Pretty Little Liars: A Glossary (and Pre-Season 4 Refresher!)


Pretty Little Liars is ready to entertain us for the summer! Even though it's only been a few months since we last saw our Liars gasping into a trunk, Season 4 premieres this week, which means it's only a matter of time before the show reveals what Red Coat and her A Army have in store for a more robust Liars squad.

Speaking of Red Coat, the A Army, and capital-L Liars, those of you who may be new to the PLL community on TV.com might not recognize some of the shorthand we tend to use when discussing the show. Who's Detective McCreeperson? Who's Dollface? What are Soap Opera Rules? If those terms don't mean much to you, you're in luck: In preparation for Season 4, we've compiled a handy guide to the fandom's most commonly used terms and our in-house PLL speak, to help you follow along with both the show and our reviews. And as a bonus, it should even provide a little refresher as to how last season ended.

As such, it should go without saying that there are spoilers contained within! If you're not caught up on the series, you should really just get yourself to Netflix and catch up before reading further. Or don't. I'm not your boss, applesauce. 


A

The enemy! The unknown entity responsible for bullying our protagonists signs every bit of correspondence with "—A," which was first thought to stand for Alison but, as we now know, has grown into a collective (see A Team). Mona took on the mantle of A in PLL's first couple of seasons, but after being usurped by someone bigger and badder than her, joined forces with the Liars by the end of Season 3.


The A Team / A Army

Kind of like the A-Team from the '80s, but instead of a bunch of ex-military operatives, they're well-funded hormonal teenagers. And they have plans. Like, Machiavellian plans. PLL's A Team may have started out as a few disgruntled teens, but is now a confirmed syndicate, possibly an industry. As the seasons have progressed, things have gotten murkier as to who's pulling the strings. Not even the Hanso Foundation is this complicated.


Arkham Asylum 

A nickname for Radley Sanitarium, where supervillain Mona was sent after she was outed as the A of Seasons 1 and 2, and where she was approached by Vivian Darkbloom to step up her game. It's also where Meredith, after spending a short story arc slowly poisoning Aria, was sent after Byron caught her. There's a whole cabal associated with Radley that helps the villains get out so they can wreak havoc. Spencer also spent some time there, and at the time, we kind of hoped she'd become The Joker (it was the path she was taking back then)—but alas, if Spencer wasn't with the Liars, there would be no Batman. Because the Other Liars Brain Trust (see below) would just be a bunch of silly girls getting forced to eat cupcakes.


Bruce

A name used heavily on the PLL Annotations blog, Bruce is the giant baby with three eyes and a penchant for surrounding itself with watermelons on the wall of Cece Drake's boutique. No one seems to ever address "him." People will try on clothes and chit-chat with Cece, but no one ever asks, "Hey, why do you have a giant watermelon baby on your wall?"


Detective McCreeperson


Detective McCreeperson (and variations thereof)

Detective Wilden, figurehead of Rosewood's impotent police force. The entire case around all the bizarre phenomena in their sleepy hamlet is based on whatever the Liars or A bring to them. There's never really any investigating going on, just heavy browbeating and borderline stalking from McCreeperson. It doesn't help that he's also involved with the NAT Club, the consortium of bros who are tied with filming the Liars in their underpants and, possibly, murder.


Dollface


Dollface

The frightening burlap sack costume the A Team sometimes dons at the many masquerade events that seem to occur in Rosewood. In fact, the costume store must be a pretty busy place in town, as baddies wear all kinds of mysterious outfits: the Black Swan, the Queen of Hearts (which I sometimes refer to as the Harlequin), and a sundry of other creepy masks. Dollface is the basic costume for the A Team because (1) it was the one that identified the A Team in Season 2's "The First Secret" and (2) because there's a running theme on the show of dolls being the scariest things you've ever seen in your life.


