Saturday, December 15, 2007

"These aren't the droids you're looking for."

Early last week, I was visiting the best writer I have the good fortune to know personally, and in the course of the conversation, I think he suggested, tongue-in-cheek, that the department in which he teaches might be getting just desperate enough to want even me back. (Desperate because I was merely the first in a wave of people who, for their own mental health, continue to dive over the gunnel and take their chances in the open sea rather than sail one league further on the Pequod.) My response was a slight wave of the hand as I said, "These aren't the droids you're looking for. He can go about his business."

To my amazement, I got a blank look and a quizzical, "What?"

"You're kidding right?" Still the blank look. "You don't know the Jedi mind trick line from the original Star Wars? You've never heard that?"


I was so shocked that I asked my family about it that night. Their response: "We didn't know where it came from; we just know you're fond of saying it." Fine. Maybe it's just me, I thought.

No. It's not. Try Googling "aren't the droids you're looking for." You'll find that the phrase is deeply embedded in American speech as a signal, when used properly, that someone is attempting a Jedi mind trick on someone else, or on an entire subset of the population, especially when the person being accused of it is a member of the government. Wikipedia uses it as the Ur example of the Jedi mind trick.

So, for those of you out there who have never heard it, or for those who've heard it, intuited its meaning, but weren't really sure where it came from, I am providing the short video below as a public service. Chalk it up to the English professor in me educating my friends on the roots of an allusion that has moved past allusion into some other form of figure of speech for which I can't find the exact word. It began as an allusion, certainly, but when the person using it understands its meaning, yet has no idea of its source, it seems to me that said person can't properly be said to be alluding to anything. Hmmm. If anyone knows the proper term for such a linguistic phenomenon, please, by all means, chime in with a comment!