Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Mon Nov 29 16:14:53 UTC 2010

On Sun, 17 Oct 2010 Garson O'Toole wrote:
>Here is the yarn told by Hitchcock in the famous 1967 interview with
>Francois Truffaut: You may be wondering where the term originated.
>It might be a Scottish name, taken from a story about two men in a
>train. One man says, "What's that package up there in the baggage
>rack?" And the other answers, "Oh, that's a MacGuffin." The first
>one asks, "What's a MacGuffin?" "Well." the other man says, "it's an
>apparatus for trapping lions in the Scottish Highlands." The first
>man says, "But there are no lions in the Scottish Highlands," and
>the other one answers, "Well then, that's no MacGuffin!" So you see
>that a MacGuffin is actually nothing at all.

Hitchcock told the same tale in his interview with Dick Cavett,
alleged on the Web to have been in 1972.  Recently re-aired on TCM --
with Cavett breaking about every five minutes for commercials that
were then frustratingly absent ... except once when he held up a sign
to introduce some product (the commercial itself was still absent).

(A similar story is told about elephants and strings of
garlic.  Could Hitchcock's page have contained ...?  Now we no what a
McGuffin really is.)


The American Dialect Society -

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