Skyfall

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I felt that someone ought to report for you Language Log readers on the latest Bond movie, Skyfall. So after a hard eight hours of academic work in my office last Saturday, I selflessly continued my working day into overtime by walking from Brown University to the Providence Place Mall, there to attend a screening of Skyfall in Imax format. (You will recall that I have reported on movies for Language Log before, e.g. here and here and here and here and here.)

I don't approve of gratuitous sex and violence, of course. No no no. But without the gratuitous sex and violence and wanton destruction of property, James Bond movies would be about ten minutes long and would be hard to follow. And sometimes on a Saturday night — call me depraved — I really do want to see a fat and evil would-be assassin fall into a pit of Komodo dragons, OK? So I steeled myself to watch this movie right through to the credits with its list of hundreds of stuntmen and its thanks to the army for lending helicopters and stuff like that.

Now for the language angle. After all, this is Language Log, not Crashing Helicopters into Buildings and Feeding Thugs to Carnivorous Lizards Log. Was there enough in the way of linguistic insights to justify my customary expectation that the Language Log corporate American Express card should be used to purchase my ticket? You bet. Legitimate business expense

Linguistically, there was, umm, let's see, oh, lots of stuff. Where to begin.

At one point Bond strips naked and walks unannounced into a shower stall where a slinky Eurasian babe, now not wearing the pistol she usually has strapped to her inside thigh under her dress, is soaping herself. He grasps her body from behind and says: "I like you better without your Beretta." And the rhyme, you see, only works in a non-rhotic dialect such as standard Southern British: better ("bettah") rhymes with Beretta in non-rhotic accents but not in typical American varieties of English. That's what struck me.

Then the unarmed slinky woman, before embarking on a languorous kiss with our hero, replies: "I feel naked without it." I really should have seen that line coming, but I didn't.

There was lots of other linguistic stuff. But that will do for now. I'll turn my ticket in to the Language Log accounting office for documentation.

Go and see Skyfall. It's terrific. Really. No plot spoilers from me, but I've never previously seen a villain throw an entire London Underground train at someone. The head evildoer in this one manages to do that. And seeing an entire subway train coming through a wall at you in Imax? You haven't lived until that's happened to you. Wish it had been 3-D.

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