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The Revenant Delivers Mystery Before the Film Begins

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The Revenant Delivers Mystery Before the Film Begins

The Revenant seems like a good mystery before anyone sets foot in the theater: you have to look up the title to figure out what it’s about!

The first time I saw a commercial for The Revenant, a new film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, I didn’t exactly see the commercial: I heard it. I was cooking or doing something that took my eyes away from the screen.

At first, I thought I’d misheard the announcer, who surely must have said, “The Relevant.”

It turned out, as I later learned, I hadn’t misheard. The word really was revenant.

Before I even considered paying an outrageous amount of money to go sit in a theater to watch a film, I already had a different problem: trying to figure out what the hell the title meant.

When I looked up revenant, I found a surprise. A revenant is a person who has returned, especially supposedly from the dead. It made its way to English in the 19th century from French and meant, literally, “coming back,” from a form of the word revenir.

So a revenant is like a ghost, right?

Well, not necessarily. Digging deeper, I find this:

A revenant is a visible ghost or animated corpse that was believed to return from the grave to terrorize the living.

A visible ghost. Well that’s interesting.

Not all ghosts are threatening, we’re told, but these revenents seem like a unique brand of trouble. Though some were known to return from the dead with a purpose, particularly some kind of revenge, which is the implied meaning of the movie title, others seem to return just to harass their surviving family members.

I suppose that means we should all remember to take time to be kind to our relatives just in case, when their time comes, they get any supernaturally evil ideas.

Have you seen the movie yet? If so, what did you think of it?

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Aislinge Kellogg
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Um, huh. I’d’ve thought the same thing you did when you heard the announcer say the title: surely he erred in pronouncing the name. But then, there are a lot of older words not commonly known or used that festoon the English language – almost all of them originating from so many other times, beliefs, cultures and, of course, languages, so why not ‘revenant’? Now, I certainly thought you meant ghosts at first, as well. But the wording that caught my eye with the extended meaning was not so much the ‘visible ghost’ as ‘animated corpse’. The direct translation of… Read more »
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