LORELAI: Not as impressive as my mother making four green beans last an hour and a half …. When she finally got to the last bean, she cut it in six pieces. I swear, I thought Gran was gonna lunge across the table at her.
RORY: The student surpasses the master.
As far as I know, this comes from a quote attributed to the Renaissance artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci: “Poor is the pupil who does not surpass his master”.
DARREN: One fell swoop, interesting phrase … Origin?
JACK: It was coined in Macbeth and derives from Middle English.
At one fell swoop means “suddenly, in a single action”. The fell part is an archaic word dating to the 13th century meaning “fierce, savage, cruel, ruthless”; it’s the root of the word felon and has gone out of use except for this one instance.
The phrase was first used, and most probably invented, by William Shakespeare, in his play Macbeth, previously discussed. In the play, it is said by Macduff when he hears that all his family and household have been killed:
All my pretty ones? Did you say all? O hell-kite! All? What, all my pretty chickens and their dam At one fell swoop?
The “kite” that Macduff refers to is the bird of prey, commonly used as a hunting bird in Tudor England. You can see that the “fell swoop” is the swoop of the kite as it quickly descends to catch its prey.
Somehow “at one fell swoop” went from meaning something terrible happening all at once, to just anything happening all at once. Darren uses it to mean good thing happening all at once, but I am unable to disassociate it from its original context, and to me it still suggests some fearsome unexpected blow from above. Maybe I read too much Shakespeare!
Jack’s answer is actually pretty inadequate, or even misleading. It’s not certain that Shakespeare coined it, although it’s likely – he should have said that it first appeared in Macbeth, and that Shakespeare has been credited with coining it. The phrase itself is not Middle English, and presumably he means that the word fell in this example goes back to Middle English.
PARIS: John F. Kennedy once said, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. Those eloquent words are just as relevant here in this hall today. What can you, the future of Chilton, of America, of the world, what can you do for your school?
John F. Kennedy, US president, previously discussed. The quote comes from John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address on January 20 1961, inspiring the nation to greater civic participation. The finely-crafted address was one of the shortest ever made, and afterwards, 75% of Americans polled approved of the new president.
JESS: Of course, I could turn right and then we’d just be driving around in circles for awhile.
RORY: Turn right.
JESS: As you wish.
Jess quotes from The Princess Bride, a 1987 fantasy romance film directed by Rob Reiner, adapated from the 1973 novel of the same name by William Goldman. It tells the story of a farmhand named Westley, played by Cary Elwes, accompanied by companions met along the way, who must rescue his true love, Princess Buttercup, played by Robin Wright, from marriage to the odious Prince Humperdinck, played by Chris Sarandon.
The film has a framing device, which is that the story is a book being read to a little boy sick in bed, played by Fred Savage, by his grandfather, played by Peter Falk. It’s been described as a postmodern fairy tale, and the satirical interjections by the grandfather, and the dialogue between he and and the boy, provide many humorous moments.
Despite good reviews, The Princess Bride was only a modest success at the box office, but became a cult classic after its release on home video. Eminently quotable, the film is considered both one of the funniest, and one of the most romantic films of all time.
In the film, Princess Buttercup begins by ordering Westley around a lot, to which he always responds, “As you wish”, before complying. The narration from the grandfather says, “That day, she was amazed to discover that when he was saying As you wish, what he meant was, I love you. And even more amazing was the day she realized she truly loved him back”.
Jess is, very clearly and boldly, telling Rory that he loves her, and believes that she loves him back, even if she doesn’t realise it yet.
LORELAI: But my question is, how did that happen? How was it that suddenly everyone in the world was saying ‘music has charms to soothe the savage beast’ when it was written breast?
“Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast” is a famous quote from William Congreve’s 1697 play, The Mourning Bride, previously mentioned. It means that listening to music can help calm angry and upset emotions.
For some unknown reason, it became popularly misquoted as “Music has charms to soothe a savage beast”. It doesn’t even make sense – if you’re being attacked by a wild tiger, whistling show tunes won’t help in the slightest.
HEADMASTER: Like mother, like daughter. LORELAI: Okay, hold on. HEADMASTER: Ms. Gilmore, active participation in Chilton activities for a parent is vitally important.
The phrase “like mother like daughter” can be found in the Bible, in Ezekiel 16:44. There, it specifically refers to the city and people of Jerusalem, who are said to have the Hittites as their “mother”. It isn’t complimentary, meaning that Jerusalem has taken on the same disgusting practices as earlier cultures, despite the love and protection of God. The proverb seems to have been well-known even in Old Testament times.
You can see Headmaster Charleston in the role of disappointed God, having offered the love and protection of Chilton to Rory, only to find that she has inherited her mother’s appalling habits!
A phrase that seems to have arisen in 1950s hipster culture, to mean that someone has submerged themselves in the counterculture to the point that they no longer fit in with conformist society. Once used as praise, today it’s usually used sarcastically, as Rory does, to mean the person is too pretentious or above themselves to lower themselves to normal standards of behaviour.
LORELAI: Yes, I have. I’ve also done the ‘chip on my shoulder’ bit. Ooh, and the surly, sarcastic, ‘the world can bite my ass’ bit, and let me tell you, I mastered them all, in heels yet.
Lorelai is referencing a famous saying about Ginger Rogers, who was Fred Astaire’s dancing partner in many musical films: “Sure [Fred Astaire] was great, but dont forget that Ginger Rogers did everything he did … backwards and in high heels”. If it did not originate with him, it was at least popularised by Bob Thaves in a 1982 Frank & Ernest cartoon.
The quote is used to imply that women often have to work harder than men to gain a similar recognition, or have to do so while maintaining a “feminine” image which requires a lot of discipline and upkeep.
In this context, it doesn’t quite make sense, unless Lorelai thinks that being a snotty ungrateful teenager counts as some sort of “work” that gets you somewhere in life, and which is made harder for girls than boys.