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10 Now Common Words & Phrases That Originated Onscreen

Some movies, such as Gone with the Wind, The Godfather, Forrest Gump, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s have left a lasting imprint on entire generations and became part of our cultural heritage. Just one of the many ways cinema and television have influenced the modern culture is by becoming part of our vocabularies. Much like Shakespeare’s writings have enriched the English language centuries ago, the world of cinema continues contributing to our speech and language today.
So much so, in fact, that even those who haven't seen these memorable films start using words or entire lines from these movies in everyday speech. This has happened innumerable times through cinema’s over century-long history. Films and TV shows have invented and popularized countless words we use in everyday speech today. Here are just 10 excellent examples you’ll want to learn about!

1. Life is like a box of chocolates

English Words and Phrases That Came from Cinema and TV Life is like a box of chocolates
Pretty much everyone is familiar with this beautiful metaphor that highlights the unexpectedness of life, and we have the 1994 cinema classic Forrest Gump to thank. As Forrest famously states in the film, “Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” And while it was the Hollywood classic that popularized the phrase, it wasn't actually invented by the scriptwriters of the film. The metaphor was actually borrowed from the novel titled Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (1987), but it was still the film that made it the widespread idiom that it is today.

2. Ribbit

English Words and Phrases That Came from Cinema and TV Ribbit
What noise does the frog make? - "Ribbit", right? At least that's what most of us were taught. However, it turns out that "ribbit" is quite a recent invention that comes from TV. The earliest recorded instance of this word is from a 1965 episode of the TV series Gilligan’s Island. In the episode, one of the characters is called Ribbit the Frog (voiced by Mel Blanc). Linguists are not sure what sound people associated with frogs in English before the 1960s, but it might have been "croak" because Oxford English Dictionary mentions that the verb “croak” entered English in the 15th century and means to “utter a deep, hoarse, dismal cry, as a frog or a raven".

3. The perfect storm

English Words and Phrases That Came from Cinema and TV The perfect storm
The 2000 disaster drama The Perfect Storm is based on a 1997 book by Sebastian Junger of the same title. The book is based on a true story of the crew of a fishing vessel called Andrea Gail trying to survive a devastating sea storm. While the novel was popular, it was the film that managed to bring the captivating story to a wider audience and made the phrase "the perfect storm" popular. In modern English, the perfect storm is "an unusual combination of events or things that produce an unusually bad or powerful result," according to Collins dictionary. Everything that could possibly go bad, goes bad.

4. You're toast

English Words and Phrases That Came from Cinema and TV You're toast
In colloquial speech, the threat "you're toast" is synonymous with "you're done" or "you're finished", but did you know that we have Bill Murray to thank for this term? The now-iconic movie line "All right, this chick is toast!" appeared in the original 1984 Ghostbusters film, and it was improvised by the actor. The Oxford English Dictionary cites the film as the source of this phrase, but it was Bill Murray who actually came up with it, as the original script of the film meant for him to say, "I’m gonna turn this guy into toast" instead. This change ended up significant, the phrase spread like wildfire, and soon became part of spoken English.

5. Spam

English Words and Phrases That Came from Cinema and TV Spam
Have you ever wondered why we use the same word to refer to both canned, cooked pork and undesired emails? Short answer - blame Monty Python, the famous British surreal comedy troupe! It turns out that Monty Python sang about the canned ham so incessantly and mentioned it in their show Monty Python's Flying Circus so many times that it eventually inspired the computer term, which was coined in the early 1990s.

6. Gaslight

English Words and Phrases That Came from Cinema and TV Gaslight

To "gaslight someone" means to manipulate a person to a point that they start questioning their own sanity. This phrase comes from a famous movie from the 1940s titled "Gas Light" starring Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, and Joseph Cotton. In the film, the husband attempts to drive his wife to the point of madness by falsely insisting that the gaslights in their home didn't flicker, when they did. The title of the film stuck with the viewers, and in the 1950s, "giving someone the gaslight treatment" meant that they were manipulated and mislead. Since the 1960s, this phrase was shortened to the verb "gaslighting", as it is used today. 

Related Article: 10 Ordinary English Words That Have a Surprising Etymology

7. My bad

English Words and Phrases That Came from Cinema and TV My bad
The apologetic phrase "my bad" is extremely widespread today, but back in the early 1990s, you wouldn't heart it a lot. Linguists believe that the phrase first appeared in 1985 and was a very niche expression used mainly in basketball terminology, so much so that newspapers explained what it meant when citing it. This all changed in 1995 with the release of the romantic comedy Clueless that tells the story of a rich high-school student going through adolescence and trying to find her identity. The use of "my bad" and other teen girl slang words like "as if!" and "whatever" exploded with the popularity of the film, and today, everyone, not just teens, use it on a day-to-day basis.

8. The dark side

English Words and Phrases That Came from Cinema and TV The dark side

"The dark side" as a term to describe "the negative or troubled part of someone or something that is usually concealed" according to the McGraw-Hill dictionary comes from the "Star Wars" films. The term is an essential element of the Star Wars universe and it refers to the "dark side of the force" which the Jedi, the protagonists of the film series, must resist and fight. The term was first mentioned in the initial 1977 Star Wars film in the saga - Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. Today, we can say that anything from a person to the internet can have "a dark side".

9. Nimrod

English Words and Phrases That Came from Cinema and TV Nimrod
If you're familiar with the Bible, the name Nimrod might ring a bell. In the scripture, Nimrod was the king of Shinar, described as “the first on earth to be a mighty man. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord.” So, how come we know the word "nimrod" today as a synonym for "fool"? Believe it or not, it's the crowd favorite trickster, Bugs Bunny, who's responsible for such a dramatic change in meaning. In the early 1932 Bugs Bunny cartoon, the cottontail exclaims to the audience, "What a nimrod!" referring to his arch-enemy, the hunter Elmer Fudd. The rest is, as they say, history.

10. Bucket list

English Words and Phrases That Came from Cinema and TV Bucket list
The phrase "bucket list" sounds like it's been part of the English language forever, but in reality, it's one of "the youngest" terms on this list! The term was invented by screenwriter Justin Zackham in 1999 when he created his own bucket list, and a few years later, in 2007, the phrase became the title of the now-iconic film starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman about two terminally-ill men who support each other to fulfill their greatest wishes before they kick the proverbial bucket. Today, the meaning of the phrase "bucket list" has expanded to refer to a to-do list before any major deadline, e.g. university graduation or the end of summer.
Share these fun words with those who enjoy the cinema!
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