Written by Shelley Plett Tuesday, 08 July 2008 14:31
“What words say does not last. The words last. Because words are always the same, and what they say is never the same.” —Antonio Porchia
A screen writer who once took a job as a stripper to have something to write about. A 16-year-old with an attitude and a baby on the way. A slightly creepy Jason Bateman character. These, and so many more from the movie “Juno” offer plenty of social issues to ponder.
I admit I had to listen twice to catch a lot of the slang in this movie. Phrases like “food baby,” “your eggo is preggo” and “honest to blog.”
(I still don’t know what that means.)
It was an entirely new language to me. But for whatever reason, I just loved the name of the movie: “Juno.”
Juno is the main character created by the screen writer, Diablo Cody. In the movie she explains that her name is not like the city in Alaska and that her dad named her after Zeus’s wife, who was “super beautiful but really mean, like Diana Ross.”
So, knowing nearly nothing about Greek mythology, this was interesting to me. Add in all the other weird lines and I had to find an online translator to sort out a bunch of them. (I am pathetically out of touch, but I’m trying.)
In my search I came across etymology sites that attempt to explain the origins of words and phrases.
Like “been there, done that,” a phrase that is used all the time. It’s an Australian saying taken from an earlier American expression “I have seen the elephant.” The elephant metaphor, dated back to the Civil War, refers to the bizarre and unusual things people see during their life experiences. And that phrase is derived from an even older British saying, “to see the lions,” referencing a Tower of London tourist attraction from the 1500s.
Have you heard there’s not enough “room to swing a cat”? It doesn’t actually refer to throwing cats around, but did carry its share of pain. Some say the “cat” was a whip with nine thin leather strips (a-cat-of-nine-tails) used to discipline sailors on old ships. They would perform the whippings on deck because the ceilings below deck weren’t high enough to swing the cat all the way around.
Or how about figuring out who has the “upper hand” in a situation. This came from the baseball sandlots. The players from each team would alternate their hands from the bottom of the bat to the top. Whoever ended up with the upper hand at the top would bat first.
“Close but no cigar” came from old carnival games that handed out cigars as prizes. A contestant might come close to winning, but still didn’t get the cigar.
Or for the paranoid, taking something “with a grain of salt” comes from the belief that salt, which at one time was an expensive luxury, had healing powers. Taking salt with food or a drink was a cautionary act of preventive medicine to avoid illness or for protection from food that may or may not be poisoned.
People often either say what they don’t mean or don’t say what they do mean. But after researching word etymology, it seems like a large percentage of the things we say used to mean something completely different anyway.
Diablo Cody definitely used words to her advantage. Juno got her an Oscar after all. Her real name is Brook Busey. But after she and her husband—who she married on the Star Trek ship at a Las Vegas hotel—went on a road trip through Cody, Wyoming listening to a song called El Diablo, she decided to change her name to Diablo Cody.
As much sense as finding your muse in a strip club. Or as much sense as some of the lines in her movie. Juno did make me think. And not just about the social issues that the movie tackled in a dark comedic kind of way. Indirectly she taught me the history of swinging cat tails. And I’m sure that information will come in handy one day.
Honest to blog.