14 Mind-Twisting Terms from The Matrix

Matrix Reloaded, the second film in The Matrix trilogy, kung-fu’d its way into theaters 13 years ago this month. The conclusion, The Matrix Revolutions, followed in November of the same year. But our favorite is still the original, when we’re first introduced to Neo, Morpheus, and the truth about spoons. Here we go down the rabbit hole to the stories behind 14 mind-twisting terms from The Matrix.


“The Matrix has you,” Neo’s computer tells him. What is the Matrix exactly? In the movie, it’s a virtual reality (VR) world into which people are plugged while their bodies are used for energy by a race of artificially intelligent beings.

The word matrix originated in the 15th century, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), and referred to the womb (echoing the womb-like pods Neo and the others are kept in). The science fiction meaning, basically the equivalent of cyberspace, might have been coined in a 1976 episode of Doctor Who, “Deadly Assassin”: “How can you intercept thought patterns within the matrix itself?”

The matrix as a VR-world might have first appeared in the 1984 novel by William Gibson, The Neuromancer: "He'd operated on an almost permanent adrenaline high ... jacked into a custom cyberspace deck that projected his disembodied consciousness into the consensual hallucination that was the matrix."


Neo has a couple of meanings. It's an anagram for "one," as in the One who will save humanity, and also means “new” as in the new, freshly-born person now aware of the Matrix.

The name Thomas Anderson also has significance. Thomas comes from an Aramaic word that means “twin.” Agent Smith tells Neo, “It seems that you have been living two lives,” one as program writer Thomas Anderson and the other as hacker Neo. Thomas might also refer to doubting Thomas, the apostle who refused to believe in Jesus’s resurrection until he fingered the wounds himself. As for Anderson, it means “son of man,” perhaps to emphasize Neo's humanity.


Metacortex is the software company that Neo works for. Meta- is a combining element that means “changed” or “higher, beyond.” Cortex refers to the outer layer of an organ, in this case the brain. Metacortex could imply the idea of a higher intelligence, like that of robots and computer programs, or a higher consciousness, like that which Neo achieves in order to realize the true nature of the Matrix.


The word trinity is commonly thought of in the Christian theological sense of the existence of God in three persons. Morpheus, Neo, and Trinity might be considered embodiments of those three persons, with Morpheus as the Father (“Morpheus, you were more than a leader,” Tank says, “you were a father”), Neo as the Son or Christ-like figure (“You are my Savior, man!” Choi tells him, “my own personal Jesus Christ!”), and Trinity as the Holy Spirit who helps Neo come back from the dead.


Neo’s computer advises him to “follow the white rabbit,” a reference to the tardy rabbit which leads Lewis Carroll’s Alice down the rabbit hole and to her adventures in Wonderland. In the film, the white rabbit appears in the form of a tattoo on the shoulder of a woman, who Neo follows to a club where he meets Trinity.

While the OED’s “official” definition of white rabbit is a person or thing that hurries from place to place, it might also refer to something that leads one on (mis)adventures. In the 1930s, rabbit hole gained the figurative sense of a passage leading to a surreal or nonsensical place.


In ancient Roman poet Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Morpheus is the god of dreams while his name translates from Greek as “maker of shapes." In the film, Morpheus is a legendary hacker who expertly manipulates the Matrix and helps Neo realize the Matrix is basically a dream.


"Take the blue pill and the story ends,” Morpheus tells Neo. “Take the red pill and you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”

An influence on the blue and red pills of The Matrix might have been Douglas R. Hofstadter’s 1979 book, Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, in which a tortoise and the philosopher Aristotle drink phials of blue and red liquid to “pop” in and out of M.C. Escher’s labyrinthic drawings. The drinking of the phials—like the taking of the pills in The Matrix—is reminiscent of Alice’s drinking a bottle labeled "DRINK ME" and eating a cake tagged "EAT ME," which cause her to shrink and grow, respectively.

In Matrix parlance, redpills are those who are aware of the Matrix construct while bluepills are not.


Morpheus’s ship, Nebuchadnezzar or "Neb" for short, is named for Nebuchadnezzar II, the ancient Babylonian king who was said to have troubling dreams he couldn't remember. In Matrix Reloaded, Morpheus quotes the Bible as the Neb is destroyed: “I have dreamed a dream; but now that dream is gone from me."


Zion is the last human city, says Tank, hidden “deep underground ... near the earth’s core.” Like the Matrix, the idea of Zion might have been plucked from The Neuromancers, in which Zion is a space settlement built by Rastafarians. The original Zion was an ancient Hebraic city often used as a synonym for Jerusalem.


The Oracle is a sentient program, but unlike the Agents, is on the side of the humans. She’s believed to be precognitive, but it’s unclear if she’s simply telling people what they want to hear. The name Oracle could be a play on the Oracle computer company.


