A correspondent from BBC Radio 4's Front Row calls to ask whether I have any views about the name of the new James Bond movie, Skyfall. Had I ever heard the word before?
I certainly had. Thanks to various children, I am aware of characters in Transformers universes with this name, and I recall an adventure fantasy from the 1980s which had a planet called Skyfall. And there was a striking use by W H Auden, in the charade (his first dramatic work) he wrote in 1928 and dedicated to Cecil Day Lewis, 'Paid on Both Sides', which has the vivid lines:
Though heart fears all heart cries for, rebuffs with mortal beat
Skyfall, the legs sucked under, adder's bite.
But apart from this, the coinage seems a somewhat predictable compound. Other words ending in fall in English are unremarkable - rainfall, snowfall, waterfall, and suchlike, alongside figurative extensions such as pitfall, landfall, and shortfall. It does lend itself to cosmic invention, though: a quick search on Google produces starfall, moonfall, planetfall, sunfall, and others. So skyfall is in good company. But we'll have to wait and see what motivates the title in this case.
I'm wondering if it's 'James Bond meets Chicken Licken'. You remember him? An acorn falls on his head, and he thinks the sky is falling down so he rushes off to tell the king? Maybe the new Bond baddy is Foxy Loxy in disguise.