FIREFLY EPISODE DISCUSSIONS

"Mal, bad... in the Latin" what does it mean?

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Thursday, May 13, 2004 8:06 AM

PERSTEPH


In episode "Train Job", River, Simon and Mal are in the infirmary in the opening. Mal leaves and River says, "Mal, bad... in the Latin".

I've seen the episode several time now and I don't understand this satement.

Can anyone clarify it for me??

TTFN


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Thursday, May 13, 2004 8:13 AM

LIZ


well, the simple answer is that in Latin, the word bad is "mal" (in Spanish bad is "malo"). as far as deeper meaning.. i'm not touching it.

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Thursday, May 13, 2004 8:14 AM

HERO


Mal means "pain" and "bad" in French, but the word does not exist in Latin. She may mean the latin word "malus".

Also, saying "in the latin" is its own phrase. It could have been simply a figure of speech.

H

...or Vir in the latin.

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Thursday, May 13, 2004 8:17 AM

WREN


Mal is a Latin prefix that means bad, evil, wrong etc. For instance malformed.

Wonder where that came from? I'm gonna go bang my head against a wall and see what else I can shake loose.

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Thursday, May 13, 2004 8:18 AM

FINN MAC CUMHAL


I'm not terribly sure myself. Taken literally it seems to be an attempt to reference the Latin word malus(adj) or male(adv), which means "bad" or “badly.” The word 'mal' is a Latin root, but the word itself is not meaningful without an inflection.

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Thursday, May 13, 2004 8:49 AM

GUNRUNNER


Malfunction, Maltreatment, Malnourish, Malice are also words that have the prefix MAL.

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Thursday, May 13, 2004 9:09 AM

SPARRONI


I've always taken it one of two ways. First, Joss probably threw it in to create a little suspicion about Mal's character, since it was the first episode aired. Second, technically Mal is indeed a 'bad guy.' He's an outlaw, a smuggler, a killer, and an occassional thief. To the Alliance, he's the villain. To us that know him better, we know different!

----------------------
"Forgive my rudeness. I cannot abide useless people."

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Thursday, May 13, 2004 9:17 AM

FORRESTWOLF


I agree with Sparroni on this. I always assumed it meant that Mal, deep down, had a healthy dose o' bad in him. Heart of gold and all that, but Joss has said that he intended Mal to be darker than Fox allowed him to be.

Any other possibilities? River's insights are always fun to discuss!

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Thursday, May 13, 2004 9:25 AM

GEEZER

Keep the Shiny side up


I was aware of the Mal = bad, but assumed it was just random synapses firing in River's brain.

"Keep the Shiny side up"

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Thursday, May 13, 2004 2:49 PM

ZORIAH


I think it was a dialogue gag (which still also fits with River's random synapse firing thing) - she says "Mal, bad." There's a pause and we think she is telling Simon that Mal is a bad man, that she is suspicious of him. But then of course she completes her thought: "in the latin." Which turns a potentially charged statement into a fairly innocuous/random one.

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Thursday, May 13, 2004 3:46 PM

SIGMANUNKI


Quote:

Originally posted by SPARRONI:
I've always taken it one of two ways. First, Joss probably threw it in to create a little suspicion about Mal's character, since it was the first episode aired. Second, technically Mal is indeed a 'bad guy.' He's an outlaw, a smuggler, a killer, and an occassional thief. To the Alliance, he's the villain. To us that know him better, we know different!

----------------------
"Forgive my rudeness. I cannot abide useless people."



Malcolm. Let me distort it.
Mal colm... Mal come...

Then wouldn't it be bad for Mal to come for you. I think we should as Niska, I think he has seen the real Mal

----
"Canada being mad at you is like Mr. Rogers throwing a brick through your window." -Jon Stewart, The Daily Show

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Wednesday, June 2, 2004 4:53 PM

PIERSNICA


Hello, first post here. I just got done watching the entire series and the commentary, and I love the show.

I think that River's comment was random synapses with the obvious connection between the prefix and its latin root. Kaylee said that Mal's a good man, though, and I believe her, despite whatever he may have become after the battle of Serenity Valley.

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Wednesday, June 2, 2004 8:52 PM

QUICKSAND


But, for mine own part, it was Greek to me.

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Thursday, June 3, 2004 12:19 AM

JUMPY


Quote:

Originally posted by Zoriah:
I think it was a dialogue gag (which still also fits with River's random synapse firing thing) - she says "Mal, bad." There's a pause and we think she is telling Simon that Mal is a bad man, that she is suspicious of him. But then of course she completes her thought: "in the latin." Which turns a potentially charged statement into a fairly innocuous/random one.



haha yes you are correct...

__________________________
There's no show I'd rather see, than the one with Serenity.
You can't take the sky from me...

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Thursday, June 3, 2004 8:43 AM

SIGMANUNKI


Quote:

Originally posted by Piersnica:
Hello, first post here. I just got done watching the entire series and the commentary, and I love the show.



Hi, always good to welcome another browncoat to our ranks

Quote:

Originally posted by Piersnica:

I think that River's comment was random synapses with the obvious connection between the prefix and its latin root. Kaylee said that Mal's a good man, though, and I believe her, despite whatever he may have become after the battle of Serenity Valley.



I was trying to have some fun with his name which I admit diverged from the intended meaning of River's comment (I do agree with you that it's a random comment and Mal is actually a good person), but, it does have some basis in truth, as we know how Mal deals with people sometimes (ie Niska and his men).

