4 Iconic Movie Quotes (That Don’t Mean What You Think)

HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, Daniel Radcliffe, Warner Bros
Warner Bros via Everett

Movies quotes have come to dominate and transform the English language. For better (“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse”) or worse (anything from Borat), movie quotes have become a fundamental part of our pop culture lexicon, although some of the most popular film quotes of all-time probably don’t mean what you think.

1. “What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?”

In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Snape reveals a crucial detail about his character that most fans have missed. When Snape first meets Harry, he quizzes the young wizard asking “What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?”

Harry understandably doesn’t know the answer. After all, he’s first year wizard (and we don’t mean this is his first year as a wizard at Hogwarts, we mean this is his first year as a wizard in his life). When Harry admits he doesn’t know the answer to any of Snape’s questions, he simply responds, “Pity.” Why is this question such a big deal?

Well, during the Victorian era, each type of flower had a specific meaning. To give someone Asphodel (a member of the lily family) meant “my regrets will follow you to the grave” and wormwood meant “absence; bitter sorrow.” In other words, Snape was telling Harry “I bitterly regret Lily’s death.” In the very first film and book, Snape declares his love for Lily Potter.

2. “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.”

Anthony Hopkins won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs despite only appearing on screen for twelve minutes. Hopkins (as well as screenwriter Ted Tally) were able to get so much out of the character with so little time by adding multiple layers to his actions and dialogue.

In one scene, Lecter warns, “A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.” This line ranks as one of the most memorable movie quotes of all-time, but what most people don’t realize is that Lecter is actually making a clever medical joke.

As one fan pointed out, Lecter is probably being treated with a type of drug called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). While taking MAOIs, patients are advised to avoid foods and beverages high in tyramine. Guess what contains high levels of tyramine? Liver, beans, and wine. In other words, Lecter is cracking a joke for his own personal amusement while hinting that he’s off his medication.

3. “The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us.”

The Matrix is one of the most groundbreaking films of the late 1990s. It grossed over $460 million, won four Academy Awards and made everyone question whether or not they were living in a giant computer program. Towards of the beginning of the movie, Morpheus explains to Neo, “The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us.”

Dictionary.com gives several definitions of the word matrix, including the more common mathematical definition, but it also lists an archaic version of the word which means “womb or uterus.” The word Matrix and the title itself doesn’t refer to just the computer program in which they live, but it also alludes to the artificial wombs/incubator pods in which the humans are trapped.

4. “The snozzberries taste like snozzberries”

In Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Willy Wonka showcases several of his latest inventions including lickable wallpaper for nursery walls. Wonka promises “The strawberries taste like strawberries, and the snozzberries taste like snozzberries!”

Like Veruca Salt, everybody who’s seen the movie has probably wondered at some point “What’s a snozzberry?” It’s one of those age old questions like “What happened to all the other children?” and “No seriously, did Willy Wonka murder them or something?” Many people assume snozzberries are just a type of made-up of berry indigenous to the world of Willy Wonka, but comedian Anthony Scibelli offers a darker explanation: snozzberries are penises.

Fifteen years after writing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, children’s author and secret spy Roald Dahl wrote an adult novel titled My Uncle Oswald. The book is a collection of short stories about the narrator’s Uncle Oswald who is described as “the greatest fornicator of all time.”

So the penis theory has a leg to stand on, Scibelli points to a story about playwright George Bernard Shaw which features this alternate use of the word snozzberry: “‘There’s only one way when they get violent,’ Yasmin said. ‘I grabbed hold of his snozzberry and hung onto it like grim death and gave it a twist or two to make him hold still.'”

That’s right, Willy Wonka made children lick a penis-flavored wallpaper which he plans to market towards infants.