Posted by ESC on July 23, 2003
Someone will ask about this sooner or later. So...
The Word of the Day for July 22, 2003, is:
MacGuffin \muh-GUH-fin\ noun
: an object, event, or character in a film or story that serves to set and keep the plot in motion despite usually lacking intrinsic importance
The missing document is the MacGuffin that sends the two spies off on an action-packed race around the world, but the real story centers on tension between the main characters.
Did you know?
The first person to use "MacGuffin" as a word for a plot device was Alfred Hitchcock. He borrowed it from an old shaggy-dog story in which some passengers on a train interrogate a fellow passenger carrying a large, strange-looking package. The fellow says the package contains a "MacGuffin," which, he
explains, is used to catch tigers in the Scottish Highlands. When the group protests that there are no tigers in the Highlands, the passenger replies, "Well, then, this must not be a MacGuffin." Hitchcock apparently appreciated the way the mysterious package keeps the audience's attention and builds
suspense. He recognized that an audience anticipating a solution to a mystery will continue to follow the story even if the initial interest-grabber turns out to be irrelevant.
NOTE: Today's Word of the Day can be found in the NEW Eleventh Edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, along with more than 10,000 new words and senses. Find out more at: http://www.merriam-webster.com/book/diction/c11.htm
To subscribe to the html version of Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day, featuring audio pronunciations, interactive surveys, and more: http://www.startsampling.com/sm/wod/changeofaddress.iphtml