I just saw the movie The Artist, and a delightful experience it was. It even started with a movie-within-the-movie called A Russian Affair that shows some written Russian (labels on a piece of electrical equipment). But this is not a movie review; I’m here to quibble about a bit of language usage. In a montage of clippings raving about another movie-within-the-movie, one of them reads “so fun.” Now, I realize that (as the American Heritage Dictionary says) “there is some evidence to suggest that [the use of fun as an attributive adjective, as in a fun time, a fun place] has 19th-century antecedents,” but as they also say, the usage only “became popular in the 1950s and 1960s,” and this use of “so fun” (rather than the standard “so much fun” or “such fun”) would have been impossible in edited text in 1929, when the movie is supposed to have come out. All that effort expended on (gorgeous) period furnishings and automobiles, and nobody noticed so glaring a linguistic anachronism! Fie, I say! (Don’t worry, I’m not terribly serious about this; it’s the most minor of blemishes, and was doubtless noticed only by codgers like me—I grew up using fun only as a noun, and the newer usage still sounds wrong to me—but I do think it’s worth pointing out.)


  1. rootlesscosmo says:

    I loved the movie too, but Alex Ross
    is critical of the music score’s extensive borrowing of Bernard Herrmann’s “Vertigo” score. (Whether lifting the music from a 1958 movie also counts as an anachronism is a nice point.) I recognized it (I’ve seen “Vertigo” many times) but didn’t think about just what Best Original Score means until I read Ross’ comments.
    Still, I was hoping through the last scene that the director (in the story, not Michel Hazanavicius) would call out “Silence, please!” when the retake started, and I was very pleased when he did.

  2. Yes, but what about the punctuation in the intertitles?
    (In that blog post, Jonathan Poritsky mentions the allusions to “Vertigo” and “Citizen Kane” and says that “historicity is the last thing he [Hazanavicius] is trying to sell.”)

  3. David Denby has a more critical perspective on the film (which I share).
    I noticed a nonverbal anachronism in an early scene: when the ingenue Peppy is chosen for the chorus line, she does a triumphant fist pump–a gesture that arose in the sporting world and didn’t become widespread until the early 1990s.
    First citation for “fist pump” in OED is from 1981.

  4. Here‘s a direct link to Denby’s review, which I think is quite unfair. He blames it for not being a great silent movie like the great silent movies we all remember so fondly, which is absurd; it’s like blaming Prokofiev’s “Classical” Symphony for not actually being a Mozart symphony. And to use Louise Brooks as a stick to beat a modern actress with is doubly unfair; nobody is anything like Brooks. It’s “exuberant and playful,” as he acknowledges, and succeeds at what it’s trying to do; the kind of carping he does is downright ungrateful.
    I also find the kerfuffle over the use of Bernard Herrmann’s Vertigo score overblown (especially Kim Novak’s calling it “rape”); they got the rights fair and square, and it’s used effectively. You can argue that they could more effectively have used something else, but I think shock/horror over using Herrmann’s sacred score is silly.
    The fist pump, however, is a fair cop, right up there with “so fun.”

  5. In one scene we see small words capitalized in the middle of a newspaper headline, which seemed sloppy and anachronistic to me. (I found the clip: under the all-cap headline “WHO’S THAT GIRL?” the deck is “That’s The Question On Everyone’s Lips, Who Indeed?”

  6. OT: I understand most spams that unfortunately plague LH from time to time, but can someone explain what the total gibberish ones are, such as the one I’m sure LH will remove shortly here ?

  7. I still have not seen the movie, shame on me, but all these comments make me think, that movie producers, along with hiring sound-, special-FX-, and other experts, should perhaps give a thought to hire a linguist and, why not, also a sort of “localizer” (for periods in history) to prevent all these faux-pas? Although it’s always possible, that these experts’ opinions notwithstanding, the director or editor of whoever is responsible for these things decides to do it otherwise, for expediency or whatever other reason. But it always is so nice discussing these things among us quibblers…Have a good week, everybody!

  8. rootlesscosmo says:

    a sort of “localizer” (for periods in history)
    Some Hollywood studios used to do that. S.J. Perelman met an ex-officer of the Tsar’s army who had been brought to MGM to authenticate details of uniforms for some historical epic. The studio gave him an office and paid his salary every week but he couldn’t get a meeting with Thalberg on anybody on the production team, so he quit after several weeks, leaving behind a stiffly-worded note and a check refunding every nickel of his pay. The studio continued slipping checks under his office door for weeks thereafter.

  9. This stirred up a desire to try and date the borrowing of the word fun from English into Jèrriais. And the results (in the unlikely event that many people are interested), are here: No sign of adjectival use, though.

  10. mollymooly says:

    “The Full Monty” also won Best Original Score for what was 90% all-time greatest dance hits. Elderly Academy members can’t be expected to work out which bits were Original and which Jukebox before voting.

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