8 words to help you watch the Oscars
Are the Oscars not wordy enough for you? Let’s make the films nominated for Best Picture at the 2016 Academy Awards a little more engaging with several wordy facts.
1. The Big Short
The big what? The term short has been in use since at least the mid-19th century to describe the process of ‘selling stock or other securities or commodities which one does not own at the time, in the hope of buying at a lower price before the delivery time’. According to the current entry in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the adjectival use of ‘short’ first appeared in print in an 1849 article in Merchants’ Magazine.
2. Bridge of Spies
The U-2 plane shot down over Soviet territory has nothing to do with Bono and company. Rather, the name ‘U-2’ was used by manufacturer Lockheed Martin to mask the real purpose of the specially-developed reconnaissance aircraft. The U was ostensibly short for utility, the category of aircraft it was listed under. Another code name for the U-2 plane project was ‘The Dragon Lady’, which was later adopted by many as the aircraft’s nickname.
Like many other place names in New York City, Brooklyn comes down to us from the original Dutch colonists. Up until 1898, when the area was incorporated into the larger City of New York, Brooklyn was its own city. The word Brooklyn is an English adaptation of the name of the Dutch town Breukelen (previously spelled Breuckelen). If you’re looking for a bigger bite of the Big Apple, check out our post on New York City terms.
4. Mad Max: Fury Road
The character played by Charlize Theron in the film carries the strange-sounding moniker ‘Imperator Furiosa’. According to the OED, the word imperator comes straight out of Roman history, originally meaning ‘commander’ in Latin and was a title conferred by soldiers upon a victorious general during the Republic. Later, during the Empire, the word was used to refer to the head of state (the emperor), in whose name all victories were won. The word furiosa is clearly derived from the Latin word furiōsus, the same word that gives us furious.
5. The Martian
While most people today think of the planet Mars when they hear the word Martian, that wasn’t always the case. In fact, the word Martian has a long history of being used in a more figurative sense, pointing towards association with the Roman god Mars, the god of war, after whom the planet was named. As the OED puts it: ‘relating to or exhibiting combative, aggressive, or masculine qualities associated astrologically or symbolically with the planet Mars’. The earliest use of the word as a noun referring to an imagined inhabitant of Mars occurs in the late 19th century.
6. The Revenant
The title of this 19th-century wilderness saga is far and away the most confusing word of this Oscar season. In fact, the word revenant has been one of the most looked-up words on OxfordDictionaries.com since the film went into wide release earlier this year. An uncommon word, revenant means a ‘person who has returned, especially supposedly from the dead’. The word is of French origin, derived from the French verb revenir, ‘to come back’.
While the film Room most obviously refers to the sense of the word referring to ‘a part or division of a building enclosed by walls, floor, and ceiling’ – as in the shed that Jack and Ma are confined to – the word room can also refer to an ‘opportunity or scope for something to happen or be done’.
Spotlights first appeared at the turn of the 20th century, referring to sources of artificial light that cast narrow, intense beams. The word was used broadly, but had particular use in the theater world. Before had the used of spotlights, the preferred method of ‘spot’ lighting was using limelight, a term that has since entered into figurative use. Limelight was, quite literally, the intense white light produced by heating a piece of lime in an oxyhydrogen flame.