The late George Carlin had this routine that used to be really popular, called the Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television. I never found it to be an especially funny bit, but I did kinda like the rebelliousness of this guy telling me that there are certain words you can’t say—then rattling them off like a machine gun.
I liked it because he was tearing down an arbitrary rule that some people had just made up. They made up these rules, and they expect me to follow them—just because I wasn’t fast enough to make up my own first.
I’ve gotten into a lot of trouble over the course of my life because I tend to question rules. I defy them. Like a five year old. Tell me not to touch that—I’m touchin’ the crap out of it.
I’ve paid the price for disrespecting rules—been slapped, spanked, punched, fined, fired … the list goes on. I don’t want white wine with chicken when I’m in the mood for red, Emily Post!
The same goes for writing. If I think the best way to get my point across is to use an adverb, I’m using the damn adverb. He said defiantly. Don’t care that Stephen King says I shouldn’t—he never returns my calls anyway. Don’t care that old Sister What’s-Her-Name who taught 4th grade is turning over in her grave looking for a rule to bash my knuckles with. Note the preposition at the end of that sentence—I spit on these rules.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate all rules—I’m not an anarchist. There are a lot of good rules. For instance, don’t kill people … that’s a great rule. It protects me and the idiot in front of me in the grocery store checkout line.
Don’t take other people’s stuff is another exceptional rule. Kudos. I like my stuff, and if ever there comes a time I don’t, I’ll give it to you. You don’t have to take it. I’ll even wrap it—that’s just how I roll.
You know how you can tell the good rules from the stupid made-up ones—assuming you haven’t read this blog? Of course, if you’re not reading this blog, then why am I talking to you?
But you know how you can tell? There’s police and laws and courts and stuff. There’s even citizen’s arrests.
Besides Sister What’s-Her-Name, and a couple really disturbed writers who I’ve met over the years, you know who’s the adverb police?
Nobody. I yell it loudly. Defiantly. Repetitively redundantly.
It’s a preference. A made-up rule.
And don’t even get me started on dialog tags. At least not until the next blog.
For those keeping score, we call this a rant.
Everybody likes a good rant. One of the strengths of the TV show, Community, in its funny seasons, was the main character’s rants.
I could have been on Community.
I just said seven words too many.