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December 5, 2013

This week I went to see the second Hunger Games film, Catching Fire: a very enjoyable film, sort of a cross between Rollerball and the Labours of Hercules. I only mention it here because the heroine, Katniss, at one point says something like “We have to get out of this bloody area!” I had always thought only British, Irish and Australian people used bloody in this way, but this is an American film of an American book with American actors and an American director, written by, I assume, American scriptwriters. So how did bloody get in there? Is this a rare example of British usage influencing American usage rather than, as is more usual, vice versa?

Just by the way and out of interest, the etymology of bloody is supposed to be a contraction of the oath ‘By our Lady’ – this etymology appears in TH White’s children’s novel The Sword in the Stone. I am certain that it is a fake etymology, though. It just doesn’t ring true. I think the oath bloody simply means, and always meant, ‘all covered in horrible sticky reeking hot red blood’. 

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