Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Sorry, The Flash, you're wrong: Embiggen is still a perfectly cromulent word

Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW

Last night’s episode of The Flash was one of the most entertaining yet of season four. It had major characters shrink to the size of a Pez dispenser, Barry helping a fellow inmate, and a great twist ending. Unfortunately, it also featured the show being wrong as hell about a certain word. Take a look:

The series gives Iris the last statement about the term, treating it as a punchline where everyone else should know better. Unfortunately, Iris—and by extension, the show—missed the mark here. Look, we understand the confusion: “Embiggen” seems like the kind of word that shouldn’t actually exist. And it really didn’t, by and large, until The Simpsons (re-)invented it. But since then, it’s snuck into the lexicon in ways mostly unnoticeable and—in the eyes of Kory Stamper, an editor and lexicographer for Merriam-Webster—perfectly reasonable. In fact, Stamper filmed an entire episode of our Pop Lexicon series about this one linguistic innovation, all two and a half minutes of which you can see below:

In “Honey, I Shrunk Team Flash,” Harrison Wells uses the phrase multiple times, and every time, he’s in the clear, whether adding an “-ing” to the end or no. We still love The Flash, but perhaps the show can borrow one of The A.V. Club’s copy editors when scripts contain jokes like this? You know, just to make sure it doesn’t make another seemingly unpossible mistake.


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About the author

Alex McLevy

Alex McLevy is a writer and editor at The A.V. Club, and would kindly appreciate additional videos of robots failing to accomplish basic tasks.