The influence of the Star Wars movies on everyday language is more profound than expected, according to a recent study led by Professor Christina Sanchez-Stockhammer, a linguist at Chemnitz University of Technology in Germany.
The research uncovers how commonly Star Wars terms like Yoda, Jedi, Padawan, lightsaber, and dark side have integrated into our daily conversations.
Analyzing British and US texts, including books, magazines, and newspapers, the researchers identified 7,752 instances of these terms.
Notably, “Jedi mind trick” and “young Padawan” are used metaphorically, suggesting the influence of Star Wars extends even to those unfamiliar with its detailed lore. The study reveals that over a third of these mentions were unrelated to the movies.
“I’ve been a Star Wars fan for a long time, but really realized how important Star Wars has become in everyday language when the US politician Nancy Pelosi accused the former Speaker of the House of Representatives of going to the ‘dark side,’” Sanchez-Stockhammer said.
“We’ve long had this trope of darkness as evil and light as good – but the idea of ‘crossing over’ to the dark side has gained momentum since the famous conversation between Luke Skywalker and his father.”
“This study shows Star Wars is inescapable – even if you haven’t seen it, you know about it and it’s in the language, and we can all understand what many of the words mean. It’s testament to the popularity of this fictional universe.”
The study, published in the journal Linguistics Vanguard, noted that lightsaber, Jedi, and Padawan were added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2019, with Yoda included since 2016 and “the dark side” since 2021. These terms have transcended their cinematic context, with Jedi now often describing someone exceptionally skilled, like a “finance Jedi.”
The research utilized the British National Corpus, the Corpus of Contemporary American English, and other language databases. It found that “the dark side,” once a literal term, now strongly conveys evil and immorality, influenced by Star Wars.
The term is used in various contexts, such as describing a career move, with one text mentioning an employee who “crossed over to the dark side” of marketing.
More than half of “the dark side” references were unrelated to Star Wars, as were about 40 percent of Padawan and Jedi uses. Padawan is often humorously employed, like in a quote from the TV show The Flash, where a character says, “That’s how it’s done, young Padawan,” to acknowledge a successful date.
These findings underline the significant cultural impact of Star Wars, demonstrating how its vocabulary has become an inescapable part of our everyday language, and illustrates the saga’s lasting influence, showing how its fictional universe has seamlessly interwoven into the fabric of our daily communication.
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