Ragged Claws

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"I said I'd been sick with viral pneumonia, but you thought I said 'blue roses.'"*

I learned tonight that I had been mishearing a line in the Stars song "Life Effect." The actual lyrics are these:

Sorry for wasting your time
Five long months on the telephone line
Hours of asking if you were fine
And saying I was fine too.

However, I heard the latter lines as:

I wasn't asking if you were fine
And saying I was fine too.

Which version, honestly, I think I prefer for its wry humor. And since it's not actually what Stars sang, the line can be redeployed in other contexts, without it being blatant theft! Woohoo! (Okay, some rewording might be necessary. But still, it's nice to have a clever line just dropped into your lap like that, no conscious effort required.)

My favorite personal mondegreen, though, is probably the transformation of "Bid my blood to run," from Evanescence's "Bring Me to Life," into "be my binturong." Despite recognizing from the outset that this interpretation could not possibly be correct (in a strictly literal sense), I still stuck with it because hey, it's correct in a deeper moral sense. And in the end, isn't that what's important? (The answer is no.)

*In a post about semi-plagiarism, it's probably appropriate to note that this line comes from the one-act play "For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls," by Christopher Durang.

Friday, September 25, 2009

How to write a Grey's Anatomy speech

1. Pick a topic sentence. Extra points if it’s nonsensical!

Example: “There was no mustard on the hamburger.”

2. Repeat topic sentence with extra emphasis.

Example: “There was no mustard on the hamburger.”

3. Pause. Allow the audience to ponder the significance of the topic sentence. Have another character ask “What?” or cut to a baffled reaction shot.

4. Summarize the current plot situation. Use short sentences, preferably constructed in the form “[Proper noun] is [adjective] OR [gerund].” Around half of the words in this section should be emphasized, but it doesn’t really matter which ones. Any combination will work.

Example: “My life is in ruins, and all I can do is play solitaire. I have been sitting at this computer, for hours, playing solitaire. Christina is happy. Izzy is knitting. Alex is hagiographic.”

5. Repeat the topic sentence, preceded by the word “And.” The topic sentence should be delivered with even greater urgency than previously.

Example: “And there was no mustard on the hamburger.”

6. Longer pause. Another character may suggest that the speaker has been working too hard, and needs to get some rest. This character should be cut off in mid-sentence.

7. The “No! Don’t you get it?” moment.

Example: “No! Don’t you get it?”

8. Explain the metaphorical significance of the topic sentence.

Example: “When I got that hamburger at lunch today and saw there was no mustard on it, I realized: this is what life really is. In the end there’s no spice. No flavor. Just a lump of dead meat. We are all just lumps of meat. And one day, we will all be dead! We face that every day as surgeons, and so we try to ignore it, or distract ourselves. We play solitaire. We make scarves. We compose pious lives of the saints. But in the end, we’re nothing but flesh and blood.”

9. Repeat topic sentence. It may be varied slightly, or said in a choking half-sob.

Example: “There is no mustard on the hamburger.”

10. And...voilà! The speech is done. Your options now are to cut to another plotline, show a passionate embrace between the speaker and the listener, or write a response to the speech in which another character expands and elaborates upon the topic sentence.

Example: “What if there’s no mustard on the hamburger…but there’s ketchup and lettuce and pickles? What if…you can choose your own topping?”

Be warned, though, that if more than one character uses a particular phrase or metaphor, it creates an obligation to repeatedly return to that wording over the course of the season. So before allowing your topic sentence to proliferate, think carefully about whether overexposure will make the audience will get sick of it...ha ha, just kidding, because who doesn’t love a catch phrase! Remember, repetition creates familiarity, and familiarity is just about the same thing as adoration, so have at it! Ah, no mustard on the hamburger…classic.