Wednesday April 2, 2008

Weygand or de Gaulle?

Over at Byzantium's Shores, blogger Jaquandor recently brought to my attention an apparently long-running controversy  about a line in Casablanca.  In the film, Ugarte (Peter Lorre) tells Rick (Humphrey Bogart) that he has letters of transit signed by General...somebody.  Opinions differ about which general it is that Lorre mentions.  Some hear de Gaulle, which would be a mistake on the part of the filmmakers, since Charles de Gaulle was the leader of the Free French forces, and his signature would be less than worthless in Vichy France.  Others hear Weygand, which makes more sense—Maxime Weygand was an official in the Vichy government and for a time was in charge of the North African colonies.

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Monday March 31, 2008

Postalveolars According to a Three-year-old

A few weeks ago, a staggeringly cute YouTube video made the rounds of the usual web sites.  It shows a three-year-old girl describing Star Wars.  Here it is, for those of you who somehow missed it:

If you're a Star Wars geek like me, you thought this was very cool and made you want to have kids like right now.  (My favorite comment on the MetaFilter thread about the video was "made me ovulate".)  If you're a linguistics geek like me, though, I'll bet you had a different reaction: "Hmm, what's going on with her postalveolar consonants?"

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Wednesday October 17, 2007

A Tale of Two Geddies

Names are tricky.  Many of us are assigned them at birth and accept them without much thought.  Others are bolder, taking control of their arbitrary word-handles, shedding unwanted labels for others somehow more agreeable.  This is a common practice in show business, where stage names serve to distinguish performers from each other and from us ordinary folks.  This is a story of two such performers who, in their quest for uniqueness, landed at nearly the same spot in the vast name-space.

Continue reading "A Tale of Two Geddies"

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Monday September 17, 2007

Mysterons vs. Mysterians

I suppose confusion is understandable—the names are so similar, after all—but I think it's important that we get this straight once and for all.  So pay close attention:

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Saturday August 11, 2007

Two Minutes Musketeers?

Submitted for your consideration:

Exhibit A:  A photo of Xavier University fans (pardon me: X-Treme Fans):

Exhibit B:  A clip of the Two Minutes Hate from the 1984 film Nineteen Eighty-Four (watch particularly at 1:47, 2:24, 3:45, and 4:04):

Note the distinctive two-wrists-crossed-overhead gesture.  Coincidence?  Yes—that's what coincidence is.  The Xavier fans are forming an X, while I suspect that the gesture in the film is meant to refer to one of Orwell's famous fictional slogans of Ingsoc, "Freedom is Slavery".

But it's still kind of funny.  [hat tip: Michael Sheehan]

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Tuesday August 22, 2006

Threepio's Buddy?

Over the last few days I've been noticing a steady stream of visitors to this site who have found it via Google searches for threepio's buddy (for which this page is currently the number one hit).  Anybody know what that's about?  Is there some new Star Wars parody going around that I haven't heard of?  I've gotten a big kick out of the last three, and I wouldn't want to miss out.

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Tuesday January 31, 2006

Virginia Algonquian

[I meant to post about this last week and forgot, but I haven't seen any mention of it in the linguistiblogosphere except for this post on Linguaphiles.]

Terrence Malick's new film The New World is a retelling of the story of Pocahontas and John Smith.  As this entry in MSNBC's Cosmic Log describes, Malick ran into a small problem when trying to figure out what languages his characters would speak:

Malick thought he could just find some contemporary speakers of the language that was used by Pocahontas and her tribe in pre-colonial Virginia — and he was somewhat surprised to find out that the language had been extinct for more than 200 years.

A less rigorous director might have given up, but Malick instead turned to Blair Rudes, a linguist at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte who specializes in past and present American Indian languages. Rudes' work to reconstruct and revitalize the Virginia Algonquian language might itself make for a good movie — or at least a History Channel documentary.

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Monday December 19, 2005

The Lion, the Witch, and What Have You

Saw TCoN:TLtWatW (note: no Oxford comma in the official title) yesterday with The Wife.  Capsule review: meh.  Various other random thoughts after the jump.

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Thursday September 22, 2005

Babel Fish Backwards

Here's a horrible thought: what percentage of the people who saw the movie version of  The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy this year thought to themselves, "Oh, a Babel Fish, I get it—it's a reference to the translation web site."

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Tuesday September 20, 2005

Top 100 Movie Quotes

I know it's been once around the blogosphere already, but I finally watched a repeat of "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes" last weekend.  Such a list is inevitably going to be incomplete—for example, they have exactly zero quotes from The Princess Bride—and you could play the "but what about this quote" game forever.  Still, I was repeatedly struck by how, even in the movies they did select quotes from, they didn't always pick the one I would have chosen.

Continue reading "Top 100 Movie Quotes"

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Wednesday May 25, 2005

Revenge of the Sith

The Wife and I went to see Revenge of the Sith last Friday.  We had a good time, and I've been collecting my thoughts on it (and the rest of the prequel trilogy) since then.  I'll give you my short review before the jump—after that, it's going to be deep geekery, continuity spelunking, and I warn you, it gets a little bit negative and there'll be spoilers throughout (don't complain, you've had a week to see it).  I should mention up front that there's nothing language-related, so if you're here for linguistics, now's the time to sneak away.

RotS is easily the best of movie of the prequel trilogy.  It's full of amazing special effects, including some great lightsaber duels.  The things we've been waiting to see for twenty years—Anakin's turn, the Jedi purge, and most of all the duel over the lava pit—all deliver.  I was entertained pretty much non-stop, which is something I certainly can't say of the earlier two prequel films (especially TPM).  I've read some reviews that say RotS is better than RotJ, and I can almost see it, but I think I'd have to rank the whole series V-IV-VI-III-II-I.  (And I really didn't like the Ewoks.)  Still, I Lucas did a good job with this movie, which is saying something because this is the one he had to get right.

Continue reading "Revenge of the Sith"

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Thursday September 30, 2004

Sky Captain

The Wife and I saw Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow last week. I enjoyed it more than she did, but that's hardly surprising. Much like Star Wars (although it wasn't that good), Sky Captain seemed tuned to appeal to geeks of exactly my stripe. It pressed most of my SF/pulp/adventure buttons, while still managing to be a bit flat and lifeless in parts.

[Fair Warning: spoilers ahead]

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Monday May 31, 2004

Grammar and Swashbuckling

The Wife and I watched the 1952 version of Scaramouche tonight. I'd been wanting to see it, in part because it has a reputation as the Best Fencing Movie Ever. The fencing was pretty impressive all through, too. One of the DVD extras is an interview with Mel Ferrer, who said they never repeated a sequence of blade movements in any of the duels so that they wouldn't look repetitive. Still, I was always aware of the usual stage-fencing problem: the fencers always stood too close together, so it'd be over the first time somebody thought to lunge. Fencing aside, though, two language-related points came up during the movie.

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Tuesday February 24, 2004


Over the weekend, I was sitting and watching TV with my wife. More precisely, I was watching TV and she was in the same room but paying attention to something else. An astronomy show I'd TiVo'd from the Science channel started playing, and without looking up, she said, "Is this about black holes?" I replied, "Yeah, how'd you know?", thinking she must have seen the flat green grid superimposed on a starscape, which always means "The Fabric of Spacetime" in that kind of show.

But she said, "Because I recognize the music". (Although she said it without the hyperlink.)

I surrender. I've been out-geeked.

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