“A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man.”

Doing some research to check a client’s claim in draft copy that the “national deficit is at an all-time high” – debt and deficit were being confused – I was delighted to be reacquainted with the great Simpsons neologism ‘embiggen’. The Guardian’s data blog mischievously (and correctly?) used it as a synonym for grow, expand, enlarge – “Click image to embiggen” – in one of its embedded graphics. The Simpsons live in Springfield, where the town motto runs thus, “A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man.”

But if Wikepedia is to be believed, embiggen’s true origins lie in the 19th century!

…in an 1884 edition of the British journal Notes and Queries: A Medium of Intercommunication for Literary Men, General Readers, Etc. by C. A. Ward … “but the people magnified them, to make great or embiggen, if we may invent an English parallel as ugly. After all, use is nearly everything.”

And it has now found its way into the language of high energy physics:

“For large P, the three-form fluxes are dilute, and the gradient of the Myers potential encouraging an anti-D3 to embiggen is very mild.”

And why not? It is, as Springfield teacher Miss Hoover rightly observes, “a perfectly cromulent word.”