a gremlin digression

February 18, 2007

There are very few movie franchises where the sequel is superior to the original. While I’m sure I could run a regression analysis and come up with a conclusive list, here are a select few cases: The Godfather II, Wayne’s World 2, The Empire Strikes Back, The Wrath of Khan, and Gremlins 2: The New Batch. The Gremlins sequel is superior in every way: it’s funnier, and manages to skewer the media as well as small-town America. It also poses one of the more important philosophical questions of our day: if a Gremlin is travelling in an airplane, and they serve food in the one time zone, but then enter a new time-zone, does it count as eating after midnight? In hopes of finding an answer to this eternal question, I consulted two infallible sources of information: wikipedia, and the OED.

Wikipedia isn’t too helpful: while it informs me that the first Gremlins movie is racist, it has nothing to help me answer my question.

The OED defines a gremlin as “1. A mischievous sprite imagined as the cause of mishaps to aircraft; later, an embodiment of mischance in other activities.” Its etymology is listed as obscure, probably being formed by analogy to “goblin,” although it was coined by the R. A. F.

“Mischance” is an equally fun word. “1. Bad luck, ill fortune. In early use often with stronger sense:{dag}disaster, calamity, evil (obs.). Also personified.” It later gives rise to the great expression with mischance!: ‘confound it!,” and could also be used as a verb meaning, “To cause to be unfortunate; to bring bad luck to (a person). Obs.”

And though we may not have solved our gremlins riddle, we still learned something a long the way.

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