The”Wilhelm Scream” is the name of a famous movie sound effect. It is a recording of a man screaming that was created for a 1951 movie, Distant Drums. The recording was put in the movie studio’s sound effects library, and was used in several movies over the next few years.
One of those movies was Charge at Feather River, made in 1953. In that movie, when a cowboy character was shot through the leg with an arrow, this sound effect was used. That character’s name was Wilhelm, so it was called the “Wilhelm Scream.”
Decades later, Ben Burtt, a movie sound designer, noticed that this particular scream was used repeatedly. He thought it would be amusing to use The Wilhelm Scream in his movies whenever possible. Some of his friends and colleagues began doing the same thing, as an inside joke. Most people (like me) never noticed that they were hearing the exact same scream over and over again in different movies. The only people who noticed were “insiders,” like Ben Burtt, other sound designers, and serious movie fans.
An inside joke, sometimes called an in joke, is a private joke shared between members of a group. The joke only makes sense to members of the group. Outsiders don’t understand; they don’t “get” the joke. Sharing inside jokes makes members of a group feel close to one another, and makes other people feel excluded.
Because they make some people feel left out, inside jokes are rude in some situations. But if they are not used to hurt outsiders, inside jokes are a fun way to bring people together and make them feel great about the things they have in common. I think that language learners naturally develop inside jokes, usually having to do with language mistakes! It’s nice to have someone to laugh with who’s going through the same kinds of struggles as you are.
Would you like to hear the Wilhelm Scream for yourself? Watch this, and then you’ll be in on the joke!
What groups have you been a part of that shared inside jokes?
Have you ever felt left out because you didn’t “get” an inside joke?