Off topic: Movie language
Thread poster: Heike Behl, Ph.D.

Heike Behl, Ph.D.  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:51
Member (2003)
English to German
+ ...
Jul 16, 2004

After yet another hilarious description of a movie rating, I did some web browsing...

The Americans are also obsessed with language. Many of their movie ads warn simply of “language,” which I think is pretty much par for the course since the talkies came in. We call it dialogue. One ad promised “brief language”; does this mean a lot of short words? A recent Sunday New York Times offered the following movie choices: language, some language, brief language, strong language and pervasive language. For me, “pervasive language”
at the movies is the guy who invariably sits behind me and talks throughout, pausing only to kick the back of my seat. I generally respond with “strong language.” This can lead to “violence” and “scary scenes.”

Would you rather see a movie billed as “not recommended for children, coarse language, frightening scenes, torture and violence” or one offering “intense strong violence, sexuality/nudity and language”? Trick question: these are descriptions of the same
movie, Gangs of New York. The first warning is Canadian, the second American. We don’t seem to mind about the sexuality/nudity and they’re not particularly worried about the torture. Doesn’t that tell you something?

Occasionally the warnings are useful. A few months ago The New York Times advertised a movie that featured, among other warnings, “teen partying.” Phew! I might easily have gone to see that movie and been exposed to God knows what. I suspect teen
partying is one of my least favourite thematic elements. Mostly, though, they’re not giving me the warnings I really need. How about: “vapid script, wooden acting, director hasn’t a clue, cop-out ending, gratuitous product placement, shameless Hollywood manipulation”? Or do we just take all that for granted?

I surveyed the rack of current DVD choices and picked up the box for, The Weight of Water, a
thriller starring Sean Penn and Catherine McCormack, that was released in 2000 to tepid reviews.
The movie intertwines stories about an 1873 ax murder of two women and a contemporary
couple. But I haven't seen it. On the DVD box, I noticed the warning label, "Violence, sex/nudity,
and brief language."
"Brief language?"
It is not that I expect an ax-murderer movie to sound exactly like Thackery or Dickens, but for the
language to be so brief as to require an explicit warning is pretty worrisome. I couldn't risk it. I put
the DVD back on the shelf.
I suppose "brief language" must mean something like occasional swearing or vulgarity. But, if so,
it is an arresting euphemism. Parent to foul-mouthed child, "Don't you ever use brief language
again!" Student explaining to teacher the origin of a shoving match, "He used brief language in
reference to the alleged lack of connubial status of my parents."
Why wouldn't the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which controls the rating
system, just come out and say, "some swearing" or "occasional expletives?" [...] Dr. Seuss stands out as a writer who stuck pretty close to "brief language" in the literal sense. But
the new cinematic version of The Cat in the Hat does not get the "brief language" warning. It
does, however, get its own kind of naughty language label, "Mild crude humor and doubleentendres."
Among current movies, Master and Commander and the new Halle Berry flick, Gothika, bear the
warning "brief language." The label appears in unexpected places too. DreamWorks's animated
Bad Santa is rated "R" for "pervasive language, strong sexual content, and some violence." Bad
Santa made me wonder if MPAA was aiming at an Aristotelian mean. Bad language is O.K., but it
should be neither too brief nor too prolix. But that doesn't explain MPAA's PG warnings on Freaky
Friday, "mild thematic elements and some language," and Radio, "mild language and thematic
elements." The R-rated Love Actually gets the warning, "sexuality, nudity, and language." What
do you think? French?

"Language" has become a bad word, and particularly children need to be protected from it.

BTW, a movie I watched recently, Timeline, has a disclaimer in the beginning, saying that the expressed views in the interviews and documentary of the extra features do not express the opinion of Paramount. Well, the only possible offensive utterance I found was when, before going back to work, the whole staff shout: "For the love of France!" - a line from the movie, shouted by the French army going into battle against the English (the French win). Hmm, another case of Freedom Fries?


Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:51
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Are movies classified in the US? Jul 16, 2004

Very funny postin indeed. But is there no body in the US who decides, what is the appropriate age group for a movie. Here in Finland movies are classified as
S = no restriction
11 = only for childern aged 11 or more
15 = over 15
K = forbidden for people under 18

And newspapers rate the movies from 0 to 5 stars

Brief language = that must be a Kaurismäki movie.

[Edited at 2004-07-16 07:35]


Local time: 12:51
Member (2002)
French to English
+ ...

