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The Shawnee News-Star
  • What's in a word?

  • Over Labor Day weekend, I watched several of my dad's favorite movies with him. Among them was 1986's “The Fly,” a science fiction film starring Jeff Goldblum. The movie's tagline, also spoken in the film, is “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”
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  • Over Labor Day weekend, I watched several of my dad’s favorite movies with him. Among them was 1986’s “The Fly,” a science fiction film starring Jeff Goldblum. The movie’s tagline, also spoken in the film, is “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”
    I put on my detective cap and discovered the phrase’s initial appearance was in, indeed, “The Fly.” I’ve used the phrase jokingly on several occasions, clueless to its origin.
    Exploring pop culture through film and literature contributes to an expansion of one’s repertoire of references, though some phrases are exponentially more obvious than others.
    When ears around the world hear “I’ll be back” in an Austrian accent, Arnold Schwarzenegger, in “The Terminator,” is the instant association.
    Minds flash to “The Wizard of Oz” when the words “There’s no place like home” are spoken.
    Al Pacino is unmistakably the individual behind the intimidating “Scarface” line “Say ‘hello’ to my little friend.”
    But, what about understated references? What about the phrases that subtly find their way into our everyday vocabulary?
    William Shakespeare seems to be the king of unrecognized authorship. He created now-common sayings like “In a pickle,” “Night owl,” “Too much of a good thing,” “Love is blind,” and the list continues on for “Forever and a day.”
    Looking through a complete collection of Shakespeare’s invented phrases, I stumbled across “Swagger,” which appears in several of the playwright’s works. “Swagger” dates back to the 16th century? And here I thought “Swag” was a product of lyrics from Justin Bieber and his musical counterparts.
    I’ve always enjoyed etymology, the linguistic study and break down of words. For Christmas, I received a large etymology book; It’s filled with explanations for gems like “Robot” – a word derived from the Czech word “Robota,” which means forced labor.
    Still, I find the cultural history of phases more interesting than individual words. Starting now, I’m going to attempt to pay attention to seemingly contemporary phrases. There’s a chance Shakespeare created them, bringing my understanding of modern language “full circle.”

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