I’ve learned a lot about myself and the world this year, but there is one thing that really unraveled me. The pronunciation of the word biopic. I’ve been saying it incorrectly for centuries…okay…years…alright…decades (fuck, I’m getting old).
Biopics are my favorite films to watch, since I’ve always been a big fan of reading and writing historical fiction. There’s something magical about being whisked away to another time, learning about real events and the people who lived through them.
Apparently, there is a great debate about the pronunciation of this word. Is it BI-opic or BIO-pic?
Biopic was coined in the 1940s, combining the words biographical and picture to form biopic. All my life, it made sense to just start saying the word the same way I would say biography and say BI-opic. Once I heard it pronounced BIO-pic, I realized my version sounded like a damn optical term.
“Britt, it looks like you’re going to need to wear BI-opics from now on. Your vision is getting worse as you’re getting older.” Double damn.
Okay, so…how my world unraveled. If you care to know and you’re actually still reading this nonsense.
First confession is that I take baths (somewhat safely) with my iPad and I usually throw on YouTube. Second confession: Because I’m a history nerd, and I love biopics, I sometimes watch interviews with actors or directors to hear more about what happened behind-the-scenes.
Like, how involved was the real person (if they’re alive) or the real person’s family (if they’re dead) in the creative process. To me, that makes all the difference with the depiction of that person’s life in a film.
One such evening I was watching this Sundance Film Festival Q&A with Gloria Steinem and Julie Taymor, who directed The Glorias. I had just seen the film and I was doing my usual nerdy post-mortem YouTube stuff when the director shattered my world by saying BIO-pic. She said it so casually—my jaw dropped open and I blushed.
Whaaaat? No fucking way.
I ran out of the bathroom with a towel hastily wrapped around me. I didn’t bother to dry off—a trail of puddle footprints led to Mr. H on the couch. “Is it BI-opic or BIO-pic?”
He stared at the puddle trail behind me. “It’s BI-opic.”
I put my hands on my hip. “Are you sure?”
Well, we started taking a poll. Anyone else we asked said “It’s BIO-pic.”
Searching for validation, or at least…some semblance of understanding…I Googled “biopic pronunciation” to get to the bottom of this. Turns out, there is no easy answer as both are used.
One is American, one is British. Or, one is right and one is wrong. It’s infuriating (not really). And if I’m stressing you out unnecessarily, this skit will lighten things up on Late Night with Seth Meyers, where his entire crew debates the pronunciation of biopic.
You see, this is why I go out of my way to comfort people who think they aren’t good at writing—or if they are non-native English speakers—they think they aren’t good at speaking the language.
Allegedly, I’m supposed to have some sort of mastery of the English language as a writer and a native. But, I tell people who are second-guessing themselves the same thing every time: “English is a totally ridiculous language. And, I’m allowed to say this because I’m a writer.”
Exhibit A: Biopic.
Anyway, I don’t have the answer. But, I will share a list of biopics I love in case you want to kick back with any of these films that pique your interest. Hopefully, you won’t obsess over the pronunciation of biopic as you’re watching something—like I am nowadays without fail.
Great Biopics I’ve Seen Over the Years
More Recent Finds
On the Basis of Sex
I Am Woman
The Wolf of Wall Street
Ford v Ferrari
Walk the Line
A Beautiful Mind
The Social Network
The Blind Side
The Big Short
The King’s Speech
Hemingway and Gellhorn
Okay, so how in the hell do you say it BI-opic or BIO-pic? Vote in the poll down below. If that question is too controversial, feel free to share your favorite biopics instead.