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6 Significant The Silence of the Lambs Names to Sink Your Teeth Into

“Good evening, Clarice.” It was 25 years ago this month that we first heard the creepiest three words ever uttered by a cannibalistic psychiatrist.

In case you've been living under a DVD-less, cable-and-wifi-free rock for the past quarter century, you'll know The Silence of the Lambs is about a serial killer helping—in his own manipulative, psychotic way—to catch another serial killer.

Much has been made of the hidden significance behind the film’s most famous line, but how about the names? From birds to gluttons to just what the heck “silence of the lambs” means, here's a look at the significance of six names from the film.

1. CLARICE STARLING

The name of Jodie Foster’s tough-yet-vulnerable rookie FBI agent is rife with meaning. Like the starling bird, Clarice Starling is small and swift. Roger Ebert has noted the film's “visual contrasts” showing the petite Clarice Starling with large men.

The name Clarice, according to the Baby Naming Wizard, comes from the Latin word clarus, meaning bright or clear. It could be said that Clarice is a bright, clear light amid the figurative darkness of the serial killers as well as the literal darkness of Buffalo Bill’s basement.

2. HANNIBAL LECTER

The first name of the man-eating murderer conveniently rhymes with cannibal, but it’s also the name of the ancient warrior Hannibal, a general in the Carthaginian army and arguably one of the greatest military strategists in history. Like his namesake, Lecter is also highly strategic, playing the people around him like chess pieces.

The surname Lecter may be influenced by lector, a reader of Bible scripture or a university lecturer, perhaps reflecting Hannibal’s intelligence and intellectualism. But the name is also reminiscent of lecher, someone given to lewdness. The word lecher comes from the Old French lechier, "to lick, to live in debauchery or gluttony." If feasting on humans isn’t debauched or gluttonous, we’re not sure what is.

3. I.J. MIGGS

I.J. Miggs, also known as Multiple Miggs, is Lecter’s cell neighbor, best known for doing something really disgusting to Clarice (an act which doesn’t go unpunished by the good doctor).

While what “I.J.” stands for is a mystery, the word mig refers to urine as well as the “draining from manure,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary. As for the meaning of the "multiple" of Miggs’s nickname, the internet has a couple of theories. One is that it refers to multiple personality disorder while another says it alludes to Miggs's multiple offenses.

4. BUFFALO BILL

Jame Gumb is known for skinning his victims and making “women suits” from their skin, hence the nickname Buffalo Bill. Showman Buffalo Bill Cody is said to have scalped a Cheyenne Indian in battle, in addition to hunting down thousands of buffalo, at least one of which he had made into a coat.

As for why it’s Jame and not James, according to the backstory in the novel, the shortening was a misprint on the birth certificate that was never corrected.

5. CATHERINE MARTIN

The meaning behind the name of Buffalo Bill’s would-be victim has some striking similarities to that of the FBI agent who rescues her. Catherine, meaning clean and pure and coming from the Greek katharos, is reminiscent of Clarice’s clear brightness, while the martin, like the starling, is a type of bird.

However, Miss It-Refuses-to-Put-the-Lotion-in-the-Basket's name has added significance. Another Catherine, Saint Catherine of Alexandria, was also imprisoned—although the martyr was killed and scrappy Catherine Martin was not. On that note, martin comes from the Latin Martinus, a derivative of Mars, the Roman god of war. Like Mars, Catherine goes to battle when she traps and threatens to kill Precious, Buffalo Bill's dog.

6. THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS

Now how about that movie title? Besides making Anthony Hopkins think he was signing up for a children’s movie, it refers to Starling’s traumatic childhood memory of witnessing lambs screaming as they’re about to be slaughtered. “You still wake up sometimes, don't you?” Lecter asks her. “Wake up in the dark, with the lambs screaming? Do you think if you saved Catherine, you could make them stop?”

This thorough Quora answer breaks down the multiple meanings of lamb. It refers to the actual poor lambs being slaughtered, as well as perhaps the idea of lambs as religious sacrifice. Lambs are also often thought of as pure and innocent, and in the film could refer to FBI newbie Clarice or almost-slaughtered Catherine.

