I love interjections. I have a book about them called ZOUNDS!: A Browser’s Dictionary of Interjections which was… not brilliant, but not bad either. It was interesting if one is a word geek like myself, and probably boring to anyone else. When Schoolhouse Rock was a thing back in the 70’s and 80’s I had a few favorites, but I really liked the Interjections video, which I shall post here for your convenience:
I just always love that little kid at the end… she’s so excited then, “Darn, that’s the end.” It’s adorable.
Anyway, what does all of this have to do with brilliant? Brilliant is an interjection in Britain. I’ve watched enough British television and movies to hear it uttered spontaneously from British actors’ mouths. And I’ve read enough novels from overseas to have seen the word used as an interjection. Now, I’m pretty sure that it means something along the lines of, Excellent! (also used by the Britons as an interjection) or Great! (used more by Americans) though I’ve heard it said sarcastically too as in, “Oh that’s just brilliant! Now what do we do?” Brilliant, of course, means clever or smart; but it can also mean shiney or sparkling. I’m guessing, through context that when the British say that someone is brilliant, they mean the former and not the latter. Unless, of course, they’re being sarcastic, then it means stupid or dull.
Here in the States, we don’t generally use brilliant as an interjection. I don’t speak for all 300 some odd million of us, but I’ve traveled all over this nation of mine, and I’ve heard a lot of people talking. While we do use it as a modifier “a brilliant idea”, “a brilliant young man” “the sun shone brilliantly against the snow”, &c… we generally don’t use it as an interjection. I have heard people use genius as an interjection, but brilliant? not so much. In all my years of traveling in and across the United States, and while talking to people, I think the only people I’ve heard using the word as an interjection are people who’ve moved here from elsewhere, or who have been exposed to a great deal of British television (like I have). I’m sure a lot of Whovians — people who are die-hard fans of the Doctor Who television show — use brilliant as an interjection.
Actually it was that very same show that prompted this blog post. I don’t watch it anymore because of some of the awful writing from the previous seasons, but someone posted the last few minutes of the Christmas special on my Facespace. For those who don’t follow the show, after… thirteen? (I don’t remember) regenerations, the Doctor has regenerated into a woman. There’s much furor in the Whovian community. Some are all, “Like, finally!” and some are all, “OMG! NO!” and others are very much, “But why isn’t she a ginger?” Because the Doctor has always wanted to be a ginger (someone with red hair for those who don’t know what that is), and then there are others who don’t really care one way or another so long as the writing gets better (that would be me though I don’t consider myself a Whovian). Anyway, when the new (female) doctor sees her new self in a reflection, she says, “Oh, brilliant!” and then chaos ensues. It is a beautiful interjection and it serves its purpose well. It’s not one I use, being an American, but I love hearing it from other people.
One last video: