necessary to piece
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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