As for the silence, while Lecter says Starling wants to save Catherine and other potential victims in order to silence the screaming, it may also refer to the idea that once the screaming stops, it’s already too late.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Steve Martin
NBC Television/Courtesy of Getty Images
NBC Television/Courtesy of Getty Images

Is there anything Steve Martin can't do? In addition to being one of the world's most beloved comedians and actors, he's also a writer, a musician, a magician, and an art enthusiast. And he's about to put a number of these talents on display with Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life, a new comedy special that just arrived on Netflix. To commemorate the occasion, here are 10 things you might not have known about Steve Martin.

1. HE WAS A CHEERLEADER.

As a yellleader (as he refers to it in a yearbook signature) at his high school in Garden Grove, California, Martin tried to make up his own cheers, but “Die, you gravy-sucking pigs,” he later told Newsweek, did not go over so well.

2. HIS FIRST JOB WAS AT DISNEYLAND.

Martin’s first-ever job was at Disneyland, which was located just two miles away from his house. He started out selling guidebooks, keeping $.02 for every book he sold. He graduated to the Magic Shop on Main Street, where he got his first taste of the gags that would later make his career. He also learned the rope tricks you see in ¡Three Amigos! from a rope wrangler over in Frontierland.

3. HE OWES HIS WRITING JOB WITH THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS TO AN EX-GIRLFRIEND.

Thanks to a girlfriend who got a job dancing on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Martin landed a gig writing for the show. He had absolutely no experience as a writer at the time. He shared an office with Bob Einstein—better known to some as Super Dave Osborne or Marty Funkhauser—and won an Emmy for writing in 1969.

4. HE WAS A CONTESTANT ON THE DATING GAME.

While he was writing for the Smothers Brothers, but before he was famous in his own right, Martin was on an episode of The Dating Game. (Spoiler alert: He wins. But did you have any doubt?)

5. MANY PEOPLE THOUGHT HE WAS A SERIES REGULAR ON SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.

Martin hosted and did guest spots on Saturday Night Live so often in the 1970s and '80s that many people thought he was a series regular. He wasn't. 

6. HIS FATHER WROTE A REVIEW OF HIS FIRST SNL APPEARANCE.

After his first appearance on SNL, Martin’s father, the president of the Newport Beach Association of Realtors, wrote a review of his son’s performance in the company newsletter. “His performance did nothing to further his career,” the elder Martin wrote. He also once told a newspaper, “I think Saturday Night Live is the most horrible thing on television.”

7. HE POPULARIZED THE AIR QUOTE.

If you find yourself making air quotes with your fingers more than you’d really like, you have Martin to thank. He popularized the gesture during his guest spots on SNL and stand-up performances.

8. HE QUIT STAND-UP COMEDY IN THE EARLY 1980S.

Martin gave up stand-up comedy in 1981. “I still had a few obligations left but I knew that I could not continue,” he told NPR in 2009. “But I guess I could have continued if I had nothing to go to, but I did have something to go to, which was movies. And you know, the act had become so known that in order to go back, I would have had to create an entirely new show, and I wasn't up to it, especially when the opportunity for movies and writing movies came around.”

9. HE'S A MAJOR ART COLLECTOR.

As an avid art collector, Martin owns works by Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, David Hockney, and Edward Hopper. He sold a Hopper for $26.9 million in 2006. Unfortunately, being rich and famous doesn’t mean Martin is immune to scams: In 2004, he spent about $850,000 on a piece believed to be by German-Dutch modernist painter Heinrich Campendonk. When Martin tried to sell the piece, “Landschaft mit Pferden” (or "Landscape With Horses") 15 months later, he was informed that it was a forgery. Though the painting still sold, it was at a huge loss.

10. HE'S AN ACCOMPLISHED BLUEGRASS PERFORMER.

Many people already know this, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that he’s an extremely accomplished bluegrass performer. With the help of high school friend John McEuen, who later became a member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Martin taught himself to play the banjo when he was 17. He's been picking away ever since. If you see him on stage these days, he’s likely strumming a banjo with his band, the Steep Canyon Rangers. As seen above, they make delightful videos.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Wine
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by Tilar J. Mazzeo

Between the vine and the liquor store, plenty of secrets are submerged in your favorite bottle of vino. Here, the author of Back Lane Wineries of Sonoma spills some of the best.

