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Monday, October 1, 2007


Has anybody else noticed that over the past few years, “hey” has become the new “hello” or "hi"?

Think about it. When was the last time you said “hello”? Maybe when you answer the phone? Do you say “hi”? Or “hello”? How about “howdy?” Or are you a “hey”-er?

The way we speak to each other changes all the time. Remember when you said “groovy” and it wasn’t retro to say it? If you can’t remember, you’re just too durn young. How about “rad”? or “wicked”? Or “dope”?

Start paying attention to the language used all around you every day. How you greet and are greeted. Do you say “good night” to your beloved or do you simply say “’night”?

How do your characters greet each other? Do they use a greeting at all or launch into a tirade?

Hello, good morning, how are you? Good evening, good afternoon, pleased to meet you?

How about goodbye? Later, goodbye, bye, see ya, until we meet again?

The Wave-inatrix has noticed a new trend and that is that when one wishes to acknowledge that something is self evident, one says “I know, right?” I hear it constantly and yes, I have begun to say it myself.

Slang, colloquialisms, dialects and speech patterns can be trendy and/or tied to current events. William Safire writes a wonderful weekly column in the New York Times Magazine on this very topic.

Be aware of your speech patterns – hey versus hello, ‘night versus goodnight, cool versus dope, etc. These word choices that you make are dependent upon a lot of things: how old you are, where you are from, the fact that it is 2007, and the situation you are in. For example, you probably won’t say “hey” to your grandmother. The Stanford educated lawyer you just hired, even though he’s all of 26, probably doesn’t say “wow, that’s so dope that the client settled!” – it would be situationally inappropriate.

How about f*ck yeah! Versus heck yeah! Depends on who is in the room when you make that choice, doesn’t it? And can you picture a 38 year old RN and mother of two saying that? Maybe. That would make her pretty interesting, wouldn’t it?

So when you write dialogue for your characters, take the same types of things into consideration:

Time period

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ratskiwatski said...

Great post... something that stuck me with when I was a kid was a Joe Orton maxim, something to the extent of "use the culture of the day, every little bit of it," from advertising to whatever... helps you speak to your audience without pandering if you can get deeply into changes in the language...

And shoutouts to Julie Gray cultists in dubai - yeah, you, S. - and to my 12 year-old daughter, who has written 109 pages of a script in less than a week, a) thereby putting her old man into deep shame-based mode, and, b) without the help of pharmaceutical-grade cocaine, the secret weapon of many of our finest writers. And she just baked a really schweet batch of cookies. I am not worthy...

Christian M. Howell said...

I'm a hey. Even to my grandmother. Except hen I blog, then I'm a hi.