Can a movie change the way we speak?

Like many things, David Bowie put it best when he wrote: “It was cold, and it rained, so I felt like an actor.” Twelve little words that succinctly sum up how cinema has changed the way we think.

There’s been plenty of debate about how movies can warp the minds of civilised viewers, but I’m not interested in the ‘do violent movies cause violence’ debate – well, I am, but a light hearted blog written in my spare time really isn’t the place for that.

This is a Quick Read, so we’re not getting too deep into the psychology of cinema – instead, we’re going to talk about times when a line, phrase or even just a word from a film has influenced the way we talk.

And of course by ‘we’, I mean ‘me’.

To be clear, this isn’t a celebration of movie catchphrases, rather a look at whether hearing the delivery of a line – or even just an innocuous word – in a film can affect the way we speak in everyday life.

For example, it’s pretty much impossible for a film fan to hear the phrase “game over” without immediately adding a “man!”, in the style of a terrified Bill Paxton. Likewise, it’s difficult for me to hear “you’re joking”, without repeating it in a Connery brogue as if I’ve just been told an ejector seat has been installed in my car.

But actually influencing the way I talk? Well, they’re a bit smaller than that. Here’s a short, and far from exhaustive, list…

  • “Kinda” is always pronounced in the same way as Ron Livingston as he and Jon Favreau play mini golf in Swingers.
  • Doesn’t matter what the question is, whenever I say “I’m not”, there’s always a heavy emphasis on the final ‘t’, thanks to Heath Ledger’s Joker addressing the mob bosses when they say he’s crazy in The Dark Knight.
  • Any mention of the word “flip” is uttered in the style of Benicio del Toro in The Usual Suspects. Sometimes followed by a muttered “flip you for real” under my breath.
  • See also: an elongated “honeymoon” from del Toro’s terrifying Dario in Licence To Kill.
  • This one comes up less often, but in this house, the word “incarcerated” must always be said in the style of Daniel Craig in Logan Lucky – broken into syllables with emphases all over the place.

Written down, they’re nothing special, and even in the films themselves they whip by with very little fanfare (perhaps with the exception of del Toro’s bizarre delivery in The Usual Suspects), but to me each of those words and phrases is so memorable it’s weird for me not to say them that way.

Reading this back, I worry this may just be something that I do. Please, if this is a condition that affects you too, let me know in the comments, or on Twitter and Facebook – maybe we can form a support network!

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