A character quotes a seemingly made-up word that no one has ever heard of before then. This is usually a word the writer just made up, but is occasionally a real obscure, archaic, or obsolete word; for instance, 400 years before we had computers, we had email, which is a raised or embossed image pressed into metal.
A type of Neologism, of which Scrabble Babble is a subtrope. Some examples are another form of Malaproper. See also Delusions of Eloquence and Informed Obscenity aka Snuggle Bunnies.
Named for the above-quoted exchange from an episode of The Simpsons. (Incidentally, the word embiggen was later used in a completely cromulent paper on string theory. It's on page 31 here).
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Koodo Mobile's newest ad campaign centers around made-up words of varying levels of cromulence, such as "Thumbactionist", "Tabrific", "Bigbillification", and other things that sound like they came out of an ad campaign in 1984.
A few years ago, a car ad in the UK was very similar, but exclusively picked two (often opposed) words, and mashed them together- "Sporty" and "Safe" became "Spafe", for instance. Richard Hammond deemed this to be a load of shiny and bright.
A recent Green Lantern themed cell phone commercial describes its internet surfing as "faster-er."
"That isn't a real word!"
"It came out of my mouth, didn't it?"
Skank Zero Hopeless-Savage's (of the Hopeless Savages comic series) vocabulary is comprised of many of these. Luckily, there is a glossary in the back of the collected volume (as Zero says "some of my best words are friends.") Swerval.
In Sleeper, Diane Keaton's character describes a friend's painting as "pure keane. No, it's greater than keane...it's cugat." (The made-up words are a Shout Out to '60s schlock artist Walter Keane and bandleader-turned-cartoonist Xavier Cugat, respectively.)
The most famous example of this is "Jabberwocky", almost completely made up of nonsense words. However, some nonsense words became real words. (See: vorpal, chortle.)
The best part is that even though of all the adjectives in the poem, only one is standard English, Lewis Carroll uses onomatopoeia in such a way that it still makes sense! eg. "galumphing" is/was not a real word when he used it, yet it's immediately obvious what it means (It helps that he uses about seventeen actual nouns.)
Argentinian writer Julio Cortázar used this technique, including the proper choice of onomatopoeic inventions, in chapter 68 of his novel Rayuela. Trying to interpret the meaning won't get you anywhere but if you pay attention to the rhythm and the sounds, you can easily notice that the scene describes a sex encounter between the two main characters.
Also used in the short story La inmiscusión terrupta from Historias de Cronopios y de Famas.
The book Frindle is based completely around the protagonist making up a new word and trying to make it catch on. It means "pen."
In Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep, the first hint that a civilization has been taken over by the Blight is that words like "armiphlage" and "clenirations" (representing concepts the translator AI can't handle) start creeping into its newsgroup postings.
Except that it is being used in the geometric sense. Stories such as The Dreams in the Witch House and (to a degree) The Dunwich horror begin to explain this, which is the primary reason for most of Lovecraft's work being categorised as science-fiction.
In that it was a word before its popularization, albeit with a different meaning (beatnik slang for marijuana), J. K. Rowling's use of the word "Muggles" in Harry Potter fits here. Having said that, "Muggle" became one of the more important terms in the series' mythology, as opposed to being a throwaway gag.
Redwall's babies and toddlers are known as "Dibbuns". Brian Jacques was asked if this was an actual British regional slang term, and he said that it's actually just a nonsense word which sounded appropriately cute.
The Guardians of Ga'Hoole series has an entire vocabulary of this. From all of their curse words to terms for weather (including "baggywrinkles"), the books are full of this.
Edward Lear invented the adjective "runcible" to provide extra syllables in his poetic writings. "Runcible spoon" (from "The Owl and the Pussycat") is now defined in dictionaries. It resembles an extremely large silver spork.
John Milton (author of Paradise Lost) possibly surpasses Shakespeare's inventiveness (more about that under "Theatre"); careful research suggests that he introduced six hundred and thirty words into the English Language.
