Pun vs Double Entendre

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a pun and a double entendre? I have, and I'm here to share with you just how it is they differ.

A pun is a word with two meanings. Crucially, the two meanings must be immediately obvious for the word to be a pun. The double meaning is plain to see and almost always crucial to understanding the sentence.

A double entendre is like unto it. Whereas the pun is obvious, the double entendre is subtle. The double meaning of the double entendre is obscured to the point of invisibility.

Sound pedantic? Well, that's language for you.

To illustrate the difference, here is a bad tweet I made several years ago, before I'd learned how to be funny on Twitter.

I made it because I was foolishly enamored by what I supposed to be a pun -- the phrase "get into", which refers to both a state of being in one's jeans or a state of preference for those jeans. But people rarely speak about "getting into jeans" outside of putting them on their bodies. People don't normally share whether or not they personally jive with their trousers. It wasn't a pun. It was a double entendre.

And that's why it was a bad tweet. Without the double meaning, it reads like a trite anecdote: I tried skinny jeans, they didn't fit, end of story, who cares? The only level of appreciation for that tweet was as a double entendre. Assuming that nobody seeing that sentence gave it more than a passing thought (a reasonable assumption) the second meaning of that sentence was completely lost.

But there's a third wrench one must look out when juggling multiple meanings: the malapropism. Very few people recognize the double entendre, but everyone's heard a malapropism. In fact, it's so commonplace that it's often what people really mean when they talk about puns. Where a pun is a word that holds two meanings, a malapropism is a word that has been twisted to sound more like another word.

"Orange you glad I didn't say banana?" The orange is a malapropism.

And now you know.

Getting Things Done and Getting Them Good Enough

This is a short thought on deadlines.

Some people respond well to deadlines. It's what motivates them to do the thing, and it's what keeps them from getting lazy and complacent in their pursuits. 

I am not one of those people. 

I am motivated by the final product. As far as my brain is concerned, it doesn't matter when the product is due so long as it's interesting. If I believe in it, I'll sell my soul for it, day one. Deadlines haven't so much motivated me to work as they have consistently gotten in the way. I've never had an arbitrarily decided deadline that didn't leave me feeling frustrated when I parted with a project. "There's so much I could still do," I've often complained, "So much left before it's even close to being done." And as someone who has had the opportunity to take a small number of projects to that magic "done" point, I don't believe that that's an unattainable goal. There's a difference between done and perfect. Done is when you know you've given it everything you can give. I don't care about perfection. I just want it to be done.

Nevertheless, I still think it's important to have deadlines for when you'll consider something good enough... for now. 

I ran into that with my app Ibsen (then Draugr), back in March. It was clear to me at the time that developing everything I wanted for that app was going to be a herculean affair far beyond any of my existing abilities. But I needed it to be useable quickly so I could finish writing the pilot episode for Elda's Song. I gave myself a timeframe of about two weeks to develop everything I absolutely *needed* to start writing -- which in my mind was autocomplete, RTF export, and Dropbox syncing. I wrote horrible, awful code during those two weeks that, had it ever been publicly released, would have put me to shame. But at the end of those two weeks I had moved all of my scriptwriting to Ibsen and I was absolutely loving it. The product wasn't done by any means, but it was good enough for what I needed then.

I'm running into that again with a number of projects that I'm dedicating myself to now. I'm just not smart enough, talented enough, of caffeinated enough to get it all to where I think it deserves to be. And the clock is ticking for when I won't be able to give those projects anything more.

I said at the beginning this was about deadlines. Really this was about rethinking what role deadlines have in my life. It's not about giving a date for when something will be done. It's about setting a date for when I'll be ready to move onto something else.

Even if that means publishing when I only have 500 words.

Podcast Analytics on Squarespace

It's been a while since I last wrote about podcasting so it's time for some followup. I recently took inventory of my Brotherhood subscriber numbers across both Squarespace and Podtrac and discovered a pleasant, if somewhat overdue, surprised:

Nearly all of the subscribers that Squarespace had been reporting for the past few months are gone. Perhaps I should be sad, but since those numbers were for an RSS feed I've never shared with anyone, I can't help but feel relieved. That's the closest I think I'll be getting to a "Congratulations on correctly diagnosing the system, Dylan! Here's a sticker and some ice cream." Meanwhile, my Podtrac numbers have steadily grown 200% their original size since I began paying attention.

This has prompted me to think a little more deeply about Brotherhood and other potential future podcasts. In some ways, these numbers are reassuring. In others, well, I'm more than a little worried.

