Hollywood Babble On

Meanings morphed by the movies. By Talia Felix, Assistant Editor.

What’s in a name – or a title? Ever since studios realized they could show their films around the world, movies have shaped culture. They have added to the stock of words and phrases we use. Sometimes, film titles themselves become words or phrases in daily language. 

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.etymonline.com/columns/post/hollywood-babble-on

Truly dizzying that the author felt compelled to explain in detail the Star Wars reference. I would have thought that anyone unaware of the plot of Star Wars had been born in a galaxy far, far away.

There’s people of a certain age who only know it from the Prequels and Sequels.

And are those people of a certain age frequent visitors to etymonline.com–nay, even frequent readers of the sidebars? If so, it restores ever so slightly my faith in the future. :slight_smile:

Hard to say how many there are, but remember some of them would be older than Carrie Fisher was when she was in that first movie.

It seems to me that there are two (only slightly intersecting) universes. In one of them it’s dizzying to have to explain the Star Wars references. In another it’s preposterous to have to explain who Scott is. And vice-versa. Since the masters of this project inhabit the latter universe, explaining Star Wars is not out of place here.

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I believe that detail was included to create humour, see the bit at the end about Greedo shooting first. Similarly, in the following section, “a time-traveling robot in an Austrian disguise” is a humorous addition, though it is ostensibly part of an explanation of well-known film plot.

I’m in my late twenties, and am one of the rare outliers in general who has never seen a Star Wars film. Yet. Been surrounded by cultural references but never once sat down to see the thing(s).

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As movie-Gandhi says, “There’s room for us all.” :blush:

… unless, of course, you were living on the planet Alderaan. :disappointed_relieved:

(Too soon?)

I think most people under a certain age hear “Sheik” and think of Zelda’s ninja disguise.

Some rectifications based only on a grumpy old guy’s memory—i. e., I’m not looking anything up.

Rebel without a Cause - “Rebel without a Cause” is one of those fortunate book titles which perfectly summed up an as yet unnamed notion recently arisen in the zeitgeist. (“Juvenile delinquency” was the scary issue of the time.) The title said it all; no one had to read the book, which was probably boring. Other book titles, which similarly summed up new ideas sufficiently enough so that reading the probably boring books supporting them was not necessary, were “Self-Reliance”, “The Varieties of Religious Experience”, “The Culture of Narcissism” and “Sexual Personae”. My point is that, thanks to Robert Lindner’s book (I did look that up), the idea of a rebel without a cause was in the air before the movie; it probably inspired the movie’s title.

Dolce Vita - I have never heard this phrase spoken without its article, “la.” For example, no one sitting on a stoop sharing a bottle of chianti with friends (even after the lifting of the requirement that all bottles of chianti be modestly nestled in girdles of basketry), would say, “Ah! Dolce vita!La dolce vita was an idiomatic Italian expression long before the birth of cinecittà, a fact which, for the movie’s Italian audience, added a layer of cliché to the irony of Fellini’s title. (Whoever distributed the film to anglophone audiences should forever be honored for not translating the title. Can you imagine it as “The Sweet Life?”)

Catch-22 - Heller’s book was a big deal when it was published in 1961. In the decade before the 1970 release of the movie, untenable damned-if-you-do-and-damned-if-you-don’t situations were commonly referred to as “catch-22’s.”

Catfish - I have never heard “catfish” used as a metaphor for a person, a troublesome yet worthwhile one or any other kind of person. In fact, I had not even heard of the film of that name until I read Talia’s post. In my mind, a catfish still is the ugly and bony, but tasty, bottom-feeding (therefore treif) fish that sometimes grabbed your bait when you dropped it down below the level of the greedy sunnies who were nibbling your worm to bits hoping to hook a perch. If I ever had heard a person referred to as “a catfish,” I would have assumed that it was a mistaken reference to troublesome (but not especially worthwhile) Kingfish Stevens on “Amos ‘n’ Andy”.