P. G. Wodehouse created a number of characters too foolish to restrict themselves to proper English, most notably Bertram Wooster. He comments once upon seeing Gussie Fink-Nottle, "I had described him then as disgruntled, and it appeared that the passage of time had done nothing to gruntle him." On another occasion, he praises Jeeves' remarkable ability to 'disimbrogle' any imbroglio.
Although he uses the word incorrectly, "gruntled" is a word, but "disgruntled" means "very gruntled", not "not gruntled". "Gruntle" simply means "grunt".
Live Action TV
Blackadder trying to confuse the writer of the first a well-known dictionary:
Dr. Samuel Johnson: [places two manuscripts on the table, but picks up the top one] Here it is, sir. The very cornerstone of English scholarship. This book, sir, contains every word in our beloved language. Blackadder: Every single one, sir? Dr. Samuel Johnson: Every single word, sir! Blackadder: Oh, well, in that case, sir, I hope you will not object if I also offer the Doctor my most enthusiastic contrafribularities. Dr. Samuel Johnson: What? Blackadder: "Contrafribularities", sir? It is a common word down our way. Dr. Samuel Johnson: Damn! [writes in the book] Blackadder: Oh, I'm sorry, sir. I'm anispeptic, frasmotic, even compunctuous to have caused you such pericombobulation.
He later goes ballistic when he realises that Baldrick knows a word that's not in the dictionary, namely "sausage".
Oh, and Blackadder mentions another Johnson forgot: "aardvark".
"I shall return...interfrastically."
iCarly: In iAm Your Biggest Fan, Carly tells Mandy that they need "fladoodles" for their web show just to get her off their backs. Sam asks what it is, but Carly says that she just made it up.
Joey: If he doesn't like you, this is all a moo point. Rachel: Huh. A moo point? Joey: Yeah, it's like a cow's opinion. It just doesn't matter. It's moo. Rachel: Have I been living with him for too long, or did that all just make sense?
In an earlier episode, Chandler, bemoaning his pickiness with women, once mentioned he broke up with a girl for (mis)pronouncing a word, "supposebly" (meant to be "supposedly".) The incorrect version seems to stick with Joey, though.
In Will And Grace, Grace says "I'm spramped if I do, I'm spramped if I don't!" and Jack corrects her on her usage. This is a reference to Jack's Kwyjibo earlier in the episode.
"Spramped" has since become a "real" word, meaning splashing a liquid up against a surface, creating foam and turbulence. For instance, the tradition of tossing a bucket of water against someone's face, or waves hitting a cliff face.
In a Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch, the word "splunge" is coined by frightened screenwriters to provide temporary respite from tyrannical Hollywood producer Irving C. Saltzberg. It means, "It's a great idea, but possibly not, and I'm not being indecisive!"
In a Saturday Night Live sketch parodying Inside The Actors Studio, Will Ferrell (impersonating James Lipton) describes Charles Nelson Reilly's (Alec Baldwin) performance as so great that no word in English can do it justice, and that he must invent a new word right now to properly convey its greatness: Scrumtrulescence. The performance was scrumtrulescent.
Xzibit has gone on to use this word in episodes of Pimp My Ride .
Also in SNL, and spoofing Bush's supposed lack of intelligence (even if the sketch is from before his first election): the mediator of the Gore-Bush debate asks them for a one-word "best argument for the campaign". Bush's one is "Strategerie".
In a joking Take That at his critics, Bush and other members of his administration continued to drop the word "strategery" into public statements, and it was used as the title of a book about the President which depicted a disconnect between his shrewd political savvy as represented in the book, and his bumbling buffoonery as represented by his enemies.
Just Shoot Me!: Finch and Eliot replace Nina's word-a-day calendar with one filled with Perfectly Cromulent Words right before she goes for a radio interview, in which she uses them all. Link here.
The word "ass-tastic" is apparently common in their magazine.
Look Around You: Spoofs the wealth of jargon found in the world of science by making up a host of new words, including fictitious chemicals ("bumcivilian", "segnomin"), laboratory equipment ("Besselheim plate", "gribbin"), units of measurement ("billigram", "quorums per second") and many more.
