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stunt word

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stunt word

Klaatu barada nikto: stunt phrase used to restrain Gort in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

Definition:

Defined by Tom McArthur in The Oxford Companion to the English Language (1992) as an informal, late-20th-century term for "a word created and used to produce a special effect or attract attention, as if it were part of the performance of a stunt man or a conjuror."

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • "The cinematograph by 1899 was called the 'cinema' and by 1908 the 'cine,' pronounced 'sinney,' whence the recent stunt word sin-ema for X-rated films."
    (Irving Lewis Allen, The City in Slang, Oxford University Press, 1995)


  • "Rudyard Kipling coined the word curtiosity, which means the asking of ever so many questions. It may perish with the book in which it appeared, or it may reach a venerable age like fudge--who knows?"
    (Leon Mead, Word-Coinage, 1902)


  • "Science fiction novelist Robert A. Heinlein coined [the word grok] in Stranger in a Strange Land (1961). Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, eleventh edition, defines grok as 'to understand profoundly and intuitively.' A more precise definition might be 'to scan all available information regarding a situation, digest it, and form a distilled opinion.' It's a nifty word, but outside of people who have read Heinllein, I don't think it has much currency."
    (Charles Harrington Elster, What in the Word? Harcourt, 2005)


  • "[In the science fiction film The Day the Earth Stood Still, 1951] the now-famous 'safe word' expression 'Klaatu barada nikto' that Helen Benson (Patricia Neal) uses to restrain Gort is likely a fail-safe feature installed for the purpose of a diplomatic mission such as Klaatu's. In the event of a 'misunderstanding,' Klaatu would need to have to ability to tell Gort to stand down."
    (Steven Sanders, The Philosophy of Science Fiction Film, Univ. Press of Kentucky, 2007)


  • "'Refudiate,' 'misunderestimate,' 'wee-wee’d up.' English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!"
    (Sarah Palin, Twitter post, July 2010)
Also Known As: jocular formation

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