Humor by Chason Gordon. See below.

Words We’ve Probably Learned From Movies

Everyone has either been the victim or the aggressor in regards to the following sentence: “Oh, you got that from [insert movie here].” As much as we’d like to deny it, several words common to our vocabulary were not known or regularly used until we saw them in a movie, whereupon the word was elevated by a certain charismatic delivery or a special metaphorical meaning. The following is a collection of those words, which is to say, don’t act like you knew these words before you saw these movies!


The Shawshank Redemption
“How can you be so obtuse? Is it deliberate?”

Definition: lacking sharpness or quickness of sensibility or intellect.

As we learned from the film, you should never ask someone in a position of power if they’re being obtuse.

The Three Amigos
“Would you say I have a plethora of piñatas?”

Definition: An excess, superfluity.

There is no stronger link between a word and a movie. Even if you learned “plethora” from your parents or teacher, they learned it from The Three Amigos.

See title

Definition: an act, process, or instance of beginning.

Now do you get the film?

Gangs of New York
“I’ll festoon my bedchamber with his guts!”

Definition: to adorn (a place) with chains, garlands, or other decorations.

To be fair, the film has several previously unfamiliar words, like “chiseler,” “rowdydow,” and “stargazer.” It’s worth seeing if your friends will let you get away with using them.

Annie Hall
“Entomology is a rapidly growing field.”

Definition: a branch of zoology that deals with insects.

A pivotal scene, illustrating that a man will say anything when he doesn’t want a woman to move in with him. This is also the film that caused people to describe things as being as big as a Buick.

See title

Definition: a casino employee who collects and pays bets and assists at the gaming tables.

“Croupier” is to “dealer” what “barista” is to “coffee maker.” I just insulted a few of my friends.

The Matrix Reloaded
“Ergo, some of my answers you will understand, and some you will not.”

Definition: therefore, hence.

This is a word that can and should not be said with a straight face (but that Matrix character was a robot, so we can forgive him).

Half Nelson
(it was on the chalkboard)

Definition: discussion and reasoning by dialogue as a method of intellectual investigation, the opposition between two interacting forces.

I also learned the word “deracinate,” meaning “to pull up the roots,” from Ryan Gosling in The Believer. I’ve learned a lot from Ryan Gosling.

Back to the Future
“1.21 gigawatts!”

Definition: a unit of power equal to one billion watts. Named after the Scottish engineer James Watt.

If you already knew the word “gigawatt” before Back to the Future, you can probably afford a DeLorean.

The Big Lebowski
“When he moved to Hollywood he had to go door to door to tell everyone he was a pederast.”

Definition: one that practices pederasty, as in relations with a boy.

The use of “practices” is an unfortunate word choice, but that’s the dictionary’s fault.

There Will Be Blood
“Drainage! Drainage, Eli, you boy.”

Definition: the act or process of draining, especially through soil. Often used as an agricultural term.

It’s better to hear this word in the context of land, and not, you know, your body.

Quid Pro Quo
The Silence of the Lambs
“Quid pro quo. I tell you things, you tell me things.”

Definition: something given or received for something else.

I’m pretty sure it comes from Latin, but what doesn’t, really?

The Road to Perdition
See title

Definition: utter damnation, eternal destruction (a bad situation).

“Perdition” is to “hell” what “pugilism” is to “boxing.” Please don’t question my analogies.

“One vast and ecumenical holding company…”

Definition: worldwide in influence, or representing the whole of a body of churches.

Nearly every character in Network has a wide vocabulary. If the film wasn’t so good, it would be incredibly annoying.

“You know what word I’m not comfortable with: nuance.”

Definition: a subtle distinction or variation.

Perhaps you were aware of “nuance” before Diner, but I bet Paul Reiser changed your perception of it.

Pater Familias
Oh Brother Where Art Thou?
“I’m the damn pater familias!”

Definition: the male head of a household.

This word hasn’t quite entered the general vernacular, but it should.

Glengarry Glen Ross
“You can’t close the leads you’re given, you can’t close shit.”

Definition: a piece of information which identifies a potential customer.

Seriously, if you have any good leads, let me know.

Jurassic Park
See title

Definition: the period of the Mesozoic era between the Triassic and the Cretaceous marked by the presence of dinosaurs and the first appearance of birds.

Maybe you knew this from sixth grade science, maybe you didn’t. In any case, if a park is not a Jurassic park, it’s probably not worth going to.

Chasing Amy
“Your mother’s a tracer!”

Definition: one who traces designs or markings, or in the context of Chasing Amy, not a real artist.

Every art has its version of the tracer. From writers who punch up scripts, to those guys who manually impregnate cows. The last example was a bad one.

“Soporific means ‘makes you sleepy.’”

Definition: see above.

How would you use it in a sentence? You might say, “This article is having a soporific effect on me.” You might say that, if you want to be rude.

Mean Streets
“What’s a mook?”

Definition: ?


Now use all these words in a sentence. Have it to me by 5.

Definitions source: Mirriam-Webster

Other Recent Pieces:
A Review of the New Year’s Fireworks
Don’t Eat the Architecture
Let’s Make a Gingerbread House!

Chason Gordon
copyright 2012
Originally appeared in Grolsch Film Works

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One comment on “Words We’ve Probably Learned From Movies

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This entry was posted on 12/18/2012 by in History and tagged , , , , , .
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