Define your films: Are you sure what “inception” and “despicable” mean?

“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” “Despicable Me.” “Inception.” Before you shell out the dough for a ticket, inform your decision with the meaning behind the titles.

“Inception” is director Christopher Nolan’s first film since the box office behemoth “The Dark Knight.” Nolan has a habit of using sophisticated, one-word titles for his films (besides the Batman series): “Memento,” “Insomnia,” “The Prestige. ”The general definition of inception is “a beginning.” The more interesting, specific sense of the word  is the opposite of beginning: “commencement, [graduation] as at a university or other school.”  This academic meaning suggests a metaphor of caution: will audiences feel like they are sitting through a boring lecture or having their minds expanded as in a provocative seminar? (And what do you call someone who wakes up in their dreams? In the real world, that is. Here’s the answer.)

Disney’s marketing of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” downplays its inspiration, the company’s classic Fantasia “a potpourri of well-known airs arranged with interludes and florid embellishments.” A teen idol replaces Mickey Mouse, but the anthropomorphized brooms remain. How is a sorcerer different from a wizard, a magician, a warlock, or a thaumaturgist, for that matter? Sorcery derives from the Latin sors, “fate,” and to sorcel,“use magic,” also means “to cast lots.” This etymology helps pinpoint the precise type of magic: Lots are  “one of a set of objects, as straws or pebbles, drawn or thrown from a container to decide a question or choice by chance.” A sorcerer, then, is closer to divination (telling the future) than say, prestidigitation “sleight of hand” or necromancy “raising or contacting the dead.”

“Despicable Me” is already a blockbuster. The cartoon comedy boasts the classic adjective despicable, “deserving to be despised.” Despise comes from two Latin roots, de as in “down,” and specere, “”to look.” Of course, the word is most famous for its mangled pronunciation by Daffy Duck. We can’t help but wonder if Daffy were to watch “Despicable Me,” would his response be “That’s despicable?”