This week’s Word Nerd features the concept of a “double entendre,” which comes to English from a French phrase that can be understood to mean, ‘two ways of hearing.’ It is a word or phrase open to two interpretations, one of which is usually risqué or indecent.
This week’s writing
I like the ambiguity and humor potential of double entendres so I’ve been looking for ways to include some into my dialog. In and of itself, this feels difficult. One, because it’s hard to force something like this. And two, because double entendres rely on the irony between what is said vs implied.
A phrase like, “I can’t do it; it’s just too hard”, can be understood in two ways. As a writer, I can leave it as-is and let the double entendre exist solely for the readers sharp enough to pick up on it. They will have a private laugh if I don’t negate the risqué second meaning.
To bolster the second meaning, I could have another character respond with something like, “that’s what she said” to add the second dimension of meaning that is by turns either ironic, inappropriate, or risqué. In this instance, interpretation depends on characterization. I think it also brings more readers into the joke.
Double Entendre – British origins
I have a lot of British family and friends so a couple of my characters are British. In the UK, it’s more common to hear, “said the actress to the bishop” instead of ‘that’s what she said’.
As an American phrase, “That’s what she said” is thought to have been around since the 1970s with the earliest known documented case of the phrase showing up on Saturday Night Live, spoken by Chevy Chase in a weekend update skit in 1975, which also happened to be the first season of SNL.
“Said the actress to the bishop” is also commonly reversed if it fits the double entendre better. Such as “Don’t grip it so tight!” *said the bishop to the actress*
What is NaNoWriMo?
NaNoWriMo is the abbreviated name of National Novel Writing Month. It’s a month-long event for writers of all kinds. “NaNo” (Another common Abbreviation) takes place every November, and this is my first year of participation. Essentially, it’s a contest that you have with yourself to write at least 50,000 words in 30 days. My “I Signed Up” post has more details about what I’ve pledged to accomplish this year.
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