button for Wondrous Words Wednesday memeWondrous Words Wednesday is hosted by Bermudaonion’s Weblog. Kathy says: “Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our reading.”

Watching The Smiling Lieutenant, with Maurice Chevalier and Claudette Cobert trading humorous innuendo and suggestive looks, made me curious about films from the early 1930s. I’m reading Pre-Code Hollywood: Sex, Immorality, and Insurrection in American Cinema by Thomas Doherty. Thomas Doherty is an academic and his vocabulary reflects that. I used my Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary (1979) for my first source of definitions.

Page 4, fabula

The same period marked another crucial transition, the shift from film-as-spectacle to film-as-fabula, from looking at things move to being moved by things on screen.

My dictionary doesn’t have fabula, but it does have fabular: of, relating to, or having the form of a fable. Wikipedia was a bit more helpful. Fabula and syuzhet or ways of talking about narrative. Quoting Paul Cobley, the Wikipedia article says that the fabula is “the raw material of a story, and syuzhet, the way a story is organized.”

Page 6, prolegomenon

As theological prolegomenon and cultural guidebook, the Code was a sophisticated piece of work.

prolegomenon: prefatory remarks; specif : a formal essay or critical discussion serving to introduce and interpret an extended work.

Page 6, grunted,  jeremiad and bluenose

Contrary to popular belief, the document was not a grunted jeremiad from bluenose fussbudgets, but a polished treatise reflecting long and deep thought in aesthetics, education, communications theory, and moral philosophy.

I’m familiar with grunted as a verb and grunt as a noun, but neither as an adjective. The dictionary wasn’t much help here, so I’m going to assume that it means the bluenoses were grunting their jeremiad.

jeremiad: a prolonged lamentation or complaint

Rick is reading another of Thomas Doherty’s books,  Hollywood’s Censor: Joseph I. Breen and the Production Code Administration, and ran into “bluenose” before I did. Bluenose: one who advocates a rigorous moral code. The sense we got from the other book is that bluenoses were easily ignored and ridiculed in the culture and that it took more forces than that part of society to get Hollywood to conform to any code.

Page 10, diegesis

Even for moral guardians of Breen’s dedication, however, film censorship can be a tricky business. Images must be cut, dialogue overdubbed or deleted, and explicit messages and subtle implications excised from what the argot of academic film criticism calls the “diegesis.”

This was defined in the text with a lovely example, so here it is:

Put simply, the diegesis is the world of the film, the universe inhabited by the characters existing in the landscape of cinema. “Diegetic” elements are experienced by the characters in the film and (vicariously) by the spectator; “nondiegetic” elements are apprehended by the spectator alone. For example, in Casablanca (1942), when Sam performs “As Time Goes By” on the piano for Ilsa at Rick’s Cafe, the music is diegetic, heard by Sam, Ilsa, and Rick (“I told you never to play that song!”) as well as by the spectator. When the orchestral score reprises “As Time Goes By” on the soundtrack as Rick bids Ilsa goodbye at the airport, the music is nondiegetic, heard by and affecting the heartstrings of the spectator but not Rick, Ilsa, Victor Lazlo, and Captain Renault.

That’s it for me this week. Check the links at today’s Wondrous Words Wednesday post at Bermudaonion’s Weblog for more new words. I learned the role of oasthouses in brewing from Word Lily’s post and what a corroboree is from My Reader’s Block.  

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