1. DIGITAL EYES ARE EVERYWHERE IN VINEYARDS.

Certain premium estates in Bordeaux and Napa are beginning to look a little more like an army base—or an Amazon.com warehouse. They’re using drones, optical scanners, and heat-sensing satellites to keep a digital eye on things. Some airborne drones collect data that helps winemakers decide on the optimal time to harvest and evaluate where they can use less fertilizer. Others rove through the vineyard rows, where they may soon be able to take over pruning. Of course, these are major investments. At $68,000 a pop, the Scancopter 450 is about twice as costly as a 1941 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon!

2. THERE ARE ALSO LOTS OF COW SKULLS.

They’re not everywhere, but biodynamic farming techniques are on the rise among vintners who don’t want to rely on chemicals, and this is one trick they’ve been known to use to combat plant diseases and improve soil PH. It’s called Preparation No. 505, and it involves taking a cow’s skull (or a sheep’s or a goat’s), stuffing it with finely ground oak chips, and burying it in a wet spot for a season or two before adding it to the vineyard compost.

3. FEROCIOUS FOLIAGE IS A VINTNER’S FRIEND.

The mustard flowers blooming between vineyard rows aren’t just for romance. Glucosinolates in plants like radishes and mustard give them their spicy bite, and through the wonders of organic chemistry, those glucosinolates also double as powerful pesticides. Winemakers use them to combat nematodes—tiny worms that can destroy grape crops.

4. WHAT A CANARY IS TO A COAL MINE, ROSES ARE TO A VINEYARD.

Vintners plant roses among their vines because they get sick before anything else in the field. If there’s mildew in the air, it will infect the roses first and give a winemaker a heads-up that it’s time to spray.

5. VINTNERS EXPLOIT THE FOOD CHAIN.

A trio of wines
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Small birds like blackbirds and starlings can clear out 20 percent of a crop in no time. But you know what eats little birds? Big birds. Falconry programs are on the rise in vineyards from California to New Zealand. Researchers have found that raptors eat a bird or two a day (along with a proportion of field mice and other critters) and cost only about as much to maintain as your average house cat.

6. THE BIG PROBLEMS IN TASTING ROOMS ARE VERY SMALL.

Winemakers are constantly seeking ways to manage the swarms of Drosophila melanogaster that routinely gather around the dump buckets in their swanky showrooms. You know these pests as fruit flies, and some vintners in California are exploring ways to use carnivorous plants to tackle the problem without pesticides. Butterworts, sundews, and pitcher plants all have sweet-sounding names, but the bugeating predators make for terrific fruit fly assassins, and you’ll see them decorating tasting rooms across wine country.

7. WINE NEEDS CLEANING.

Winemaking produces hard-to-remove sediments. Filters can catch most of the debris, but winemakers must add “fining agents” to remove any suspended solids that sneak by. Until it was banned in the 1990s, many European vintners used powdered ox blood to clean their wines. Today, they use diatomaceous earth (the fossilized remains of hard-shelled algae), Isinglass (a collagen made from fish swim bladders), and sometimes bentonite (volcanic clay). Irish moss and egg whites are also fine wine cleaners.

8. ATOMS HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS.

About 5 percent of the premium wine sold for cellaring doesn’t contain what the label promises. So how do top-shelf buyers avoid plunking down serious cash on a bottle of something bunk? Most elite wine brokerages, auction houses, and collectors use atomic dating to detect fraud. By measuring trace radioactive carbon in the wine, most bottles can be dated to within a year or two of the vintage.

9. FINE WINES GET MRIs.

Even with atomic dating, there are certain perils involved in buying a $20,000 bottle of wine. Leaving a case in the hot trunk of your car is enough to ruin it, so imagine what can happen over a couple of decades if a wine isn’t kept in the proper conditions. Back in 2002, a chemistry professor at University of California at Davis patented a technique that uses MRI technology to diagnose the condition of vintage wines. Not planning any $20,000 wine purchases? This is still good news for the consumer. This technique may soon be used at airport security, meaning you’ll be able to carry on your booze.

10. THERE’S A TRICK TO AGING YOUR WINE.

If you end up with a bottle of plonk, Chinese scientists have developed a handy solution. Zapping a young wine with electricity makes it taste like something you’ve cellar aged. Scientists aren’t quite sure how it happens yet, but it seems that running your wine for precisely three minutes through an electric field changes the esters, proteins, and aldehydes and can “age” a wine instantly.

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