Moderator of this forum
Canadian classifications Jul 16, 2004

PG-13 : Parental Guidance, not for under 13

AA : Adult Accompaniment - those under 14 must be accpmanied by an adult

R : must be over 18 for admission

XXX : Well, I guess that's internationalicon_wink.gif

G - General audience, for everybody

First time I ever noticed Brief language... but I laughed that Canucks aren't worried about nudity (we don't get much of it in this climate, I guess):lol:



Sol  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:51
Spanish to English
+ ...
in the U.S. Jul 16, 2004

Taken from

The current MPAA movie ratings consist of:

Rated G – GENERAL AUDIENCES: All ages admitted.
Rated PG – PARENTAL GUIDANCE SUGGESTED: Some material may not be suitable for children (originally, "some material may not be suitable for pre-teenagers;" wording was changed when the PG-13 rating was introduced in 1984).
Rated PG-13 – PARENTS STRONGLY CAUTIONED: Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
Rated R – RESTRICTED: Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
Rated NC-17 – No one 17 and under admitted.
If a film was never submitted for a rating, the label "NR" would often appear in newspapers etc.; however "NR" is not an official MPAA classification.


The X rating was never officially trademarked by the MPAA, and it was usurped by the adult entertainment industry to the point where an X rating was universally seen as being equated with pornography. Before this occurred, the most critically acclaimed X-rated movies were Midnight Cowboy (1969), which won three Academy Awards and was nominated for four more; and A Clockwork Orange (1971), which was nominated for four Academy Awards. (Both films were re-rated "R" several years later.) A few movies have been rated X for violence, including Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1990). A large number of newspapers and TV stations refused to place any ads for X-rated movies, a move that guaranteed a kiss of death for any movie labelled with the X rating; with these policies in mind, in 1979 a compromise was reached with the distributors of George Romero's horror film Dawn Of The Dead, in which it was agreed that the audience restriction for "X" would be enforced, but the letter "X" itself would not appear in the film's advertisements or displays, with the following message being substituted: "There is no explicit sex in this picture; however, there are scenes of violence which may be considered shocking. No one under 17 will be admitted." (The same dispensation was granted to some later horror films, including Zombie and Day Of The Dead, the latter a follow-up to Dawn Of The Dead and also directed by Romero).

When a number of filmmakers chose to release their movies without an MPAA rating rather than let them be labelled X, the MPAA introduced the NC-17 (not for children 17 or under) rating on September 27, 1990 to differentiate MPAA-approved adult-oriented films from unapproved X-rated movies.

The first movie to be released with an NC-17 rating was Henry and June in 1990. However, several large newspapers continue to refuse ads for NC-17 movies. While a number of movies have been released with the NC-17 rating, none of them have been large box-office hits, and NC-17 is still seen in many circles as being a guaranteed money loser. Later NC-17 films include Dice Rules in 1991, Showgirls in 1995, Crash in 1997, and the re-released version of Pink Flamingos (originally released in 1972), also in 1997.

The 2001 independent film, L.I.E. challenged its NC-17 rating and waged a publicity campaign against the arbitrary nature of the ratings system. Lot 47, the film's distributor, lost its appeal. With the recent success of another NC-17 film, The Dreamers, some film producers and directors hope that the rating may begin to lose some of its stigma and more movie theaters will consider playing NC-17 films.

(all taken from the site mentioned above)


Susana Galilea  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:51
English to Spanish
+ ...
images, too Jul 16, 2004

How about when they warn us of "graphic images"? What else is an image supposed to beicon_lol.gif


Susana Galilea
Accredited Translator EUTI


Lorenzo Lilli  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:51
German to Italian
+ ...
In Italy Jul 17, 2004

Susana Galilea wrote:

How about when they warn us of "graphic images"? What else is an image supposed to beicon_lol.gif

Thank God in Italy we don't have this kind of warningicon_wink.gif Films can be forbidden to people either under 14 or under 18. The latter include porn movies but also sometimes mainstreams movies such as Pulp Fiction, if I'm not wrong (maybe Trainspotting as well).


Elizabeth Sumner
Local time: 17:51
Russian to English
+ ...
Who says thoughtful, passionate filming is dead? Oct 20, 2004

Hi Heike,

I know this topic was posted a while back but I've just come across it and want to add my all-time favourite, it was for a romance.

WARNING! This film contains occasional scenes of mild emotional intensity.

We're easily offended here in Manchester ;>


Elizabeth Sumner


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