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Home » Archives » May 2006 » Wanna Read an Entry? There's a New Entry!
[Previous entry: "A Staking Without a Slayer"] [Next entry: "the chamois joke is best read out loud"]

05/05/2006: Wanna Read an Entry? There's a New Entry!

Because of my new deal, I've been driving up to Universal a lot. The first few times I had to do this, I was late for my meetings. Traffic extended the trip to well over an hour. So I made a note: leave early. So then, of course, I started arriving at my meetings a full hour too soon. Because, of course, all the traffic evaporated. Have you ever realized, half-way to somewhere, that you're absurdly ahead of schedule, so you start looking for things to slow you down? You stop fighting the traffic. You let people in. You move into the lane that's mysteriously slower. You just stay behind that truck – why not? In LA, this feels like a big infraction of the rules, because you're supposed to want to be moving as fast as possible at all times.

But it feels good. Good things come from breaking the rules.

Here's a rule. Or at least a rule of thumb. In general, we try to keep from reusing the same word, especially when the uses fall near one another. In the paragraph above I used "early," "too soon" and "ahead of schedule" quite consciously, to keep from repeating "early," "early," "early."

So what happens when you break this rule? On a recent episode of Family Guy, the mayor, Adam West, asked:

"Anyone want to play Stratego? I have Stratego!"

And on Buffy (in a Joss-written line), a college girl once scoffed at Willow, who had proposed a spot of spell-casting, by saying:

"Oh yeah, then we could all get on our broomsticks and fly around on our broomsticks!"

Also on Buffy, an enthusiastic minion once promised to eliminate a perceived threat by saying:

"We will get Bob Barker! We will bring you the limp and beaten body of Bob Barker!"

Here's how I think this one works. Because we tend to try to avoid repeated words, in careful speech as well as in writing, when a character repeats a word they naturally sound either generally inarticulate (like the college scoffer) or over-excited, like the mayor and the minion. Or nervous, as when the earnest suitor in a Firefly episode said:

"...the honor that you do me flatters my... my honor..."

Once again, character traits and comedy are one and the same. The repeated word joke can be funny because it contains a funny reference, like Stratego or Bob Barker, but it also contains the extra funny that comes from revealing character. Want to expose a dumb or flustered character to amusing ridicule? Give them a repeated word. Works like a charm.

Lunch: Forced to skip lunch by the meeting up at Universal! Made up for it with a hearty burrito-and-a-malt dinner.


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