'Embiggen,' a Made-Up Word from The Simpsons, Has Officially Landed in the Dictionary

iStock
iStock

From d’oh! to dorkus malorkus, the English language owes a lot to The Simpsons, particularly when it comes to made-up neologisms. As io9 reports, the animated series’ latest contribution to everyday chatter was made official earlier this week, when Merriam-Webster announced that the Springfield-originated verb embiggen is one of 850 new words that have just been added to their online dictionary.

Though the word has transcended its animated town origins, being regularly used by online outlets (“click to embiggen this map”) and superhero Kamala Khan in the Ms. Marvel comic book series, its original popular usage dates back more than 20 years, to a seventh-season episode of The Simpsons titled “Lisa the Iconoclast.” In it, the students of Springfield Elementary School are treated to Young Jebediah Springfield, an educational film that depicts the early days of the founder of their great town. His secret? “A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man.”

Though the rarity of the word led even Edna Krabappel to question its authenticity (fellow teacher Ms. Hoover assures her that “it’s a perfectly cromulent word,” a reference to yet another piece of The Simpsons lexicon), writer Dan Greaney actually coined the phrase even before the episode.

Amazingly, it turns out that Jebediah Springfield may have been very hip to the times when he used the phrase after all; the word was also used by author C.A. Ward in his Notes and Queries: A Medium of Intercommunication for Literary Men, General Readers, Etc., which was published in 1884.

[h/t: io9]

How LEGOs Are Helping Kids Learn Braille

LEGO
LEGO

Children with visual impairments will soon have a new, creative way to learn Braille. The LEGO Foundation and LEGO Group announced yesterday at a conference in Paris that the company would be launching Braille Bricks kits in 2020. Each set has about 250 bricks containing studs that represent the letters and numbers of the Braille alphabet, which empowers people to learn spelling and punctuation, read books, type on a keyboard, and more.

In the U.S., only 10 percent of blind children are learning to read Braille, according to the National Federation of the Blind. Philippe Chazal, treasurer of the European Blind Union, says this trend—which extends beyond the U.S.—is due to the availability of audiobooks and computer programs. “This is particularly critical when we know that Braille users often are more independent, have a higher level of education, and better employment opportunities,” Chazal said in a statement. “We strongly believe LEGO Braille Bricks can help boost the level of interest in learning Braille, so we’re thrilled that the LEGO Foundation is making it possible to further this concept and bring it to children around the world.”

The idea was originally pitched to LEGO in 2011 by the Danish Association of the Blind, and a Brazil-based foundation also supported the concept in 2017. Currently, the Braille Brick prototypes are being tested in Denmark, Brazil, Norway, and the UK, with each set being adapted to the predominant language spoken in those regions.

Because braille is a tactile alphabet rather than a language, it can be used in just about any language, including Chinese, Arabic, and Hebrew. LEGO also plans to test French, Spanish, and German versions of the Braille Bricks this year. The kits will be provided free of charge to some organizations around the world.

Check out the video below to learn more about the project.

Merriam-Webster Just Added Hundreds of New Words to the Dictionary—Here Are 25 of Them

iStock.com/xxz114
iStock.com/xxz114

The editors of Merriam-Webster's dictionary know better than most people how quickly language evolves. In April 2019 alone, they added more than 640 words to the dictionary, from old terms that have developed new meanings to words that are products of the digital age.

Entertainment fans will recognize a few of the new words on Merriam-Webster's list: Buzzy (generating speculation or attention), bottle episode (an episode of a television series confined to one setting), and EGOT (winning an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony) have all received the dictionary's stamp of approval.

Some terms reflect the rise of digital devices in our everyday lives, such as unplug and screen time. Other words have been around for centuries, but started appearing in new contexts in recent years. According to Merriam-Webster, snowflake can now mean “someone who is overly sensitive," purple can describe an area split between Democrat and Republican voters, and Goldilocks can mean “an area of planetary orbit in which temperatures are neither too hot nor too cold to support life."

You can read 25 of the new words below. And for even more recent additions to the dictionary, check out Merriam-Webster's list from last September.

  1. Bioabsorbable

  1. Bottle episode

  1. Bottom surgery

  1. Buzzy

  1. EGOT

  1. Garbage time

  1. Gender nonconforming

  1. Geosmin

  1. Gig economy

  1. Go-cup

  1. Goldilocks

  1. On-brand

  1. Page view

  1. Peak

  1. Purple

  1. Vulture capitalism

  1. Qubit

  1. Salutogenesis

  1. Screen time

  1. Snowflake

  1. Stan

  1. Tailwind

  1. Top surgery

  1. Traumatology

  1. Unplug

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