Cypher is a Neb crew member furtively in cahoots with the Agents. The word cypher, or cipher, has multiple meanings. Its oldest definition is the numeral zero, and perhaps by extension, a person of little worth. Cipher eventually came to mean any number, and then a disguised way of writing, perhaps because early codes often replaced letters with numbers. In the movie, Cypher is an expert at reading Matrix code and is himself coded or disguised.


Matrix digital rain is the code for the Matrix that rains down on various computer screens. The characters are a combination of Latin letters, numbers, and Japanese katakana characters. The Hungarian film Meteo is said to be an influence, as well as the opening credits for Ghost in the Shell, a Japanese anime film based on the manga of the same name and an influence on the film in general.


While this special effect didn’t originate with The Matrix, the term bullet time might have. A March 1999 Variety article about the movie mentions “bullet-time photography,” in which “ultra-fast lensing” is used in combination with “computer enhancement” to alter “the speed and trajectories of people and objects.” The first instance of bullet time (not-so-)special effects might be in the 1962 movie Zotz!, in a which a nutty professor uses an ancient amulet to stop a bullet.


In wire fu, a blend of "wire" and "kung fu," wires are used in fight scenes to give the illusion of flight. While the term first appeared in the mainstream in 1997, says Word Spy, Hong Kong action star Jet Li is credited with pioneering the technique in films such as Once Upon a Time in China.

8 Things We Know About Stranger Things Season 3

[Warning: There are lots of Stranger Things season two spoilers ahead.]

Stranger Things season two is in the books, and like we all hoped, it turned out to be a worthy follow-up to an addictive debut season. Now, though, we’re left with plenty of questions, mysteries, and theories to chew on as the wait for a third season begins. But for everything we don’t know about what the next year of Stranger Things will bring us (such as an actual release date), there are more than enough things we do know to keep those fan theories coming well into 2018. While the show hasn't been officially greenlit for a third season by Netflix yet, new details have already begun to trickle out. Here’s everything we know about Stranger Things season three so far.


The third season of Stranger Things won’t pick up right where the second one left off. Like the show experienced between the first two seasons, there will be a time jump between seasons two and three as well. The reason is simple: the child actors are all growing up, and instead of having the kids look noticeably older without explanation for year three, the Duffer Brothers told The Hollywood Reporter:

“Our kids are aging. We can only write and produce the show so fast. They're going to be almost a year older by the time we start shooting season three. It provides certain challenges. You can't start right after season two ended. It forces you to do a time jump. But what I like is that it makes you evolve the show. It forces the show to evolve and change, because the kids are changing.”


If the series’s second season was about expanding the Stranger Things mythology, the third season won't go bigger just for the sake of it, with the brothers even going so far as to say that it will be a more intimate story.

“It’s not necessarily going to be bigger in scale,” Matt Duffer said in an interview with IndieWire. “What I am really excited about is giving these characters an interesting journey to go on.”

Ross Duffer did stress, though, that as of early November, season three is basically “… Matt and me working with some writers and figuring out where it’s going to go.”


The second season ended on a bit of a foreboding note when it was revealed that the Mind Flayer was still in the Upside Down and was seen looming over the Hawkins school as the winter dance was going on. Though we know there will be a time jump at the start of next season, it’s clear that the monster will still have a big presence on the show.

Executive producer Dan Cohen told TV Guide: "There were other ways we could have ended beyond that, but I think that was a very strong, lyrical ending, and it really lets us decide to focus where we ultimately are going to want to go as we dive into Season 3."

What does the Mind Flayer’s presence mean for the new crop of episodes? Well, there will be plenty of fan theories to ponder between now and the season three premiere (whenever that may be).


The Duffer Brothers had a lot of material for the latest season of the show—probably a bit too much. Talking to Vulture, Matt Duffer detailed a few details and plot points that had to be pushed to season three:

"Billy was supposed to have a bigger role. We ended up having so many characters it ended up, in a way, more teed up for season three than anything. There was a whole teen supernatural story line that just got booted because it was just too cluttered, you know? A lot of that’s just getting kicked into season three."

The good news is that he also told the site that this wealth of cut material could make the writing process for the third season much quicker.


Stranger Things already had a roster of fan-favorite characters heading into season two, but newcomer Erica, Lucas’s little sister, may have overshadowed them all. Played by 11-year-old Priah Ferguson, Erica is equal parts expressive, snarky, and charismatic. And the Duffer Brothers couldn’t agree more, saying that there will be much more Erica next season.

“There will definitely be more Erica in Season 3,” Ross Duffer told Yahoo!. “That is the fun thing about the show—you discover stuff as you’re filming. We were able to integrate more of her in, but not as much you want because the story [was] already going. ‘We got to use more Erica’—that was one of the first things we said in the writers’ room.”

“I thought she’s very GIF-able, if that’s a word,” Matt Duffer added. “She was great.”


The season two episode “The Lost Sister” was a bit of an outlier for the series. It’s a standalone episode that focuses solely on the character Eleven, leaving the central plot and main cast of Hawkins behind. As well-received as Stranger Things season two was, this episode was a near-unanimous miss among fans and critics.

