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It’s Groundhog Day

Groundhog

When I found out that today is Groundhog Day, my mind immediately jumped to the sense in which I know this phrase: when you feel as if you’re reliving a tedious experience over and over again – like Bill Murray’s character in the 1993 film. What, there’s a special day dedicated to this?!

Of course, it didn’t take me long to realize that today is the real Groundhog Day – the day on which, according to this definition:

the groundhog is said to come out of its hole at the end of hibernation. If the animal sees its shadow — i.e. if the weather is sunny — it is said to portend six weeks more of winter weather.

I immediately phoned my favourite Oxford dictionaries editor. (No, I absolutely will not give you her phone number!)  ‘Do you realize’, I gibbered excitedly, ‘that there is a sense of Groundhog Day that isn’t included in our online dictionary?’
‘I know’, she responded, with an exasperated sigh (clearly having a Groundhog-Day-feeling of her own), ‘it’s going in for the February update.’
‘Good!’, I snapped, slamming down the phone, and upsetting my coffee cup.

Déjà vu?

Mopping up coffee with my mouse mat, I suddenly felt most peculiar: as if that exact same thing had happened to me just moments ago. ‘It’s a glitch in the matrix!’ I shouted, and my startled colleagues asked if I was suffering from déjà vu (again).  Mollified by the fact that they got my reference to The Matrix (despite mostly having been 12 when the film came out in 1999), I started thinking about the power of films to influence our everyday language, from single words to longer catchphrases.

There’s babelicious, an evocative portmanteau of babe and delicious, first coined in Wayne’s World; mini-me, from Dr Evil’s small clone in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, now verbal shorthand for a smaller or younger version of something else; and bunny boiler, a reference to the film Fatal Attraction, first recorded in a quote from an interview with Glenn Close in the Dallas Morning News in 1990, according to the OED.

Go ahead, make my day …

Several longer phrases from the silver screen have also made their way into everyday speech, and are cleverly parodied, gleefully misquoted, or adapted for adverts and headlines ad nauseam. Catchphrases that seem to have stuck in the popular imagination include ‘I’ll have what she’s having’ (When Harry met Sally), ‘I’ll be back’ (The Terminator), ‘We’re not in Kansas any more’ (Wizard of Oz), and ‘You had me at hello’ (Jerry Maguire). This last example has excellent potential for adapting and extending – just replace hello with any word or phrase of your choice.

Here’s hoping Punxsutawney Phil doesn’t see his shadow today – and may the Force be with you.