06 May 2012

You've Been Warned: You can't say that to the Avengers!

It was such a roaring success last time (snort) that the NSFW Sunday post returns for an encore.

Like most of the country, I went to see "The Avengers" this weekend. I will endeavor not to spoil it for those of you who haven't yet. I enjoyed it more than I was expecting based on the early reviews, and I hope everyone who says that the writing in summer blockbusters doesn't matter will change their minds. (Hey, those punchy scene-ending lines can actually be clever!)

But this is not a review of the movie; this is an inquiry into language. The main villain in "The Avengers" is Loki (played by Tom Hiddleston), Thor's brother who wants to run the world. All the gods in the Thor-niverse (sorry) speak in British Empire accents for some reason, possibly because the "Thor" prequel was directed by Kenneth Branagh and most of the actors are British or Empire (Chris Hemsworth is Australian, for example). This context is important, I feel, for the scene in "The Avengers" in which Loki is criticizing the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, not British) and calls her a quim. Quim is a British slang term for vagina. (Urban Dictionary says it's Welsh in origin, which is the most academic usage of UD ever.)

Not that I object to it on moral grounds but I was surprised that they let that slide, even in a PG-13 movie. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the approximate American equivalent of that word would not be used in the same way, in the same situation. ("Bridesmaids" used it, but with a big pause at the end as if to say, Did she just really...) But if people don't recognize it (and my audience didn't react strongly either way), then it's... fine? This could set an interesting precedent for blockbusters trying to do an end-run around the MPAA, a cousin to "Battlestar Galactica"'s stand-in usage of "fracking." Then again, maybe it isn't that serious or much-used a word these days in its country of origin.

Any Brits or Empire want to speak to the use of "quim" in your neighborhood? (...That came out wrong.) Or do you just want to talk about Tom Hiddleston's hair, which is ridiculous?

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