acceptable or legitimate.
Cromulent, “acceptable, legitimate,” was first used in an episode of The Simpsons in 1996. When Edna Krabappel, the fourth-grade teacher, remarks, “’Embiggens’? Hm, I never heard that word before I moved to Springfield,” Elizabeth Hoover, the second-grade teacher, answers, “I don’t know why. It’s a perfectly cromulent word.” Cromulent began as a facetious formation of an arbitrary “root” crom– and the English adjective suffix –ulent (from Latin –ulentus “full of”). Cromulent began as a facetious formation but is now at the brink of “cromulence,” as happened earlier with Lewis Carroll’s chortle, frabjous, and galumph.
I suspect that one of the scariest moments for new [crossword] solvers is when they discover that it is perfectly cromulent for constructors to clue answers in a way that means one thing, but twists the answers into real words that mean something totally different.
This is the wonder that is Frinkiac, a compendium of Simpsons moments frozen in time, and the latest, best, most perfectly cromulent way to waste time on the Internet.
deserved reward or just deserts, usually unpleasant.
Comeuppance “just deserts, usually unpleasant,” is an Americanism that first appeared in Harper’s Magazine in 1859. The word derives from the phrasal verb come up, as a case for judgment at a trial, and the common suffix –ance, which forms nouns from verbs, such as acceptance from accept, or appearance from appear.
He is such a convincing villain, in fact, that we are all very pleased that he meets his comeuppance when a falling telephone pole impales him while he’s searching for his cell phone.
The narrative is clear: humans get their comeuppance, Nature fights back, multiple cinematic disasters happen in the space of two hours.
the willful distortion or depreciation of the original meaning of a word.
Verbicide, “the willful distortion of the original meaning of a word; a person who willfully distorts the meaning of a word,” comes from Latin verbum “word” and the English suffix –cide, a borrowing of the Latin suffixes –cīda “killer” and –cīdium “act of killing,” derivatives of the verb caedere “to cut down, strike, kill.” The willful distortion is usually something as harmless as a pun, or the weakening of the meanings of words like awful, awesome, divine, and ghastly (which occurs in all languages), as opposed to the perversion of language, especially political language, condemned by everyone from Thucydides in the 5th century b.c., to George Orwell in the mid-20th century. Verbicide entered English in the first half of the 19th century.
“If the minister were not guilty of so much verbicide, if he were not so diffuse in everything he says, he would be able to give some information to Parliament.”
It illustrates not merely how the lazy use of phrases leads to foggy meanings, but how the deliberately lazy use of words can lead to a whole new sloppy concept, and, at worst, to deliberate verbicide.