The language today

The influence of cinema and TV on language

Film and television are part of popular culture, which takes elements from the real world for inspiration and either exaggerates or creatively reinterprets them. But what happens when it is communication in the real world that is influenced by what is projected on the screen?

Many movie phrases are already part of everyday language. The voice of our conscience, or the one who plays the role of being our critical advisor, is known as Jiminy Cricket, in reference to the character from the animated film Pinocchio of 1940. Jiminy Cricket was responsible for reorienting Pinocchio’s steps after he became a compulsive liar.

Cinema and television influence us consciously and unconsciously. Often, words or expressions used on the screen are part of popular culture, so explaining an idea further is unnecessary.

Some expressions are in the collective unconscious, such as movie scenes or scenes that are believed to belong to a movie, although, they never existed. In fact, in the classic film Tarzan, the protagonist never says, I Tarzan, you Jane but hits her chest and says Tarzan, then hits Jane and says Jane. This curiosity also occurs in original novels such as Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, where the famous phrase elementary, my dear Watson never existed.

We have all grown up watching movies whose dialogues have remained forever in our subconscious. Some expressions are so massively naturalised that we often ignore their origin. For example, the word paparazzi is a linguistic loan originating from Italian, incorporated into the lexicon of Spanish, English and other languages. Its origin is in the character Paparazzo from the famous film La Dolce Vita (1960) by Federico Fellini. Paparazzo means mosquito, and in the film, it was the name of the protagonist photographer. After the film, the term began to refer to the photographers of the so-called tabloid press.

From theatre and television

Another influence of the world of entertainment on everyday speech is found in the expression gaslighting. This term originated in 1938 after the premiere of the play of the same name. In this English play, a husband tries to drive his wife into madness by dimming the gas lights in his house and then denying that the light changes when his wife points it out. From then on, the expression refers to the psychological manipulation that someone exercises on another to make them question the validity of their thoughts and perception of reality.

Peinar la muñeca (combing the doll) is a localism used in Chile to refer to someone going through an episode of alienation or disturbance or whose mental faculties are disturbed. This ingenious phrase commonly used in the country originates in the last chapter of Los Títeres. A famous soap opera shown on Chilean television in 1984. In it, the character of actress Gloria Munchmayer, now entirely out of her mind, begins to talk to her dolls and aggressively throw them into the pool. After this, the protagonist enters the pool and hugs some dolls while dips the heads of others. Finally, she maternally hugs them all while stroking their hair. The disturbing scene exuded so much isolation and madness that it remained in the national collective subconscious and became the saying peinar la muñeca used to refer to someone who does not seem to be in their right mind.

If you have been interested in the anecdote of the origin of this expression, you can review the last scene of Los títeres.

The sagas that accompany generations

A film that has influenced the language of both older and younger generations is Star Wars. It is common for some to refer to their apprentices as my young Padawan. In addition, the film saga is complete with well-known phrases, such as the traditional I am your father, from Darth Vader or the countless references people make to the dark side of the force.

And, you know: May the force -and iScribo- be with you.

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