Getting deep into a fan culture can mean being fluent in a language that’s incomprehensible to much of the rest of the world. And fans tend to consider their terminology a sacred thing. Just look at the backlash J.K. Rowling got when she offered an alternative to the Harry Potter term “muggle.” The Hunger Games glossary of terms is just as specific to that series of books and movies as “the force” is to the Star Wars universe, and there are plenty of words Hunger Games fans know mean different things to them than they do to those outside of Panem. The series doesn’t just rely on newly constructed words to help fans get engaged in the story, but re-appropriates existing language to build its world. On the eve of the Mockingjay, Part 2 release, I’d like to review some innocent words that Hunger Games fans will never be able to look at the same way again.
The power of language is explored in the series in the way the Capitol presents the games themselves to the rest of Panem. It’s a tool of propaganda. They use words with positive connotations like “tribute” and “games” itself to normalize the ritual, which is, in practice, an inhumane tool of oppression. Word choice is so important in this society, and fans have embraced The Hunger Games vernacular wholeheartedly. Here are 14 words that have been co-opted by the series and that have an entirely different meaning to Hunger Games fans than they do to the rest of the world.
Non-Fans: Fun things to do with your friends.
Fans: Horrific death ritual for children.
Non-Fans: A way to honor someone or something.
Fans: Participants in the Hunger Games, picked to gladiate for the Capitol's entertainment.
Non-fans: Your life's work.
Fans: Bloodthirsty tributes from wealthy districts who've spend their whole lives so far training for the Games.
Non-fans: People who provide, um, paid companionship.
Fans: A Capitol-assigned chaperone for each Hunger Games competitor. Glitter. Drama.
Non-fans: Soft, cold, white stuff that falls from the sky in the winter.
Fans: A well-dressed sociopath.
Non-fans: A form of currency.
Fans: A slightly less well-dressed sociopath.
Non-fans: That horn-shaped thing with the fruit that every kid crafts out of construction paper around Thanksgiving.
Fans: The most dangerous part of the Hunger Games arena, where the weakest are first weeded out.
Non-fans: Tasty snack, high in antioxidants.
Fans: *weeps quietly*
Non-fans: A strong wind.
Fans: A strong man. Love him or hate him.
Non-fans: A sunny, yellow flower that blooms in the summer.
Fans: Devil cat; doesn't deserve Prim's love.
Non-fans: Someone who helps dress celebrities and other rich folks.
Non-fans: Probably a big guy with a beard, a tackle box, and a 30-lb cable-knit sweater.
Fans: Finnick frickin' Odair, thank you very much.
Non-fans: A type of wood.
Fans: Effie Trinket's main passion in life.
Non-fans: The concept of truth. A fact.
You: Peeta and Katniss's love, so: same.
There's nothing wrong with being able to speak fluent Hunger Games, especially with the final chapter right around the corner.