Sunday, February 1, 2009

One Holophoner Short of an Opus

The following post concerns a certain purple-haired cyclops.

From Wikipedia and according to a 1999 article in LA Weekly: The full name of Futurama’s Turanga Leela is a nod to Oliver Messiaen’s 1964 Turangalîla-Symphonie. Messiaen said he derived the name of the work from two Sanskrit words: turanga and lila. Wikipedia claims that the pair together translate as “love song and hymn of joy, time, movement, rhythm, life and death,” without any mention of which word means what.

More than one online Sanskrit dictionary, however, offered instead that turanga meant “a swift-goer,” or, by extension, “horse.” Typically unflattering, but also appropriate, given that Leela appeared as a centauress through most of the most recent Futurama game, Bender’s Game. Lila brought up such translations as “a sport,” “diversion,” “amusement,” “playful imitation of a lover,” “dissimulation,” “disguise,” “pretence,” “charm,” “grace,” and quite a few others. My entirely unofficial and likely incorrect translation, contrary to what Massiaen offered, is “horseplay.”

Now to research whether a symphony also gave us the name “Clobberella.”

EDIT: In searching for an image of Leela to paste into this post, I found that an unfiltered Google image search for the terms “leela futurama” and “turanga leela” both turn up porn within the first page of results. Whee. Not wanting to further infect my computer, I Photoshopped together the above image from the third season episode “Parasites Lost.”Futurama, previously:


  1. I was hoping that "Leela" was a Doctor Who reference.

  2. Any idea, O student of old languages, where Messiaen got his definition of turangalila?

  3. turagalīlaka is "of a time (in music)" in the Cologne Digital Sanskrit Lexicon. Otherwise turaga and turaṅga are all about horses. So I don't know where he got it from.