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How to Start a Musical Cue

Think back for a moment. When was the last time you had a good laugh – the kind that made you think, “Oh yes, that's where my ribs are,” or the kind for which the word “hysterical”, a word otherwise reserved for victims of extreme emotional trauma, was invented? What was it that made you laugh? What was the joke?

Let's be honest: it probably wasn't that funny, and your friends probably weren't that impressed when you told it to them.

Starting a musical cue is a lot like trying to repeat a side-splitting joke: it almost doesn't matter whether the joke is actually good or not as long as you get the timing right. I speak from experience, both as someone who writes and as someone who appreciates music that is tied to narrative. If you want your musical accompaniment to sound like laugher and joy, and not a play by play description of your night out with the lads, there are only two ways to enter a scene.

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The Art of the Reveal

As a storyteller, nothing feels more exhilarating than dropping an unexpected revelation on your audience that you know they didn't see coming. You can see it on their faces, with their eyes wide and their mouths agape and with Greg in the back suddenly standing up straight for the first time all day. It's what we live for, as both storyteller and listener. If you've never had a chance to drop a reveal in front of a live audience, you're missing out.

But the reveal is a tricky note to play. It's like the high note of the Star-Spangled Banner: nail it and you're a god, miss it and you're just a poseur wanna-be. Nobody wants to feel like a poseur, but the allure of the reveal is so great that even bad writers can't resist it's pull.

I'm going to ignore the fact that this might include me.

But you know who does the reveal absolutely right, every time? J. K. Rowling. I'm not saying this because her books have particularly good reveals (although I personally think they do). I'm saying that because her reveals all rewarded rereading. And if your audience cares enough to reread what you wrote, nothing says “I got you covered” quite like a rewarding second round. If you've ever reread Harry Potter, you'll know exactly what I mean. If you haven't, allow me to fill you in.

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Film Scores Are Different

Film scoring feels a lot like swimming with shoes on. I like shoes. I need shoes. They make it easier for me to walk and run and do all sorts of fun things. Shoes are great. Swimming with shoes is not so great.

The shoes in this instance are the habits I've developed over roughly 15 years of songwriting. When writing a song, the hardest part is almost always the beginning. Once I know the chord progression and overall structure, the writing process becomes a fairly simple mathematical exercise. Writing that way helped me compose over 100 songs just during my busy days in high school. 

But film scores are different. Every time I jump into a scoring session I intuitively assume that if I can figure out the chord structure of the first few beats, then I'll be able to extrapolate the rest of the cue and still be home in time for dinner. You just can't do that with a score. For one thing, where songs are typically organized into sections like ABA and ABAB, scores don't -- and indeed can't -- have any rigidly defined structure. That's because narratives, the indulgent and rhapsodic beatniks that scores are meant to accompany, aren't structured into neatly timed units of bars, measures, and beats. Instead, a beat in a narrative is given the freedom of lasting anywhere from a second on to the end of eternity. Ultimately, whether we like it or not, the score must be subservient to the timing and rhythm of the narrative. 

The principle holds the same for radio-plays which is why I'm writing this now. 

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The Final Stretch

Some cool developments for Elda's Song, including a rough draft and some new features for the app I've been using to write the show.

Pilot Draft

I'm producing a three minute pilot -- the sort of thing you'd expect to find in the middle of episode 12. Here's an incredibly rough draft that I threw together with temp SFX and a tiny music cue:

I'm not particularly happy with it, but that's not really the point. It's a pilot. I could waste a lot of time trying to make a perfect first episode (which I did) but it's going to be replaced once I write the rest of the season. The goal isn't perfection, it's to demonstrate the KIND of show I'm going to produce.

What I want to know: what other shows (radio-play or not) does this remind you of?

An overwritten cue for during the the narrator's monologue. I stripped down version appears during the rough draft. I like it, but I'm not sure if it's going to have the effect I want.

What I want to know: How would you describe the tone of this cue?

Writing Software

There really aren't any good software tools for writing radio plays. You can use screenwriting software, but screenwriting software is just awful and the standard screenplay format is frustratingly arcane. So I decided to make something good and use that instead.

The second screenshot shows the script for the pilot, which I wrote entirely in-app. I love using this software because it has a fully dynamic autocomplete engine, which makes writing dialogue so much nicer. I also have it set to notify me when I've met my daily word count goal* by filling in the word counter with a solid blue.

* Progress towards that goal is measured incrementally rather than by total difference. You could type 500 words, delete all 500 of them, and the word counter would still remember that you typed 500 words. I plan to add the ability to measure total difference later.