George Martin coined the same word as a humorous way of describing a recording technique to The Beatles. The technique in question is that of dubbing a track with a version of itself delayed a few milliseconds, so that different frequencies either cancel or reinforce themselves. This also plays with the brain's mechanism for locating the source of sounds, giving it an interesting psychedelic flavour that the Beatles liked. The effect is still known as "flange".
The effect was in use before The Beatles (though can't say for sure it wasn't Martin who named it). In those days was to set up two identical recordings on two different machines and play them in perfect sync. One then touched the outside edge of one of the tape reels to set one of the machines ever so slightly out of synch. As a flange is an older word used to mean the outer edge of something, it is thus an entirely legitimate use of the term. Presumably it was used as rimming sounded too rude even then.
Mind you, "flange" is a very real and perfectly ordinary word. They're just using it in an unconventional way.
Veronicas Closet: One of the characters makes up the word "acribitzed" (synonym for "went up" or "increased"), then drops it in an article hoping that it will take off. It does.
Newsradio: Beth also invents a word to see if it will catch on ("If my boyfriend acted like that, I would go absolutely bitchcakes"). By the end of the episode, the radio station's owner, Jimmy James, is using it. Perversely, the word actually did catch on, in a small way, in the real world: it's in the Urban Dictionary and everything.
There's also the word "gazzizza". It's kind of like a street "aloha"
On its inaugural show, The Colbert Report created and defined the word "truthiness" (defining reality by what feels in your gut like it should be true, rather than what is actually true.) which went on to become a runaway hit, starting with getting chosen as the American Dialect Society's Word of the Year for 2005. Some of its popularity was almost certainly because of its usefulness in describing the policies of the then-current administration.
Also, wikiality: the concept that something is taken to be true if enough people think it is.
On The Cosby Show, Rudy invented the word zrbrt: to kiss someone on the cheek while blowing a raspberry.
Rudy invented the spelling (at random). Cliff invented the definition.
Charlie Brooker: I used up every negative word known to man to describe John Barrowman's 'Tonights the Night' so when 'Totally Saturday' came along I was forced to invent the word 'Shittifying'
In the Stargate SG-1 episode The Fifth Race, Jack begins using seemingly made-up words, albeit without realizing he is doing so. As it turns out, he's speaking Ancient.
Jack Donaghy recently coined the term "innoventually" during 24 straight hours of successful problem-solving (referred to, by him of course, as "Reaganing"). Of course, at the very last moment, his Reaganing (which would have been rewarded with a shower of lavish gifts) was rendered moot by his inability to solve Liz Lemon's intimacy problem...at least not until after the 24 hours had elapsed. It Makes Sense in Context...the Reaganing, not "innoventually".
Another one from Liz: snart, a simultaneous sneeze and fart.
Snart may also mean to unsuccessfully suppress a cough, only to have it come out one's nose (typically with a cloud of smoke.)
In the final episode of Ashes to Ashes, Gene Hunt declares that he can transfer Alex Drake from CID because she is "causing disconsternation amongst her male colleagues." To which Alex immediately replies that "Disconsternation is not a word."
On Mr Show, a character was introduced as "Edmund Premington is a hunter, an explorer, a novelist, and an adventurer; a travelliare, an explorist, and a noveller."
On The Sarah Silverman Program, in the episode "Kangamangus", Sarah tries to coin a new word and comes up with "ozay" (hard to define, but when you just feel...ozay). Her attempts to popularize it pale next to the organic spread of "dotnose", which Brian comes up with accidentally when Steve is so stubborn that he won't acknowledge a marker dot on his own nose despite everyone mentioning it. Others find "dotnose" offensive for no particular reason (other than that it sounds insulting), and at a dictionary induction ceremony, Brian and Steve are threatened with the "kangamangus" (a very specific physical retribution).
On an episode of How I Met Your Mother, Marshall says he's been using made up words to avoid lying to Lily. "Are you going to quit and work for the NRDC?" "Absatively!"
"The Possimpible": Nexus between the Possible and the Impossible.
In the Escape Slide Parachute episode of MythBusters, the word "criminy" (uttered by Adam) gets this treatment by the narrator, who assumes that Adam just made the word up. ("Criminy" is an actual word, if rather old.)