----
"Canada being mad at you is like Mr. Rogers throwing a brick through your window." -Jon Stewart, The Daily Show

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Thursday, June 3, 2004 10:29 AM

PIERSNICA


Sure, I see what you're saying. There's definitely a darkness to him, because he lost so much on the battlefield (mercy, compassion, forgiveness, faith). With the Niska scene, he went to a very primal part to survive, which may have been exaggerated by what he saw in battle, or may've just gotten closer to the surface because of his lack of the aforementioned things.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2004 1:05 PM

RIVERGIRL


Quote:

Originally posted by SPARRONI:
I've always taken it one of two ways. First, Joss probably threw it in to create a little suspicion about Mal's character, since it was the first episode aired. Second, technically Mal is indeed a 'bad guy.' He's an outlaw, a smuggler, a killer, and an occassional thief. To the Alliance, he's the villain. To us that know him better, we know different!

----------------------
"Forgive my rudeness. I cannot abide useless people."



also at first I thought River just meant he was bad--ie an Independent since her family so obviously is Alliance--remember the game she & Simon place the Independents had them surrounded-using dinasaurs as they did

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Tuesday, June 22, 2004 8:05 PM

TALLCARDDEALER


Quote:

Originally posted by SPARRONI:
I've always taken it one of two ways. First, Joss probably threw it in to create a little suspicion about Mal's character, since it was the first episode aired. Second, technically Mal is indeed a 'bad guy.' He's an outlaw, a smuggler, a killer, and an occassional thief. To the Alliance, he's the villain. To us that know him better, we know different!

That's pretty close to what I was thinking. River's comment, random as it may have been, could simply have been her first impression of Mal. An outlaw, a smuggler, a thief, and a killer (she saw Mal shoot a lawman in cold blood). She may think the same thing that Jayne thinks, that Mal is going to turn them in for the reward at some point. Or maybe not (she can kind of read minds after all). And since she's all smart and well-educated and everything, she remembers the Latin root 'Mal' meaning 'bad' and saw fit to mention it.

Every well-bred petty crook knows that the small, concealable weapons always go to the far left of the place setting.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2004 8:25 PM

JCOBB


I think it was more, (going along the same lines that some of you guys were posting) River just showing off her intelligence. Remember, this was the first episode that aired, and they were trying to, (artfully is how I think Joss worded it) cram all the exposition in he could. Granted she just got done rattling off all the information about the ship, (things Mal himself couldn't remember) but I think it was more reinforcement that River was just "different."

There might be some root wording behind it, but, as Mal said, "You're a part of my crew, why we still discussin' this?"

I don't care, I'm still free.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2004 10:45 PM

MANTICHORUS


It also echoes one of Mal's lines from the original pilot...
MAL:"Oh... I'm a bad man."

--------------------------------------------------
MAL: "Well, look at this! Appears them boys at Fox have decided to cancel us. What does that make them?"
ZOE: "Big damn idiots, sir."
MAL: "Ain't they just."
--------------------------------------------------
Writing at: [url] http://www.fanfiction.net/profile.php?userid=520496 [/url]

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Thursday, June 24, 2004 6:03 AM

SYDNI64


On the commentary track for "Serenity," Joss Whedon remarks that Firefly is in one sense the story of how Malcolm Reynolds became a bad man after losing everything in the war against the Alliance. I think River's comment is a way of underscoring for the viewer that Mal is in some important sense bad, lest that fact be overlooked.

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Thursday, June 24, 2004 6:10 AM

MER


Hmm...I would have figured it had something to do with Mal taking the passengars medicine for that doctor guy.

Doesn't River know what's to happen?

But I think some of the responses are reasonable too.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011 5:37 AM

FUTUREBOY


Just stumbled upon this... a few years late.

The Latin adjective malus, mala, malum means "evil, bad," so River being River utters some knowledge of a VERY ancient language by Firefly standards, Latin, which I'm sure she learned in a week or two. Mal itself is just the prefix, but the name Malcolm itself refers to St. Columba (literally, Columba's servant). Many English words use this prefix as mentioned, malcontent, malicious, malformed, etc.

Therefore her use of the phrase "Mal" in reference to Malcolm is actually wrong, but saying "Mal... bad... in the Latin" is correct.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011 9:20 AM

BYTEMITE


It's also from Hebrew, the word MLKM, meaning "their king" and a reference to David of David and Goliath fame.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011 8:22 PM

RIONAEIRE

Beir bua agus beannacht


I just took it as River making an observation, though it was probably put in for the purpose of letting the viewer contemplate whether Mal was more bad or more good. River may be working on figuring that out herself and so she voices that his name does mean bad in Latin, plus she's River and she's super brilliant, she's also touched. If I were there I'd have said "you're right", simple enough, just go with it, and she is right.

"A completely coherant River means writers don't deliver" KatTaya

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Sunday, August 21, 2011 5:10 PM

BUFO


I definitely thought that River was making a statement of fact, in her mind. Kind of thinking it's no coincidence that the prefix 'mal' means bad. So it's not just his name but also his character she was stating.

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Saturday, January 28, 2012 12:52 PM

JEWELSTAITEFAN


Quote:

Originally posted by bufo:
I definitely thought that River was making a statement of fact, in her mind. Kind of thinking it's no coincidence that the prefix 'mal' means bad. So it's not just his name but also his character she was stating.



My personal take was that River correctly connected Mal to Bad, and also she sensed that Mal was inherently good, albeit not by Alliance standards (she was raised by Alliance standards, but had seen their evil underbelly like few others had), and she was momentarily stricken by the incohesion, the contrast, the irony of the 2 truths.
This shot and her shot in Serenity "It's not safe - for them" ring parallel to me.

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Saturday, January 28, 2012 3:57 PM

GWEK


It's Joss saying "Look how clever River is. She understands Latin, and also temporarily misleads her brother into thinking that she believes Mal is evil. Also, look how clever I am: I named my hero after a bad word."

Joss, of course, has a history of ironically named characters, including Buffy, Angel, Faith, and Spike.

www.stillflying.net: "Here's how it might have been..."

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