A Perfectly Cromulent Fairy Door at Flickr

Jared Spool

September 25th, 2007

When dealing with photo sets on the photo sharing site, Flickr.com, one nifty little viewing feature is the Slide Show. This feature shows the each image on a full-screen black image, with cinematic fades between them.

The slide show interface is simple: just select the images and start the show. However, Flickr’s designers do give users a couple of convenient settings to adjust.

What interested us wasn’t that the designers provided options, but the specific wording of one of the options.

Options in Flickr.com's Slide Show Feature
Options in Flickr.com’s Slide Show feature

The option that caught our attention reads:

Embiggen small photos to fill screen

Our first reaction to seeing this option was to ask the logical question, “Is Embiggen a real word?”. It somehow seemed familiar to us, but we weren’t sure.

A quick visit to Dictionary.com showed it wasn’t in the dictionary, but they did have it listed under their “Encyclopedia” column. That was curious.

Dictionary.com's results for Embiggen
Looking up Embiggen on Dictionary.com

Clicking on the encyclopedia link brought us to a Wikipedia entry on Socially Significant Phrases from the Simpsons. It is here we learn of embiggen’s origins, the town motto of the Simpson’s home town, Springfield: A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man.

Embiggen, a made-up word for a Simpson’s episode, found its way into an options screen at Flickr. We think that’s a perfectly cromulent fairy door.

Other stories on fairy doors we’ve seen on the web:

7 Responses to “A Perfectly Cromulent Fairy Door at Flickr”

  1. bob lodi Says:

    Excellent use of ‘cromulent’ in a sentence. Mrs. Krabapple would give you high marks.

  2. links for 2007-09-26 Says:

    [...] Embiggen on Flickr (the article talks about a “fairy door”… basically, a little touch that makes the mundane, er, no so mundane. See http://www.uie.com/brainsparks/2006/05/11/putting-fairy-doors-into-the-design/ ) (tags: fairy door embiggen Flickr) [...]

  3. Tamlyn Rhodes Says:

    Made-up words in an options screen? What would Jacob Nielsen have to say about that? ;-)

    I’m currently performing a usability test of some customer service call centre software and that Wikipedia entry had me laughing out loud over the agent’s shoulder. D’oh!

  4. Jared Spool Says:

    In fact, all words are made up at some point in their etymology. Who is to say the writing team at the Simpsons is a bad place to originate new words?

    I don’t see how embiggen is any less a useful verb than google or text. (The American Heritage Dictionary lists text as a transitive verb.)

  5. Embiggen and cromulent at Complex solutions to simple problems Says:

    [...] Spool spotted that Flickr uses Simpsons lingo in their slide show feature and points readers in the direction of Wikipedias Culturally [...]

  6. Paul Irish Says:

    Noticed this recently, as well. And don’t tell me this is a complete coincidence… :)

  7. Another Embiggen Sighting » UIE Brain Sparks Says:

    [...] time, we spot an embiggen over at macenstien.com (Click to [...]

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