The narrator would have known this if he had watched a single episode of Hey Arnold!, where Helga said this word so frequently as to really make it her own.
In Hustle, Mickey and Emma have a long debate over whether 'stickability' is a word. Mickey insists that if it isn't, then it should be.
Victorious-"Oh my God, she's having heart confarctions!!"
The Vicar of Dibley: Jim and Frank come over, interrupting Geraldine's rendezvous with David's brother (long story). They have a crossword question. She makes up the word "ploddipop" to get them out of the house.
A M*A*S*H episode has Hawkeye imitating Charles Winchester on the telephone, employing the latter's typical Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness. At one point he uses the word "sidacious", then covers the receiver with his hand and admits to B.J. and Klinger that he just made it up.
In another episode, Charles has to deal with a wounded GI who moonlights as a securities salesman and keeps pestering the other patients in post-op. He finally shuts the guy up by telling him he's damaged his "latrickium" and is in danger of permanently losing his voice if he doesn't go 48 hours without talking.
One bit on The Daily Show parodied a string of recent corporate mergers by having correspondent John Hodgman "merge" with Merriam-Webster to produce a new dictionary, with words like "greeb" (greed, for the 2010s instead of the 1980s) and "engrocious" ("a lot", which it kind of sounds like, no?). Later in the conversation, we get "overlargement" and "naiviotically".
The flash slideshow on Flickr currently offers the option to "embiggen" pictures that are too small for the screen.
Done in a c-span type episode of The Onion where a senator starts to use the word "Pronk" in his vocabulary (It's supposed to be used in the positive, as in "These pancakes were pronking delicious!"). Hilarity Ensues when said senator replaces 95 percent of his vocabulary with pronk.
Blogger/humorist James Lileks is known for popularizing "contrude". An example from The Bleat - May 1997- "Don't contrude with my train of thought, I'm on to something here"
Andy Zaltzman (and occasionally John Oliver) of the podcast, "The Bugle", is king of these. Highlights include "fuckeulogy" (a send-off of someone who really isn't deserving of a respectful eulogy, such as Osama bin Laden), "credibiliboost" (an improvement of one's public reputation) and "swearobics" (I'll, uh, leave you to figure that one out).
In a brief arc in Bloom County, moral guardians were cracking down on the strip for the use of "inappropriate language", citing frequent uses of "the four-letter H-word, the four-letter D-word, and the fourteen-letter S-word". After heavy speculation as to what this latter word is, one of the characters announcing this can only think of "Snugglebunnies"? In the next strip, the two remark on how somehow saying "Snugglebunnies" is bad enough to get the strip cut. Their response: "We have one thing to say to that. Snugglebunnies! Snugglebunnies! Snu-" and the strip gets cut mid-word. Interestingly, later in the strip's run, the word started showing up here and there. It's also on Urban Dictionary.
One Get Fuzzy strip from an arc about their new manager had said manager use the words "Dinnerfy" and "Eatification" to describe eating.
The25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee combines this with Schrödinger's Gun: a few audience members are selected to compete in the eponymous bee. Most of the words they get are real, but these tend to be thrown out when the play needs to declare a spelling correct/incorrect regardless of the spelling the audience member attempts.
William Shakespeare is famous for this. Google it. Of course, there is some argument as to whether he was the first to use the words, or simply the first to write them down. Due to the vast number of words he "made up," it seems likely that it's some of both. Regardless, he is credited with introducing two hundred and twenty nine words into the English language. Due to his creativity with the language, he has had perhaps more influence on English than any other individual.
The Wicked musical has a number of these being used by corrupt headmistress/press secretary Madame Morrible, including "definish" (as in "definite"...ish), "braverism" and "surreptitially". This suits her character well.
Also from Wicked, G(a)linda gives us confusifying. Yep. Confusifying.
Jade Empire features a character, Qui the Promoter, who talks almost entirely like this, including a Shout Out to the Simpsons quote at the top of the page.
