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I am totally lost in the sentence as when Agent Coulson was dying, he said this to Fury:

I’m sorry, boss. The god rabbited,"

I assume the god refers to Loki? And how did rabbit have anything to do with Loki? (because Loki's helmet had long horns, like rabbit ears?)

I checked the meaning of "rabbit" as a verb, it either means "go rabbiting to hunt" or "to talk continuously about things that are not important or interesting"; neither seems to fit the context.

So could anyone help please?

Here is the sentence in the context :

He found Coulson sitting on the floor leaning against the wall. He was pale, his eyes heavy-lidded and his breath shallow. He looked up as Fury approached and knelt in front of him. Fury took the gun off his lap and set it on the floor.

“I’m sorry, boss. The god rabbited,” Coulson said.

“Just stay awake. Eyes on me.”

“No. I’m clocking out here.” Even on the edge of death, Coulson kept his cool. Clocking out, Fury thought. How many soldiers could make a little joke in the last moments of their lives? Coulson was one of a kind.

“Not an option,” Fury said. He couldn’t afford to lose this man. Not after everything else they’d lost today.

“It’s okay, boss,” Coulson breathed. “This was never going to work . . . if they didn’t have something . . . to . . .”

He never finished what he was going to say. With a last slow sigh, Agent Phil Coulson died.

the avengers I

23

"Rabbit" can also mean "move quickly; run away".

It would seem in this context that Loki fled.

See the third definition for this verb in the Oxford dictionary.

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    @user86301 In everyday speech, "fled" is perhaps more common than "flee", but that's just my personal feeling as a native speaker. It is certainly a widely understood word. "Run away" is probably most common in informal speech. – Astralbee Apr 9 at 10:49
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    @user86301 The use of "rabbitted" in this way is meant to be a little jarring - I haven't heard it in a long while and I admit I had to look it up myself to be sure. As a Marvel fan myself I would say that that the use of it here is deliberately a little jarring - perhaps it is meant to sound like internal SHIELD jargon for running away / fleeing? The other answer mentions it was used in Firefly which also has a military feel to it. – Astralbee Apr 9 at 11:01
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    @user86301 It is not commonly used that way in British English. Without even more context than your long quote, I would have interpreted it as "the god talked a lot and told people things they weren't supposed to know about." But "high tailed" is used to mean "ran away", and when rabbits run away from danger their short white tails are visible, and are a warning sign to other rabbits nearby that they should also run away. – alephzero Apr 9 at 11:45
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    @alephzero Deer, as well. Very common to see whitetail deer's tails flickering through the woods as they run from you when you startle them while hiking. – Adonalsium Apr 9 at 12:27
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    My understanding is that "rabbiting" meaning "to run away" is more commonly said by police officers in the USA. For example: policemag.com/339210/think-before-you-run Quoting: "...you should use every available and appropriate tactic to prevent a suspect from rabbiting." Use of "rabbit" instead of "flee" or "got away" helps establish Coulson as having a military or law enforcement background. – Todd Wilcox Apr 9 at 15:03
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Joss Whedon, who wrote The Avengers, also wrote the sci-fi TV series Firefly.

There he describes the term rabbiting as "Hightailing; running; fleeing" for the spaceship. (check under the heading "Frontier Life") in the linked webpage.

He uses the same term here to mean that Loki flew after impaling Coulson with the Scepter.

In a way, this is like a hidden easter-egg for Joss fans.

P.S.: I think this question is more suited to be on https://movies.stackexchange.com/

  • thanks a lot! first heard of this site. but I wonder if the moviesstack is also about language learning? or just the content of movies, like plot or something?. and is the usage of "rabbit" as "flee" as often as "run away, flee"? any semantic difference between "rabbit and flee"? – user86301 Apr 9 at 10:36
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    1. The website you link to is a fan website, there is no indication that this is how Joss Whedon describes rabbiting. 2. Many of the terms on that website are recognisable outside of the Firefly universe. Rabbiting is one of them. 3. There is no indication that this is an Easter egg. I find it far more likely that Joss has a different vocabulary to you, and to him the verb "to rabbit" meaning to flee is normal, and not something he made up. – AndyT Apr 9 at 10:56
  • @ AndyT, thanks for the confirmation. – user86301 Apr 9 at 11:24
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    There's no indication that Whedon coined this meaning. Rather, it seems likely he picked it up from law enforcement officers in the US, who are more likely to use this meaning than others. Also, this meaning is not unique to Whedon in film and TV - TV cop dramas like CSI and Law & Order will use this word from time to time. Since this meaning is used by actual police officers quite often, it's not specific to movies or TV. – Todd Wilcox Apr 9 at 15:05
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I've never seen the movie. But I just did a small bit of research. It said "In The Avengers, Coulson is fatally wounded by Loki, which S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury uses to motivate the Avengers."

Therefore I take what he said, to mean simply, that Loki, was just too quick. And he could do nothing to prevent his current situation.

It's simple, and quite self evident. For rabbit in this situation Can only mean 2 things.

INFORMAL•BRITISH talk at length, especially about trivial matters. "stop rabbiting on, will you, and go to bed!" 3. INFORMAL move quickly; run away. "he rabbited as soon as he saw us coming"

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"Rabbit" here means "to talk aimlessly or inconsequentially". It's British English, and the other theories about "fleeing" are completely off the mark. There's a song by a London duo called Chas & Dave, titled 'Rabbit' (Link to YouTube), where they sing about a woman who won't stop talking.

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    What about the context makes you think Loki was talking aimlessly instead of escaping pursuit? – ColleenV Apr 9 at 16:22
  • The the Agent is reporting that Loki fled, not that he was chatting away in the corner. Agent Coulson is also American, so his use of a British English term would be incongruous. This particular meaning of 'rabbiting' is not one that I've ever heard in American English, while the meaning of 'darted off' is -- while rare -- one that I do recognize. – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Apr 9 at 20:25
  • Hello Leigh. When you have a moment, please take our tour and review our help center to understand how best to use this site. We prefer that respondents use more authoritative sources than YouTube songs. For example, the online Oxford dictionary has three definitions for "to rabbit:" (1) to hunt rabbits, (2) to talk at length, and (3) to move quickly or run away. It notes that (2) is "British informal," meaning it's unique to Britain (and, presumably, the Commonwealth). I've never heard or used (1), but use and hear (3) regularly. – JBH Apr 10 at 7:16

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