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In the movie “The Zootopia”, when the Assistant Mayor Bellwether was refused by the Mayor Lionheart to review some very important billings, she was so desperate and said “oh, mutton chops.”

I looked up the meaning of “mutton chops” in some advanced dictionaries, I only found that it means some kind of whiskers, but in the movie, according to the context, it was supposed to mean “I’m doomed”.

So my question is: can the phrase “mutton chops” sometimes be used as “I’m doomed”? If not, what does it mean here exactly? Thanks!

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    Only the scriptwriters know exactly why Dawn says "Oh, mutton chops!" It doesn't mean "I'm doomed," though. It can never mean that in English. It means "Oh, phooey" or "Oh, doggone it" or similar. It's a mild interjection. Sep 13, 2016 at 4:12

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Dawn Bellwether:
[follows Mayor Lionheart, trying to keep the folders balanced and gathering the scattering papers]
Oh, no, but sir, you do have a meeting with Herds and Grazing, sir, if I can just...!
[Mayor Lionheart enters his office and lets the doors slam right in Bellwether's face, making her spill everything]
Oh, mutton chops.
[she picks up the folders until she's approached by Judy and Nick] (Source.)

I don't think it means "I'm doomed" here. She says this after she dropped the pile she was carrying. In the movie, she looks around like she is annoyed or displeased. In this instance, it seems to be an mild interjection similar to

  • Dang!
  • Darn it!
  • Oh dear!

You can create a curse, expletive, or interjection like that with many words. Here are a few "made up" curses I found online: What Are Your Favorite “Family Friendly” Curse Words?

  • Fudgecicles
  • oh pickles!
  • mother nature!

The context will indicate that you're expressing annoyance or dissatisfaction. And they're understood to be mild since they're not the big curses like the F word or the S word.

As an aside, notice that Bellwether is a sheep. It might seem fitting that she uses mutton chop as a curse since mutton chop also refers to a chop of sheep meat. I don't think sheep want to become people food. It's like if a pig character were to say oh, pork chops!. :D

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    Thank you Max! I never knew we can creat words to show our emotion. Sheep hate to be mutton chops, I hate to work later, so I can say "overtime" to show my anger later. haha...
    – selina
    Sep 13, 2016 at 4:33
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    Hmmm. +1 Brilliant! I never noted the ovine reference before reading your answer, @Max . I think it's quite likely that this is exactly why the character says. "Oh, mutton chops." It's as if you or I were to use the interjection "Oh, long pig!" You should expand your answer. I'm not sure it has anything to do with learning English, and it veers toward LitCrit, but it's an insight into the mind of a clever scriptwriter. Sep 13, 2016 at 4:40
  • @P.E.Dant Yes, I agree, but I think "long pig" might be lost on people, especially learners. Perhaps the point will be just as clear using "pork chop" instead. :)
    – Em.
    Sep 13, 2016 at 5:16
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In everyday language, one would often use "varieties " instead of "real" swear words - Shoo(t)! instead of Shit!, Dang! or Darn!1 instead of Damn(ed)!...

Now consider that the characters in Zootopia are all animals: Mutton chops! would fall flatly into the pattern described, especially if it seems "nonsensical" taken literally. Not having seen the full movie I can only speculate, but would My ass! make sense in that scene?


1 nothing to do with mending socks in that context, of course!

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  • Thank you Stephie, so everyday English is not always the same as what we see in our textbooks, and only you native speakers can teach me that!
    – selina
    Sep 13, 2016 at 5:02
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    @selina - isn't it the same in every language? Words and sentences not always to be taken literally? ;-) (I'm not a native speaker btw., just someone who uses English a lot.)
    – Stephie
    Sep 13, 2016 at 5:41
  • Stephie, certainly I know we don't take words and sentences literally in our everyday language, I just wanted to say that being an English learner, I can't figure out which one is the WITTEN one and which one is the ORAL one, I am confused. You're awesome!
    – selina
    Sep 13, 2016 at 6:28

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