• 68°

The right words at the right time

By MIMI BECKER

Coffee with Mimi

Aspiring writers who actually become great writers study the use of words and phrases. They hope to find a patient person who is able to correct mistakes in grammar so they can create without minding the minutiae. People who are destined to communicate through the written word instinctively observe how established writers set up a story and build to the punch line. Research is a must. Topics for investigation are based on some inspiration from within which is pondered, often for many years before it wells up into a story. And, the world is changed.

Some day, I dream of being one of those writers. I do have a person who corrects my punctuation. I have a handy dictionary and an electronic device and read from many different authors. I look for the odd phrase or use of a word which works in something I read or view. But, the inspirational thoughts which develop in the back of a writer’s brain are just not there. The little idea which intrigues a great writer to gather and organize thoughts and put them into words which move readers to action are non-existent in my life.

Instead, I get tickled by the inconsequential and can’t let it go.

For example, this week I was watching a rerun of a TV show which was not in the least an earth- shattering, not to be missed, experience when it was on prime time television. It did win a few awards, but I had to look that up to be sure. I watch it now because it is just fun and doesn’t require my undivided attention to appreciate it. It is also on one of those services which cuts out the commercials. Always a draw for my entertainment buck.

This show is a procedural drama. You know the genre in which the story line focuses on the solution of a crime. There is a cast of characters which play specific and predictable roles in the process. Usually, it is not necessary to have followed the entire series to understand the plot of any individual episode. Again, for any busy person, a plus.

I am a stickler for dialogue which generally makes sense and is grammatically correct. I am annoyed with sentences which are contradictory or redundant. I figure someone is being paid a lot of money if their work reaches the big or little screen. Surely, they should be better able to craft a sentence than I.

In this particular episode, one of the characters turned a phrase which would normally cause me to cringe. Admittedly, this character is set up to convey a lovable, dry wit in dealing with those in her charge while dispensing instructions. She admonished her underlings for their inability to apprehend a suspected criminal, wondering why they had failed to make the obvious arrest. She reminded them that the suspect had “killed that bad boy dead.”

Even my husband, who generally doesn’t note or mind such misuse of language, howled at that one. My usual response would reflect my disdain for such writing. “They paid someone to write that.” But, I laughed out loud. I loved it. I can’t get it out of my head. Truly, there is nothing amusing about a murder. That poor, bad boy was someone’s loved one and his demise should not be a laughing matter regardless of his own behavior, if only out of respect for the living.

But, that bad boy was killed dead. Logically, how else would he have been killed? The TV character who delivered the line is a well-educated, highly placed person in our country’s law enforcement and justice structure. One would expect a degree of dignity and speech competence in the execution of such important work as meting out justice

This show ran for years. The right bad guy was always apprehended within a reasonable time frame. Consequences were appropriate and acceptable, even kind sometimes. The good guys were identifiable, honest and noble in their work. All the characters got along with each other at work and personally. By all measures the show was a hit and considered relatively high quality.

But, what about that incongruous sentence?

Who cares? For whatever the structure, the line worked for me. I got a kick out of it. The world is not changed for the worse because the point was improperly constructed. The world of literature is not forever diminished because the sentence made no literary sense. The writer’s college professor or high school English teacher is not rolling over in his or her figurative grave, professing never to have known, spoken to or seen the guy ever.

Honestly, if that kid had sat in my classroom and is now playing on the big stage, I would be so proud. He, or she, is making a whole lot more money than I am, too. But, I don’t hold that against him, or her. There are a lot of ways to make a difference in this world. Sometimes, just making me laugh at an unexpected moment is earth-shattering and worthy regardless of how you say it or write it.