The conception of "Inception"
LAST night I saw Christopher Nolan's film "Inception", and I think its title is a small work of etymological genius.
The film, in a surprisingly thought-provoking way for an otherwise fairly standard Hollywood blockbuster, tackles the question of where ideas come from. In this near-future scenario, Leonardo DiCaprio's character, Dom Cobb, is an expert in the "extraction" of secrets from people's minds by joining them in their dreams. His mission now is to carry out an "inception", planting an idea in someone's mind without the victim's being aware of it—a procedure Cobb's peers believe to be impossible because, supposedly, people always know the origins of their ideas.
Let's just note that this premise is rather forced. I think we don't always, or perhaps ever, really know the origins of our ideas. But leave that aside. The OED defines "inception" as, first and foremost, "origination, beginning, commencement". There is a specialised second meaning to do with entering university, and a third, "the action of taking in, as an organism". This, as Dictionary.com notes in its definition of the verb incept, can be taken as a literal translation of the original Latin incipere, which means "commence" but, broken down into its constituent parts, is "in-take".
I think most people use the word inception basically as a synonym for "conceiving", as in "he was present at the inception of the idea". That use is roughly in line with the definition of inception as "commencement". So the film's title rather cleverly suggests that the inception of an idea may be an inception in the less common sense of the word: not an origination but an absorption.
我想大多数人都把“inception”这个词当做“conceiving（酝酿，构思）”的同义词来用，比如“he was present at the inception of the idea（他现在正在酝酿一个想法）”。这种用法大致能够和词典释义的“开始”相契合。所以电影的题目非常巧妙地暗指这里的inception所赋含的含义是人们较不常用的一个：并不是起源，而是吸收。
Except, of course, that this isn't quite accurate either: in the film inception, like extraction, refers to an action taken by mind-hijackers like Cobb. So it is not a taking-in but an introducing. And this is why I think the title is so brilliant. It uses inception in two correct senses simultaneously while adding a new third sense that corresponds to a phonetically almost identical word: insertion.
The elegance of this trick is such that I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up entering the language as a new meaning of inception: "the planting of an idea; the introduction (perhaps surreptitious) of an idea from an outside source". I think there is a use case for such a word. Can anyone think of another one in English that has precisely this meaning?