Monday, July 21, 2008

Whispers and Shouts

Today's Bizarro cartoon is brought to you by Subvocalized Punch Lines. "Act them out in your head, they're funnier!"

It has been my experience that people read in very different ways. Really good readers, with large, bulging, veiny brains, can glance at words, understand their meaning in a microsecond, and move on at tremendous speed.

Average readers, like me, tend to hear a voice in their head saying the words. (Don't get me wrong, I am an avid reader and can achieve the glancing technique when I just want the info and don't care about style, but when reading for fun I slow way down.)

Then there is the third type, who move their lips and whisper as they read, usually more slowly than they would speak, often with their eyes half shut and a little drool on their chin. (This third type is not to be ridiculed, many such readers have attained great personal success.)

The punchline above is one that begs to be subvocalized, as the emphasis on the words is essential to the gag.

One of my pet peeves is when a cartoonist emphasizes the wrong words in a caption. I see this all the time. For instance, if during a heated debate one character says, "What are you talking about?!" the proper word to emphasize is "talking." But often, the word "about" or "you" will be emphasized instead. Say these aloud and hear which makes the most sense: What are you talking ABOUT?! What are YOU talking about?! (this version could make sense, but in the context of an argument, it isn't the emphasis you're looking for.) What are you TALKING about?!

That's a hypothetical example and sounds dumb, but believe me, I see this all the time. If I went on the Internets right now, I'm sure I could find an example somewhere and post it. But then I'd be deriding a colleague, which is not cool in my book. Unless it is Jim Davis, who no longer writes Garfield anyway and who could afford to buy the entire block across the street from my apartment in Brooklyn, turn it into an ice cream truck parking lot and leave the music on all night.


paddling_ghost said...

I sometimes speed-read through really boring stuff, but I appreciate fiction much more when I read it as though it's being read to me.

Is "passive aggressive" the right term for that boss? I thought "passive aggressive" meant being obstructionist through inaction (passively aggressive). (I have no real clue about psychology, so I'm probably wrong, too.)

Jeremy said...

When I was 11 a friend of my mom's gave me a huge box of comics, mostly Archie. I started noticing then the phenomenon you are referring to where people emphasize the word right before the word that really should be emphasized. This lead me to believe that's how things were supposed to be written.

Chalk this up as yet another fine lesson i learned from you, Dan :).

Raydancer said...

I have a nagging feeling that more comedy could be mined from the realm of subvocalization.

doug nicodemus said...

i used to practice with the 22 caliber air rifle i have by shooting at the ice cream truck's speakers but it never did any good. made me into a pretty good shot though

Michael said...

Speaking of Garfield; have you seen this site: ?
It is amazing. Jim Davis is apparently better than even he knew.
Also I am the exact same way with reading. I like to savour the words so I subvocalize. It turns everything into a play right inside my head.

disabled account said...

so i'm glad to know that i'm not the only one who notices the wrong emphasis thingermajigs.

i kind of thought i was weird for thinking it was weird.

disabled account said...

i also thought that subvocalization was just the way everyone read.

i'm learning so much today.

Anonymous said...

I learned a lot about word emphasis from reading MAD Magazine, of all things.

I don't know if they still do this, but when I was a kid the words that were supposed to be stressed were printed in boldface. At first I thought that the boldface was punching the joke, but I gradually realized that it was, in its way, teaching me how to read with expression.

It took a little while before I recognized that your comic is really meant to be read with the intent of "hearing" it in your head.

Anonymous said...

that wrong-word-emphasis thing is something i have been annoyed by for years and years.

Test Blog said...

"Erroneous bolding" happens all of the time in comic books. It's one of my biggest pet peeves to be reading a word balloon and see the wrong words bolded. I guess I must hear the characters in my head when I read, because it will take me totally out of the story when the hero or villain starts emphasizing odd words in his/her speech.

I'm not even sure why they emphasize ANY of the words in comics. I mean, when you read a novel, are random words bolded? But in comics, some letterers go hog wild with the bold. Drives me nuts.

Anyway, this is my first comment, but I've been a fan of your work for years and of your blog for a few months. Thanks for the entertainment and the occasional enlightenment. :)

Anonymous said...

One of my pet peeves is when a cartoonist emphasizes the wrong words in a caption.

Mark Trail does this so frequently that it's not annoying to me anymore. At first, I thought, how sloppy. The next few times I started to think, how dumb. But after a dozen or so times, I had to conclude, this is on purpose -- they're deliberately making a mockery of Mark Trail. The stories, the artwork, the characters, the dialogue -- everything -- now makes sense.

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