In October 2012, with the release of James Bond’s 23rd on-screen adventure, Skyfall, the much loved British secret agent celebrated his 50th anniversary on the big screen.
The film franchise is one of the most enduring in cinematic history, and has been successfully exported to virtually every country in the world. One of the most memorable moments of the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony was when the Queen leapt out of a helicopter with the latest Bond, actor Daniel Craig, to the familiar sound of the 007 theme, and the fact that Ian Fleming’s character was chosen to represent Britain to a worldwide audience of 900 million viewers shows its incredible mass appeal.
Watching a James Bond film is a great way to assist language learning, but some of the words you encounter may leave you a little confused as to their meaning. Here’s a rundown of some of the essential spy terms you will encounter so you can get a better understanding of the language of espionage.
A person who works for a country’s secret service and collects secret information about foreign governments and terrorists. James Bond is part of the ‘00 agent’ section of MI6, which refers to the secret service’s elite who hold a licence to kill at their discretion, in order to complete a mission.
MI6 (Acronym; Military Intelligence section 6)
This is the UK government agency responsible for dealing with matters of internal security and counter-intelligence overseas. Formed in 1912, the agency was officially named the Secret Intelligence Service in 1964, but the name MI6 remains in use, popularised by James Bond. MI6 headquarters features in several of the films, with the building coming under attack in 1999’s The World Is Not Enough and featuring heavily in Bond’s latest outing Skyfall.
This is a small piece of electronic equipment used for secretly listening to what people are saying. First making an appearance in James Bond’s second film outing, 1963’s From Russia With Love, 007 uses a ‘bug detector’ to detect the presence of a phone tap device (used for monitoring conversations) on his hotel room telephone.
This is a spy who achieves an important position within the security defences of a country. A mole may also anonymously betray confidential information. The character of Felix Leiter is a mole for MI6, working for the CIA, who assists Bond in many of his missions and appears right from the start in the franchise’s debut Dr No.
A word with its roots in both Latin and French (from the old French word villein, based on the Latin villa). A villain is a character whose evil actions or motives are important to the plot. Every Bond film has a villain, along with various supporting henchmen. Notable villains include Goldfinger, who, during a famous 007 torture scene when asked whether he expected Bond to talk uttered the memorable line, “No Mr Bond, I expect you to die!” Other prominent villains have included Blofeld, appearing in several films and famous for stroking a white cat, Scaramanga from 1974’s The Man With The Golden Gun and Raoul Silva, played by Javier Barden in Skyfall.
A chiefly derogatory term for a faithful follower, especially one prepared to engage in crime or violence by way of service. Every Bond villain has supporting henchmen to carry out his evil deeds, often with a distinctive physical trait, and some of the most famous to feature have included Jaws; known for his steel-capped teeth, Baron Samedi; a voodoo witchdoctor and Nick Nack; a smartly dressed little person.
As in ‘Bond girl’. You won’t find this one in the dictionary it’s inexcusable not to touch on the subject of Bond’s female interests. With no set rules on what kind of person they will play, a Bond girl may be an ally or an enemy, pivotal to the story or simply eye candy (appealing to look at). A different one, or more appropriately, selection in every film, Bond never loves and always leaves the girl after the mission. Notable Bond girls have included Ursula Andress’ Honey Ryder in Dr No (immortalised in her bikini clad beach walking scene), Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore in Goldfinger, Jane Seymour’s Solitaire in Live And Let Die, Teri Hatcher’s Paris Carver in Tomorrow Never Knows and Halle Berry’s Jinx in Die Another Day.
From the Latin ‘by nodding at’, innuendo means an indirect remark or hint, and typically a suggestive or disparaging one. Famed for his use of innuendo, James Bond loves to use his silver tongue on the ladies (steady) and you’ll find the Bond films of the 60s and 70s particularly insinuation-heavy, and, in some cases, politically incorrect by today’s standards. Pierce Brosnan brought back ‘one-liners’ in the 90s, but Daniel Craig has opted for a more serious take on the franchise.
This means an ingenious device or tool, in the Bond films given to him by Q to assist with the mission. A good example of a Bond gadget is the briefcase first given to 007 by Q-Branch in From Russia With Love. Seemingly harmless and not out of the ordinary, it’s actually full of all kinds of dangerous extras including an exploding teargas container, flat throwing knife, collapsible sniper rifle and ammunition!
A distinctive road vehicle is another essential element to any Bond film, primarily for two reasons. Firstly it has to look stunning. James Bond’s car of choice in the early films was a (now) classic Aston Martin – the very embodiment of stylish British motorcar engineering – and in later films Bond toyed with a Lotus (the famous underwater car from The Spy Who Love Me), BMW’s and various other makes in between. The second element is the inclusion of special Q-Branch defences. The most famous modification is probably the ejector seat added to Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 in Goldfinger, but pop out gun barrels, a bullet shield and revolving number plates and all fairly ‘standard’ additions.