"Everyone with a penis is a suspect"

Like Gregory House's "Everybody lies," this concept is basically what sums up the series. Everyone's first suspect when it comes to who is bullying these girls is one of Rosewood's dense population of creepy men. There are so many quasi-pedophiles and lurkers in Rosewood you'd think they lived in Sudden Valley.




Ezria

The mashup name for the on-again-off-again relationship between Ezra Fitz and Aria. It's a wildly divisive relationship among fans because many people want the couple to make it, while many other people are creeped out that a teacher is doinking a high school student. We've determined, over the course of the debate, that Ezra is not guilty of statutory rape in Pennsylvania (just barely), but he is guilty of being a creepshow. Not that Aria herself doesn't act kind of creepy with regard to the pairing; she calls his bed "sacred ground." Did you just get the shivers? My skin is crawling.


The Hoodies

The footmen and footwomen of the A Team. They all skulk around Rosewood, peeping into windows wearing black hoodies and gloves, even when they eat french fries. Though they're forever staring into houses getting information, no one seems to notice these people poking around the windows of young teen girls. They also seem to buy their equipment in bulk, but shop owners don't find it odd that someone in this small town needs to buy several of an outfit usually reserved for rapists. Along with parental supervision, this show would be over if there was a Neighborhood Watch.


The Liars

For our purposes, the Liars are our protagonists: Spencer Hastings, Aria Montgomery, Hanna Marin, and Emily Fields. They are the victims of a complicated, really well-funded, omnipresent bullying syndicate that's gone whack-a-doo since it first started. The Liars are constantly caught between having to play by A's arcane rules, rebelling against those rules with whoever they're dating, and then paying the price for their insurrections. It's up to them to figure out exactly who's part of the A Team, because Rosewood's police department is pretty wholly ineffectual. I'm fairly certain a Mayberry task force would be better qualified to crack the case.


Mona Code 

Mona Vanderwaal spent a full episode speaking (and another one tweeting) in a "code" that you and I might just call a verbal acrostic. Her example: If you point to someone and say "She Lives Under Trees," that means "SLUT." She doesn't use it nearly as often as she would have you believe, but every time she says something cryptically, something pokes you in the back of the head thinking that it might be Mona Code. And then you go to a website that offers no more information. And then you feel ashamed of yourself.


Not Mariska Hargitay

Another term used heavily on the PLL Annotations blog, this is a reference to Spencer Hasting's mother, Veronica, played by Lesley Fera, who, when you squint your eyes and look at her peripherally and don't really remember what Mariska Hargitay looks like, bears an uncanny resemblance to the Law & Order: SVU actress. There's usually not much mention of her anyway since, like most of the parents in Rosewood, she's usually absent. This show would be nothing if it had parental supervision.


Other Liars Brain Trust 

There's only one Liar in the grou with any deductive power, and that's Spencer Hastings. She's the one in the driver's seat when new clues come about, and she's the one dragging her boy/girl-crazy friends through the mystery to figure out who's torturing them. When Spencer was out of commission in Season 3 dealing with her own boy trouble (that is, her boy turned out to be a member of that torturing body), it was up to the Other Liars—TK, TK, and Aria, Hanna, and Emily—to pull it together and figure out what was happening. "Brain Trust" is sarcastic.


Red Coat

See "Vivian Darkbloom."



Soap Opera Rules

Soap Opera Rules cover a wide variety of things but on this show, it's usually in reference to never seeing the supposedly dead person's body. The term stems from the fact that characters on soap operas are frequently written off their shows with an off-screen death. But if no one sees the body (it goes missing, closed casket, the person dies in a fire but there are no remains), it's possible—and even likely—that the "dead" character can (and will) come back to shock everyone. Toby is the most recent example of Soap Opera Rules in play on PLL, as Spencer found a guy wearing his motorcycle helmet in a pool of blood but never actually looked inside the helmet to confirm that it was him. It wasn't. Alison's body also falls under this category.


Swimming

Possibly a euphemism for girls being into girls? It seems like Emily runs into a lot of love interests who are also into swimming, like her. The LGBT community in Rosewood is lot more robust than you would imagine.




