One of the many amazing aspects of Mad Max: Fury Road is its storytelling through absorption. There is no leading dialogue that hints at what happened to the world, no text before the movie begins that catches us up on details of the setting, no scenes for the sake of cluing us in on character’s pasts and the past of the world in general. The movie starts at one hundred miles per hour and has no time to catch you up.
I am sure George Miller (the director) has eons of tradition and lore tucked into corners of his desk and brain, but instead of laying it out in an obvious way, he just lets it inform the film.
The story takes place with the history affecting and influencing decisions and outcomes, and at first that may seem confusing or exclusive, but the opposite happens, the movie feels all the more inclusive, like we are being told the world’s best secret, and the more we watch and pay attention, the more we learn about this world and people’s past.
My favorite way the film does this is through its language. The dialogue is loaded with words that have slightly or entirely different meanings than right now, or words that are brand new. And the only way you can understand them is through context clues and careful attention… or by reading the rest of this post.
Here are some of the words in Mad Max: Fury Road and their meanings as best as can be deciphered (In Alphabetical Order).
aqua cola (n.): Water pumped by Immortan Joe from under The Citadel. Since water is so rare, he uses it as a leverage commodity to control everyone and everything.
black thumb (n.): A mechanic; the term is in reference to how often a mechanic’s hands are covered in grease.
blood bag (n.): A full-life that is used to supply half-lives with fresh blood if they have fallen ill. The two are connected by an IV and blood is transfused from one to the other. Max is used as Nux’s blood bag when the chase to catch Furiosa and The Five Wives begins. Nux takes his blood bag with him by strapping him to the lancer’s perch and staying connected to it by chain and IV.
breeders (n.): Women kept by Immortan Joe for the purposes of creating War Pups. The most famous breeders are Immortan Joe’s “Five Wives” or the “Five Wives of the Citadel.” The movie revolves around their escape at the hands of Imperator Furiosa and subsequent attempt at recapture.
Bullet Farm (n.): A neighbor to The Citadel that manufactures small arms, gun powder, and bullets from an abandoned mine. Allied with The Citadel based on mutual dependence. The farm is run by The Bullet Farmer.
Buzzards (n.): A Russian speaking scavenger tribe of bandits that live in the underground “Sunken City.” They are recognizable by their vehicles which are covered in spikes and sport buzz saws used to scavenge anything they can capture. In the film, The Buzzards attack the War Rig causing Max and Furiosa to ally based on need.
chrome (adj. or adv.): Used to describe anything that is awesome, holy, or glorious. The word develops based on the importance of chrome in a society that 1.) Values vehicles above all else 2.) Is a wasteland of dirt and sand where everything is deteriorating and dying. The word is often used with “shiny” as in “shiny and chrome.”
chrome spray (n.): War Boys will huff chrome spray before their final act before death. This gives them a high that enhances their ability and desire to spend their life in a glorious way and earn their way into Valhalla where they will ride eternal, shiny and chrome. The residue leaves them with a silver mouth.
The Citadel (n.): Immortan Joe’s city. Prosperous because of its ability to pump aqua cola from the ground.
flamer (n.): A flame-thrower attached to a vehicle used to set fire to other vehicles. Furiosa noticed flamers and polecats in The People Eater’s pursuing army.
Fukushima Kamakrazee (adj.): A description of the War Boys, specifically to the way they fight and risk their lives in the name of Immortan Joe, similar to the way Japanese kamikaze fighters risked their lives for their country. Fukushima references the nuclear power plant leak in Japan in 2011, which may be a contributing factor in their half-lives. Fukushima Kamakrazee is chanted as they lower the War Rig for the run to Gas Town at the beginning of the film.
full-life (n.): A person who is not dying by the genetic and radiation factors that are plaguing the War Boys of The Citadel. Max is referred to as a full-life before he is hooked up to Nux.
