Taking ‘Shared Text’ Vocabulary to the Movies!

“I’ll explain it to you. And I’ll use small words so you’ll be sure to understand.” The Princess Bride

Standardized tests are generally considered so terrifying that only “IRS” could be considered a scarier acronym than “SAT,” but Brian Leaf takes the big test to our favorite movies and gives us a big tub of popcorn to make learning frequently tested vocabulary  as fun and effortless as a Saturday matinee. In Name that Movie: A Painless Vocabulary Builder, Leaf uses the approach that he has taken in Defining Twilight, Defining New Moon, Defining Eclipse, and Defining Breaking Dawn: he delves into the stories we already know and love and pulls out the words we ought to know.

Name that Movie comes in two editions: the Romantic Comedy and Drama volume, and the Comedy and Action one. Each edition features 100 excerpts from popular films, including the cinematic adaptations of many of the stories we discuss here, such as the Harry Potter and Twilight films. The text is organized into groups which each include an unidentified section of dialogue with key vocabulary words in boldface. Then there is a list of the words with space for the reader to speculate on the meaning of each one. On the next page, readers will find the  name of  the film, hints about figuring out the vocabulary, fun movie facts (did you know 22 different dogs were used in Marley and Me?) and definitions for the words.

There is a little quiz after each ten groups to test one’s prowess with the words so far.  The quizzes address  word parts and synonyms to help readers get a complete insight into each of the sometimes daunting terms that actually crop up all over the place at the movies.  The books also each feature a glossary of all the terms covered.

While some of us here will immediately recognize lines spoken by the incomparable Alan Rickman as Professor Snape, other quips may be less familiar (since I can’t claim to have ever made it through more than 30 seconds of an Austin Powers movie, myself.) Though the target audience is, of course,  students prepping for those big tests, film fans who also enjoy big words will have a great time with this fun guides. I was a little confused by seeing some movies in both editions, but then, it really is hard to decide if Twilight goes in Action or Drama, no? And that treasure trove of fabulous big words, The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, could be easily classed as comedy, action, or drama, savvy?

Aside from being nifty and well-organized books that will make super gifts for anybody pondering additional excursions into education, these texts also attest to our frequently stated  thought that shared texts, like Harry Potter, can reach into all aspects of life. Thanks, Mr. Leaf, for pointing that out in so entertaining a fashion. Now, pass that popcorn, the remote, and that Oxford English Dictionary! Action!


  1. Funny, I was just watching Pride and Prejudice (BBC) with my 11 and 9 year old girls and thinking I should put together a vocab lesson for homeschooling. Such wonderful words!

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