Qui the Promoter: This is turning out to be an excellent day. Most austipacatious indeed! Spirit Monk: "Austi..." Don't you mean "auspicious?" Qui the Promoter: I apologize if I'm using words beyond your grasp. Very few people can match either the supply or the command of my language. Spirit Monk: Seriously, you're using the wrong words. It makes you sound like a fool. Qui the Promoter: Don't get flusterated. Everything I say is perfectly cromulent, and it might do you well to embiggen your vocabulary before you fling accretions my discretion.
This is the source of a running gag in Fable II. You see, it turns out that there's a new thesaurus being published in Albion...
Oghren in the Awakening expansion for Dragon Age: Origins does this in the course of drunkenly thanking the Warden Commander for saving him in combat: "There was that guy, and he was all 'Rrrrr!' and I was 'Hrrr!' and then I got hit by an arrow. Then I fell over, and it was 'meep!' But you were there and you were all 'Roaarr!' Ha! Spectaculous!" To which the PC may choose to respond "That's not even a word!"
The famous "spoony bard" line of Final Fantasy was often assumed to be this trope in action, or simply a humorous mistranslation. Many are surprised to find that "spoony" is in fact a real English word with a definition that fits perfectly for the situation.
Sometimes words in dialogue in the Pokemon Vietnamese Crystal bootleg slur together into one monster word. For example, "NOT" + "HARMONIOUS" = "NOTHARMONIOUS".
Characters in the Homestar Runner seem to make up a good portion their language on the fly. The bizarre thing is it's usually perfectly clear what they mean even when the words are completely random (e.g. "This electricity bill is pretendous!).
Strong Bad even contemplated making an entire dictionary "fo' his own words".
In one article for Cracked, Michael Swaim coins the term "presturbating" - the act of masturbating to the porn that gets you horny enough to watch the porn that really gets you off, because you're dead inside. (It can also mean "masturbating a priest".)
The SCP Foundation has SCP-566, a "word a day calendar" which lists definitions for these. Which would be fine, except that people who read it become absolutely convinced that they're normal words, and become violently angry at anyone who tells them that they aren't real words.
"Bart the Genius" also gave us Kwyjibo: A fat, balding, North American ape with no chin (and a short temper)." (In context, it's a word intended to cheat in Scrabble, which was the former trope namer for Scrabble Babble).
In another episode, Homer comments, "Sir, I am disgruntled! And up until this point I was relatively gruntled!"
Kent Brockman does a report about "tax avoision". When corrected by a member of the crew, he sticks to his guns: 'I don't say "evasion", I say "avoision".'
Spongebob Squarepants. When Spongebob accidentally shrinks Squidward with Mermaidman's belt, Patrick suggests turning the belt buckle from M for mini to W for wumbo. When Spongebob disputes the word, Patrick goes into a mini-rant about it.
Spongebob: Patrick, I don't think Wumbo is a real word... Patrick: Come on... you know! I wumbo. You wumbo. He- she- me... wumbo. Wumbo; Wumboing; We'll have the wumbo; Wumborama; Wumbology: the study of Wumbo. It's first grade, Spongebob! Spongebob: Patrick, I'm sorry I doubted you.
Also showed up in the episode where a health inspector visits the Krusty Krab, but Spongebob and Mr. Krabs suspect he may be an impostor.
Mr. Krabs: We've been duped! Spongebob: Duped! Mr. Krabs: Bamboozled! Spongebob: We've been smeckledorfed! Mr. Krabs: That's not even a word, and I agree with ya!
Subverted in an episode of South Park. The boys are mad because all the boys from New York are mocking them for not knowing what "queef" means. They invent the word "mung" to trick the New Yorkers into using a word that doesn't exist, only to find out that it already is a word.
The Critic: Duke Phillips pays Webster's Dictionary to include the word "quzybuk" (meaning "a big problem") in order to win a game of Scrabble. He also paid them to add the word "dukelicious." When he learns that nobody's using it, he mutters "What a duketastrophe."
Peter Griffin: A degenerate, am I? Well you're fastezio! See, I can make up words too!.
