[I’m posting this despite my general resolution not to give free publicity to corporate entities.]
Yesterday I saw the movie Sing, which was rather cliched but a lot of fun. It was made by Illumination Entertainment, the makers of Despicable Me, Minions and The Secret Life of Pets. At the very beginning of the movie, the studio’s logo appears in illuminated letters. Four minions sing ‘Illumination’, building up a four-note C major chord. The fourth minion is a very bad singer, and when it sings, some of the lights flicker off, leaving ILLU___AT___. I wondered about the significance of those letters, but the movie continued and I had to stop wondering. Later, I looked at the movie’s entry on the Internet Movie Database, and it mentions that it’s not the illuminated letters which are important, but the ones which flicker out.
(Figured it out yet?)
Illumination Entertainment would be an apt name for an animation studio anyway, but the name either just happens to contain the name of its most famous characters, or was chosen especially because it does. In either case, a very cunning linguist spotted the coincidence.
The words illumination and minion are totally unrelated: illumination comes from Latin illūmināre to light up, brighten (compare lūmen, light, window) and minion is from French mignon. Minion is defined as ‘1. a servile follower or subordinate of a person in power … 3. a minor official’ but also ‘2. a favored or highly regarded person’ and as an adjective ‘5. dainty; elegant; trim; pretty’. The British National Corpus has 32 occurrences, 31 of which are either definitions 1. or 3. The exception is a fictional character named Miss Minion Thinspace, which is surely a mistake for Mignon.
Mignon is defined as ‘small and pretty; delicately pretty’; that is, an adjective. The BNC has 11 occurrences, none of which are unquestionably adjectives. It’s used as a female name (either for real or fictional people) (there was a girl with this name at one of my high schools) or a pet form (approx = ‘sweetie’), ‘canals, streams, small busy rivers [in western France] with charming names like the Boutonne, the Mignon and the Belle’ and the filet mignon (which is unquestionably an adjective in French, but questionably so in English).
(By the way, as I typed this post, I mis-typed illuminated as illumated twice. (note that illumined is a genuine (rare, literary) alternative))