A new collective noun: "astonishment"

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Fri Dec 18 22:00:03 UTC 2009

 From the New York Times review of James Cameron's "Avatar", Dec. 18,
by Manola Dargis:

"The exotic creatures in 'Avatar,' which include an astonishment of
undulating, flying, twitching and galloping organisms,** don't just
crawl through the underbrush; they thunder and shriek, yip and hiss,
pointy teeth gleaming.

An astonishment of Pandorans.*
     An "astonishment" can include more than just Na'vi, since
Dargis's next sentence is "The most important of these are the Na'vi ...".***

* There seems to be a battle between "Pandorans" and "Pandorians", at
present about 3:1 for "Pandorans".  I can't get far enough into the
"Official Web Site" (avatarmovie.com) to pass the movie bits and
reach text to confirm official usage.

** I'm somehow reminded of the recent NYTimes review of Humperdinck's
"Hansel and Gretel" at the Met -- describing it as a opera for
children about "hunger, kidnapping, cannibalism and witch burning."

*** I note the classical plural, gender-free (a la "alumni" in
popular usage).  But the singular seems to be Na'vi also, at least in
Dargis's review (Jake operates a "10-foot, blue-skinned Na'vi body.")

      But how does Dargis get away without musing on the analogy with
Pandora's box?  Or would that be a spoiler?  I haven't seen the film,
of course; but Dargis writes "Although 'Avatar' delivers a late kick
to the gut that might be seen as nihilistic (and how!), it is
strangely utopian."  Pandora's box is (its mines are?) opened, and
evils are let out into its world?


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