An entire episode of Recess revolves around T.J. making up a new word ("whomp", as in, "Man, this whomps!"). He is punished, because most of the adults assume it must be a 'bad' (dirty) word. In truth, he made up the word as a minced oath so he wouldn't get in trouble anymore. After a good deal of irony and courtroom antics, it's decided that the word is up to anyone's interpretation since it was made up, and "Those who think it has a dirty meaning probably have dirty minds to begin with."
"Yzmopolis, There's no Stopolis!" "Hey that's not a word" "It is to me!"
Happened in an episode of Garfield and Friends, where the Buddy Bears try to make the show more educational by interrupting an otherwise "normal" episode to provide trivia on anything that came up in conversation. Irritated, Garfield asked them what they knew about "gazorninplats", and after they're unable to find any information on it, they give up and leave. It backfired at the end of the episode, when G&F was "cancelled" for The Gazorninplat Hour.
Another episode featured a Show Within a Show hosted by a character named Fred Gazorninplat. Garfield claims that the host changed his name to get the job and that he used to be called Sam Gazorninplat.
In part 2 of Snow Wade and the 77 Dwarves, Roy is refusing to kiss Snow Wade so she wakes up, but then reads the story and is happy to do it because he learned he gets "20 million gazortniks".
Roy: I don't know what a gazortnik is, but 20 million of anything makes ya filthy rich!
Gets a bit of a Call Back in season 2 premiere "The Return of Harmony, Part 1", when the Cutie Mark Crusaders have this exchange (for added fun, Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle are Applejack and Rarity's respective little sisters):
Applebloom: Cool! ... If you were actually victory-ful at something.
From Young Justice Robin 1/Nightwing is fond of taking the prefixes off of words to make new ones. His favourite is "whelmed": what you get when you're neither overwhelmed or underwhelmed. The fandom has embraced it whole-heartedly; some are actually used for Idiosyncratic Ship Naming.
The ones in Adventure Time usually derive from the dialogue's wordplay-filled style. Examples include "wrongteous" (opposite of "righteous"), and "manlorette party" (what else do you call the male equivalent of a bachelorette party?).
An old joke: "Be alert! Your country needs lerts!"
Response: "No, be aloof - we've got enough lerts."
Another Joke: "Boy to girl: Do you like Kipling? Girl to boy: I don't know, I've never kippled." Guinness reports that the most popular picture postcard◊ ever printed had essentially this joke on it. See Donald McGill in The Other Wiki.
The word "quiz". A man made a bet that he could invent a word and get it into the local lexicon very quickly. He then went on to scrawl the nonsense word "quiz" on various walls and alleyways around the town (possibly Dublin). Supposedly, the people who had seen it assumed they were being tested for something or another. The Other Wiki claims this is largely apocryphal.
An accidental example was the word "dord" (supposedly meaning "density"), which appeared in Webster's Third New International Dictionary from 1934 to 1939. It was a based on a card reading "D or d/ density", but was not spaced properly.
This has also appeared in an anecdote about a girl who said to her boyfriend, "How does it feel to be adored?" To which he replied, "What's a dord?"
Dr. Seuss invented the word "nerd." (It was a creature in If I Ran The Zoo.)
Look up back formations on The Other Wiki. Prepare to have your conception of correct usage self-destructinate.
The word "ablexxive" started this way, with a middle-school student making it up and putting it on a vocab quiz.
Isaac Asimov used the word "robotics" in his early Robot stories, assuming it to be a logical extension of the word "robot". Modern etymologists believe him to have been the first person to have used the term. "Robot" itself was made up for Karel Capek's play R.U.R.. It's derived from robota, the Czech word for "forced labor".
Former President George W. Bush was absolutely renowned for this, leading political columnist Molly Ivins to invent her own cromulent word to describe them: "Bushisms."
Many Internet captchas use these kinds of words, especially those from Google and ReCaptcha (which, in the latter case, are always accompanied by a perfectly normal word).
Language Log uses the words "Click to embiggen" next to relevant pictures on their site. If anyone is entitled to rule on the cromulence of a word, it's the expert linguists who post on that site.
A massive number of websites have adopted this phraseology. Google results for the phrase in quotes currently number in the hundreds of thousands.