The episode did, however, introduce us to the character of Kali (Linnea Berthelsen), who has the ability to manipulate people’s minds with illusions she creates. Despite the reaction, the Duffers felt the episode was vital to Eleven’s development, and that Kali won’t be forgotten moving forward.

“It feels weird to me that we wouldn’t solve [Kali’s] storyline. I would say chances are very high she comes back,” Matt Duffer said at the Vulture Festival.


We're already well acquainted with Eleven, and season two introduced us to Eight (a.k.a. Kali), and executive producer Shawn Levy heavily hinted to E! that there are probably more Hawkins Laboratory experiments on the horizon.

"I think we've clearly implied there are other numbers, and I can't imagine that the world will only ever know Eleven and Eight," Levy said.


Don’t be in too much of a rush to find out everything about the next season of Stranger Things; there might not be many more left. The Duffer Brothers have said in the past that the plan is to do four seasons and end it. However, Levy gave fans a glimmer of hope that things may go on a little while longer—just by a bit, though.

“Hearts were heard breaking in Netflix headquarters when the Brothers made four seasons sound like an official end, and I was suddenly getting phone calls from our actors’ agents,” Levy told Entertainment Weekly. “The truth is we’re definitely going four seasons and there’s very much the possibility of a fifth. Beyond that, it becomes I think very unlikely.”

20 Random Facts About Shopping

Shopping on Black Friday—or, really, any time during the holiday season—is a good news/bad news kind of endeavor. The good news? The deals are killer! The bad news? So are the lines. If you find yourself standing behind 200 other people who braved the crowds and sacrificed sleep in order to hit the stores early today, here's one way to pass the time: check out these fascinating facts about shopping through the ages.

1. The oldest customer service complaint was written on a clay cuneiform tablet in Mesopotamia 4000 years ago. (In it, a customer named Nanni complains that he was sold inferior copper ingots.)

2. Before battles, some Roman gladiators read product endorsements. The makers of the film Gladiator planned to show this, but they nixed the idea out of fear that audiences wouldn’t believe it.

3. Like casinos, shopping malls are intentionally designed to make people lose track of time, removing clocks and windows to prevent views of the outside world. This kind of “scripted disorientation” has a name: It’s called the Gruen Transfer.

4. According to a study in Social Influence, people who shopped at or stood near luxury stores were less likely to help people in need.

5. A shopper who first purchases something on his or her shopping list is more likely to buy unrelated items later as a kind of reward.

6. On the Pacific island of Vanuatu, some villages still use pigs and seashells as currency. In fact, the indigenous bank there uses a unit of currency called the Livatu. Its value is equivalent to a boar’s tusk. 

7. Sears used to sell build-your-own homes in its mail order catalogs.

8. The first shopping catalog appeared way back in the 1400s, when an Italian publisher named Aldus Manutius compiled a handprinted catalog of the books that he produced for sale and passed it out at town fairs.

9. The first product ever sold by mail order? Welsh flannel.

10. The first shopping cart was a folding chair with a basket on the seat and wheels on the legs.

11. In the late 1800s in Corinne, Utah, you could buy legal divorce papers from a vending machine for $2.50.

12. Some of the oldest known writing in the world includes a 5000-year-old receipt inscribed on a clay tablet. (It was for clothing that was sent by boat from Ancient Mesopotamia to Dilmun, or current day Bahrain.)

13. Beginning in 112 CE, Emperor Trajan began construction on the largest of Rome's imperial forums, which housed a variety of shops and services and two libraries. Today, Trajan’s Market is regarded as the oldest shopping mall in the world.

14. The Chinese invented paper money. For a time, there was a warning written right on the currency that all counterfeiters would be decapitated.

15. Halle Berry was named after Cleveland, Ohio's Halle Building, which was home to the Halle Brothers department store.

16. At Boston University, students can sign up for a class on the history of shopping. (Technically, it’s called “The Modern American Consumer”)

17. Barbra Streisand had a mini-mall installed in her basement. “Instead of just storing my things in the basement, I can make a street of shops and display them,” she told Harper's Bazaar. (There are photos of it here.)

18. Shopping online is not necessarily greener. A 2016 study at the University of Delaware concluded that “home shopping has a greater impact on the transportation sector than the public might suspect.”

19. Don’t want to waste too much money shopping? Go to the mall in high heels. A 2013 Brigham Young University study discovered that shoppers in high heels made more balanced buying decisions while balancing in pumps.

20. Cyber Monday is not the biggest day for online shopping. The title belongs to November 11, or Singles Day, a holiday in China that encourages singles to send themselves gifts. According to Fortune, this year's event smashed all previous records with more than $38 million in sales.

A heaping handful of these facts came from John Lloyd, John Mitchinson, and James Harkin's delightful book, 1,234 Quite Interesting Facts to Leave You Speechless.


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