New words or old?


I’ve recently come across two words I’d never seen before. The immediate reaction is to think that the writer has either mis-remembered another word, or simply made it up on the hoof:

“To cut this delay, the control unit briefly richens the fuel/air mixture fed to the engine and at the same time causes air to be injected in the exhaust port.”

“Smirke’s front hall was repristinated, so that it looked once more like the entrance to a great museum, not a railway station waiting-room.”

What is wrong with enriches in the first case, and returned to its original state in the second? Admittedly, the latter uses five words instead of one, but what is this word?

The Simpsons cartoon has introduced the word embiggen to the language (“A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man”), but has it?

In all three cases, these lexical items have occurred before. The OED gives three separate 19th century examples of richen, and one 17th century and one 19th century example of repristinate. According to Wikipedia, embiggen appears in an 1884 publication Notes and Queries: A Medium of Intercommunication for Literary Men, General Readers, Etc by C. A. Ward.

They are all well-formed words: adjective + en (e.g. darken); -ate, verb-creating suffix (e.g. hyphenate); re-, prefix meaning ‘again’. Even embiggen has the equivalent embolden.

On the other hand, when Edna Krabappel says she never heard embiggens until she came to Springfield, Ms Hoover (Lisa’s teacher) replies “It’s a perfectly cromulent word”. The meaning of cromulent is less clear: does it mean “ordinary”, “normal”, or instead “well-formed”?

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