Sophie’s Choice

From an article about the film Sophie’s Choice by Eric D. Snider:

“Of all the thousands of films ever made, how many have titles that became common figures of speech? A handful, maybe? Sophie’s Choice is one of them, its title now shorthand for a seemingly impossible decision between two equally attractive options. (“My best friend is getting married at the same time that my favorite band is doing their farewell concert?! What a Sophie’s choice!”) Even people who haven’t seen the movie know what the expression means, a testament to the movie’s impact on pop culture.”

There’s a perfect example of this phrase being used, beginning at about 3:15 in this video from one of my favorite shows:


The origin of Robotics


When words become commonplace enough, it’s easy to assume that they have always been used, or that they are some how intrinsically related to whatever they refer to, but in reality a lot of the terminology we use comes from literature. Case in point:

10 Words You Might Think Came from Science (But are Really from Science Fiction)

In addition to that set of words, according to the OED, the term “robot” was originally a “reference to the mass-produced workers in Karel Čapek’s play  R.U.R.: Rossum’s Universal Robots (1920) which are assembled from artificially synthesized organic material.”

After all, words don’t just appear out of thin air with a predefined meaning. Someone has to come up with them at some point.

Are there any words, expressions, or phrases that you’ve been surprised to discover come from a book, movie, play or poem? (And don’t worry, Shakespeare will get his own discussion.)

It’s a bird! It’s a plane!


…it’s Superman!

You probably mentally completed that famous phrase involuntarily as soon as you started reading it, huh? That’s because the Man of Steel has, over the last seventy-plus years, become such a huge part of our culture that we all know he is able to “leap tall buildings in a single bound.”

And we know that Clark Kent is a mild-mannered reporter just as well as we know that Superman is faster than a speeding bullet.

The story of the Kryptonian growing up in Kansas before becoming a reporter for The Daily Planet in Metropolis, all while trying to keep his identity secret from Lois Lane and defeat Lex Luthor is so well know and has so permeated the collective consciousness, that it would be impossible to guess at how often it is referenced in film, television, music, literature and even advertisements.

Continue reading

The ultimate pop culture fan

If you’ve never seen Community, you’re missing one of the most heavily pop culture-laden shows on television (also: Psych). The show itself mimics, mocks and references TV and movies, and it also features its own resident pop culture expert. The character of Abed is obsessed with all things pop culture, and finds that to be the easiest way for him to relate to the word around him. He frequently compares his life and the circumstances around him to plot devices, character archetypes, and often to specific TV shows, movies, and characters.

I wanted to share this clip from the show because it illustrates some of my reasoning behind this blog. In conversation with another character, Jeff, Abed discusses the need that we have to filter our lives through pop culture (while at the same time attempting to make Jeff believe that is the exact opposite of what he wants). Jeff and Abed both make some interesting points about using pop culture to express ourselves and make sense of what goes on around us:

For more examples of pop culture references in Community, check out these links:

Believe in magic, you muggle!

You’re probably at least somewhat familiar with a certain young wizard who goes by the name of Harry Potter, right? Of course you are! What, have you been living under a rock in the Chamber of Secrets?!

The Office: The worst thing about prison?

via AOL TV

The Harry Potter franchise has become one of the most successful literary (and film) series of all time in the course of the last decade-or-so, and along with that comes, of course, the adoption of phrases and terms from the media phenomenon into our vernacular.

Michael Scott, and Leslie Knope aren’t the only ones referencing the world of Harry Potter in his common conversation. It’s made its way into pop culture, but also into our own culture. Sure, you may not be throwing references to Hermione Granger into your casual chit chat, but I bet that if you heard someone say “Muggle,” you’d have a fair idea of what they meant.

Continue reading

English 2.0


“I’ll Google it.”

“Did you YouTube that video?”

“She’s a blogger.”

I can only wonder what my great grandparents would have thought of those phrases. It’s basically gibberish, right?

Well, as with any other technology that makes an impact on daily life, Web 2.0 has changed a lot about the way we communicate, and I don’t just mean that in the sense that we now learn more about our friends and family via Facebook than through face-to-face conversation.

I mean that, quite literally, the words we use to express ourselves are different today than they were a few years ago. There are a few reasons for that. Perhaps the most significant is that the technology that we use on a day-to-day basis is different than the technology we used a few years ago. I’d venture to say that another reason is that language is a tremendously flexible tool. The English language seems particularly capable of stretching and bending to fit our needs.

Continue reading