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What's the meta?



>A movie review headlined "Awfully meta" went on to say that "Scream 4" is a most self-aware film, "not only aware of itself as horror film, but aware of its awareness. It is, as one of the film's film nerds would say, quite meta."

Random House lists several meanings of meta, all of them assuring me that I've been wise to avoid it. Here's one: "Pertaining to or occupying two positions (1,3) in the benzene ring that are separated by one carbon atom."

But the movie reviewer didn't seem to have benzene rings and carbon atoms in mind. I turned to the Urban Dictionary for assistance, and found a little: "A term, especially in art, used to characterize something that is characteristically self-referential."

Now I'm sufficiently emboldened to try to use the word, thereby making it mine. Here goes: " 'Riding Shotgun' is Randolph Scott's most meta film." Looks good to me. The usage and the movie.

"It took another six days of fierce fighting and appalling bloodshed before he was captured, in his vest, as he tried to flee with his family in a small boat across the lagoon that dominates the city." In American English, he was captured in his undershirt. What Americans call a vest is a waistcoat in Britain.

While we're rummaging through British English, here's a passage to ponder from "Buried for Pleasure," by Edmund Crispin. "The task was enlivened by an acrimonious discussion which was raging there when Fen entered — a discussion which involved Jacqueline, Myra, a louring youth called Harry, and a buxom village girl, Olive ... 'We was in the gorse by fourth green. We was mollocking,' said Harry with distinct satisfaction. 'She'm a rare un for mollocking, is Olive.' Olive appeared gratified by this tribute. 'Me Grammer,' she remarked, 'me Grammer allus says: 'When oats be cutting, maids be riggish.' "

Mollocking means what you think and riggish is "wanton." Louring is a variation of lowering; Harry was "frowning or sullen."

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