Vivian Darkbloom (also: Red Coat)

The A Team's supposed serpent's head, who looks just like Alison if it isn't actually Alison. The blonde in the red trenchcoat appeared sporadically during the first couple of seasons, but then became a focus late in the third. No one laughs at how stupid that name is because it's an anagram of Vladimir Nabokov (and a character from his most famous novel, Alison's favorite, Lolita).


What'd we miss? Add your own favorite PLL terms in the comments!

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Hilarious article! Ok even though PLL isn't groundbreaking television, I really enjoy watching this even though there's so many loose threads I can't keep track of. Definitely watching Season 4.
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I am 30 years old and a proud PLL fan! This show has it all: Sexy guys, pretty girls and over the top drama! I love it! I do get a little bit fed up with not knowing who A is, or whether Alison is dead or not, but that is part of the fun! I Love, LOve, LOVe, LOVE this show! So excited for tonight's premiere!
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As I've said before Pretty Little Liars is going nowhere until it get's serious about revealing why these four teenage girls are so hated and deserving of such intricate revenge that an organization of teens and adults alike has come together with the sole purpose of ruining their lives. An organization that has spent thousands of dollars, broken countless laws, murdered and attempted to murder several people. They keep trying to distract the audience with Who? and How? but those things don't matter. What does is why the Liars are being subjected to this? The show's not even attempted an answer which leads me to believe the writers don't know the answer any more than we do.
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Agh, I can't get myself excited about this show. I remember I watched it the first season but got bored and.. ugh I wish I had the interest to give it another go.. Is it worth it?
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I remember when I almost gave up on this show during the first season.... So happy that I did not. Yes, the show can be a little frustrating at times, but it is sooo addictive! Give it another shot... and try to keep an open mind about it.
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To be fair to the show, its not half as ridiculous as the books it's based on. Sometime's as I'm reading them I have my mouth hanging open in disbelief that these people have not gone to the police by now, who by all accounts are not half as incompetant as those in the show.
Thats not to say that the show doesnt have its moments, but at least there are some fun parts where you can switch your brain off and just enjoy the silliness. Plus, there are alot of attractive cast members, and their clothes are fantastic! I cant wait for S4!
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ahahahaha this has captured the absurdity and hilarity of PLL so well. I think I stopped taking this show seriously a longggg time ago, since everyone makes extremely poor decisions 99% of the time and the plot is a crazy web of destruction that the writers may possibly never untangle...but it is so amusing, seriously they should recategorise it as a comedy/drama.
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when you put it this way, it's like what the hell have i been watching for so long? haha i'm still trying to remember what happened in last season's finale.
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I haven't watched the finale in a while but I think we 'found' out that Alison is still alive and there was a body in a trunk that we've yet to find out. There's more but I can't remember.
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Is it me or it really seems like the writers have not really figure out who the 'real A' is and they just write episodes as it happen? It's so messy and too many loose ends. I've been watching it since S1E1 and when I re-watched some episodes, a lot of it seemed really silly. Well, I'm still tuning for season 4.
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Oh yeah, this show has become a big, convoluted mess, but since it still immensely entertains me, I give it a lot of leeway.
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I rarely watch this show and when I do is to get an easy laugh. This show could improve if the actreses were better, and if it wasnt so soapy.
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The fun part of the show is that it's completely absurd. You need to learn to laugh at the show, then you will learn to enjoy it ;)
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Embrace the soapiness!!
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I'll be watching the first episode of season 4 with a couple of friends, we're three 24 y.o. guys and one girl that only got to watch pll because we made her.
This show rocks and everyone should watch it.
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I'm a guy and I watch it too. My girlfriend got me hooked on it :-)
We could form a PLL bro army
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Lol. I'm 25 and I watch it along with my daughters too. I got my mom watching it as we'll.
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Brilliant review! As much as the show has some faults, it still remains one of my favourites.
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