During an AVClub interview promoting her latest movie Bernie, Shirley MacLaine spoke of what it was like to work with Hitchcock:
AVC: That was your first film. It must have been quite an introduction to the business.
SM: Hitch said very little to actors… He would direct me, and everyone, with Cockney phrases. For example, his first words to me on the set, the first day, were [English accent] “Genuine chopper, old girl. Genuine chopper.” I didn’t know what the hell that was, and I asked Johnny Forsythe, and he said, “Look, just think of two synonyms that match ‘genuine’ and ‘chopper.’” And so I did: I came up with “real” for “genuine” and “axe” for “chopper.” So what does that mean?“Relax!” And that’s the way he directed.
Hitchcock’s playfulness here reminds me of his 1966 interview with Truffaut where he famously explained what exactly a McGuffin was:
It might be a Scottish name, taken from a story about two men in a train. One man says, “What’s that package up there in the baggage rack?” And the other answers, “Oh, that’s a McGuffin.” The first one asks, “What’s a McGuffin?” “Well,” the other man says, “It’s an apparatus for trapping lions in the Scottish Highlands.” The first men says, “But there are no lions in the Scottish Highlands,” and the other one answers, “Well, t hen that’s no McGuffin!” So you see, a McGuffin is nothing at all.”