Gas Town (n.): Settled on an abandoned oil refinery, Gas Town produces guzzolene, and thus trades with The Bullet Farm and The Citadel in a mutually beneficial alliance. Furiosa was originally supposed to be going on a run to Gas Town at the beginning of the film to trade aqua cola for guzzolene, before she abandoned course and betrayed Immortan Joe.
The Green Place (n.): The once fertile land of Many Mothers and the destination of Furiosa as she tries to escape with the Five Wives of The Citadel. It has since devolved and is inhabited by settlers walking on stilts needed to traverse the boggy terrain.
guzzolene (n.): Gasoline; a precious commodity in a world where whatever remains is used to furbish vehicles that need gas to operate.
half-life (n.): A term used to refer to War Boys and Pups who are dying from radiation sickness. A possible reference to nuclear fallout that may have destroyed the world, but a definite reference to a shortened life span due to in-breeding, genetic factors, and exposure to the irradiated wasteland.
Imperator (n.): A lieutenant to Immortan Joe in charge of contingencies of War Boys. The story revolves around Imperator Furiosa who was put in charge of the run to trade guzzolene for aqua cola. The other Imperator seen is the Prime Imperator who, like Furiosa, does not seem to be ailing from the same diseases as the rest of the War Boys.
lancer (n.): A War Boy in charge of attacking enemy vehicles with grenade tipped spears. They spike the spears into the cab’s and undercarriages of vehicles, causing an explosion on impact and incapacitating the vehicle. A lancer flipped Max’s Interceptor at the beginning of the film and is a very common method of attack against the War Rig during the chase.
mother’s milk (n.): Breast milk; since water was rare, this was another form of hydration and sustenance. The Citadel has a troop of overweight women who sit in a row like at a saloon and are pumped, by a machine, for their breast milk. The visual is reminiscent of cows at a dairy farm.
nitro (n.): Nitrous oxide; used to boost vehicles’ speed. Sometimes released from a cylinder in the cab of the car.
pole cats (n.): War Boys that strap themselves to the top of long flexible poles and are mounted onto vehicles. The poles rotate back and forth creating inertia that flexes the poles and allows the pole cats to attack from above, equipped with flame throwers, lances, saws, nooses, or a plethora of other weapons.
revhead (n.): A War Boy capable of driving a vehicle.
schlanger (n.): Dick
shiny/shine (adj. or adv.): A description of anything that is new or undeteriorated. Can also be in reference to a flashy or awesome thing done. After getting the War Rig onto high ground by using a winch and a tree, Nux says, “I never thought I’d do something as shine as that.” Also often used in tandem with chrome, as in “shiny and chrome.”
smeg (n.): An all-purpose swear word. Used twice by The Dag, one of the Five Wives, in reference to Max. Once by itself, and another time in cooperation with schlanger, “He’s a crazy smeg who eats schlanger!”
“V8” (n.): A gesture used by War Boys, made by intertwining and steepling your fingers so that eight of them form a ‘V.’ A reference to the everlasting nature of engines in comparison to their very short lives. Used to show honor and respect to those who may or have sacrificed their lives in service of Immortan Joe. The V8 is also the name of the belief system that holds together their cult-like following and worship of Immortan Joe.
Valhalla (n.): Heaven; all War Boys hope to die and ride eternal in Valhalla, shiny and chrome. Immortan Joe, at one point, promises to carry Nux through the gates of Valhalla, the greatest prize a War Boy could hope for.
War Boys (n.): Boys, chosen to be a part of the V8 cult and military group at a very young age. The grow up believing that death on behalf of Immortan Joe will bring meaning to their lives. The movie focuses on a War Boy named Nux, who continually fails to give his life in service of Immortan Joe, and must find a new way to find meaning.
War Pup (n.): A child chosen to become a War Boy but, as yet, is too young to be of service.
War Rig (n.): The souped-up semi-truck driven by Furiosa on the guzzolene run where she deviates and escapes with the Five Wives. Built to withstand all attacks. Furiosa describes it as “2000 horses of nitroboosted war machine.”
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