Superlativer than thou

If you looked at that title and immediately thought you’d seen similar constructions before on these premises, well, let it be known that Nancy Friedman might not approve of sloppily assembled comparatives like that:

Sticking an -er or an -est on an adjective doesn’t tell me you’re creative. It’s no longer a way to stand out from the competition. All it says is that you’re too lazy to do some truly original thinking about what your brand means.

She may have me deader to rights than I anticipated.

And I must quote from her footnote about the perfectly cromulent (it’s the cromulentest!) word “embiggen”:

[Its] coinage is usually attributed to Simpsons writer Dan Greaney, who used it in a 1996 episode. In fact, the first citation for “embiggen” appeared in 1884.

Of course, she’s right:

The verb previously occurred 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, in the sentence “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.”

The idea that “use is nearly everything” is controversial to this day.


  1. McGehee »

    26 May 2012 · 6:27 pm

    I notice “Zooeyer than thou” doesn’t show up on that search.

  2. CGHill »

    26 May 2012 · 8:01 pm

    Zooeyness tends to be an absolute, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.

  3. McGehee »

    26 May 2012 · 9:41 pm


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