March 21, 1999 - Slangman: Hollywood's Influence

INTRO: A worldwide audience will be tuning in Sunday night when the American film industry presents its Academy Awards. Our Wordmasters, Avi Arditti and Rosanne Skirble, get in on the act as they look at some of the words and phrases Hollywood has contributed to American English.


"I'm the king of the world!"

AA: That was last year, when Leonardo DeCaprio and the rest of the cast and crew of "Titanic" sailed straight into top honors at the Academy Awards. I'm Avi Arditti.

RS: And I'm Rosanne Skirble. In a minute we'll talk with our slang expert David Burke about some expressions that come from the movie industry.

AA: But first we're going to play a few classic movie lines that have become ingrained in the American lexicon.


"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."

RS: Sixty years ago, moviegoers were shocked to hear Clark Gable utter that naughty word in "Gone with the Wind." In polite company, the preferred word is "darn."

AA: OK, who said this famous line?


"Here's looking at you, kid."

RS: "Here's looking at you, kid." As any late-night movie fan could tell you, that's Humphrey Bogart in the classic film "Casablanca."

AA: Now we can't have Bogie without Bacall.

RS: Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart were quite the pair, starting with her film debut in 1944 in "To Have and Have Not."


"You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve. You just put your lips together and blow."

RS: Now we cut to David Burke, in Los Angeles, for a lesson on some movie-related words, including "flick" and "bomb":


BURKE: "A 'flick' was actually exactly what a movie used to be. Remember, the old movies were nothing more at the very beginning than cards. Every single card was actually a photograph, and you would flick the cards one after the next to Make the illusion of motion.'bomb' Is really interesting to me because that has changed over the years. We all knew it anywhere from before 1995, a bomb was anything bad. Usually it referred to a bad movie.'what A bomb,' something horrible that you would never want to go see. Now if you hear the term 'bomb' you may very well want to go see it. Teenagers are using 'bomb' as something very good. But, you have to say 'the bomb.'"

AA: "Or 'da bomb.'"

BURKE: "'Da bomb.' That's considered rap slang because of the accent a lot of rappers use. For some reason if you say 'a' in front of 'bomb' it is something bad. If you say the word 'the' in front of bomb it is something really good. So, you have to listen. You have to pay attention to these expressions."

RS: "There's another one -- 'cut to the chase.' Let's explore that a little bit."

BURKE: "In movies, what the director or writer will try to do is build up to the big moment, the chase scene. That's why the (early film going) audiences used to rush to those movie theaters to watch the big chase like 'Ben Hur' in the chariot scene. Those were always the scenes that were full of excitement and full of urgency, and the music used to get really, really fast, and it was a thrill to the audiences. Sometimes the directors and the writers would take a little too much time to get to the chase scene. You'd hear the director say, 'let's cut to the chase.' Then (we started) to adopt it to our (daily) lives. (For example,) if I don't answer this question you might say, 'David, cut to the chase' -- what does it mean?"

AA: "Get to the point."

Db: "Exactly. Get to the point."

RS: "David, I just have one last word for you -- 'hasta la vista, baby!'"

BURKE: "Make my day, Rosanne! [laughter]"


"Hasta la vista, baby!"


"Make my day."

RS: OK, I will! let's explain: "Hasta la vista" is Spanish for "see you later," and is used by a lot of Americans.

But from the mouth of Arnold Schwartznegger in the movie "Terminator II," it's taken on a deadly twist.

AA: Same with the expression "make my day," which started out to mean something nice. But when movie cop Harry Calaghan -- better known as Clint Eastwood -- says it in "Sudden Impact," you'd better run the other way to avoid getting your head blown off!

RS: You could run all the way to w-w-w dot slangman dot com.

That's David "Slangman" Burke's Web site. You can check out his book on slang and idioms, and also a list of the words he uses on Wordmaster. And now we've got to run -- so we can pop some popcorn and get ready to watch the Academy Awards!

AA: Next week we give out our awards in the Wordmaster Name the Next Decade Contest. With Rosanne Skirble, I'm Avi Arditti.