Thursday, August 7, 2008

If you can't say something nice...

... damn with faint praise. Let's get on with our lives people.




I like where this is going (tough love); I'm looking forward to finding Jase again. Not that I think we've suffered without Jase around, but he and Robbie together have been used more effectively by SK in the past than Robbie alone has been. (That having been said, they were pretty stuck in their rut, on the couch playing video games. Shaking up the relationship was very worthwhile.) This could be a good storyline.

The last line of dialogue is a bit awkward. As a commenter pointed out, it's a likely Simpson's reference (to a great line -- I use it myself on occasion), but as another commenter points out, the line is mangled by adding some faux British terminology. Surely there was a British PVP fan that could have been consulted.

I understand the desire to tailor the line to suit the butler's character, and perhaps it would have made more sense if "bottle" had replaced "column" (I don't know, I'm not British.... or am I...) but I posit that it would have been more successful if the butler had either:



  1. Committed to the Simpson's line, making a joke about a stuffy Brit quoting the Simpsons (it wouldn't have suffered at all if readers didn't get the reference -- it stands up on its own); or,


  2. Used a different line altogether -- something like "Probably a bit of both, sir."




The second option reinforces the joke being made by Robbie (and his expression) by dryly supporting the idea that Robbie can hold two contradictory ideas in his head and be right.

Also, in the last panel, it would have been nice to see Robbie in a pose other than the usual "slackly standing here thinking about something." A hand scratching his head, with his hat pushed back a bit would have been very welcome. It would have taken the character out of the previous moment and into the new context (we were talking about me, but i'll be damned if i'm not talking about you now).

[Note: Some serious grammatical bullshit follows. Take it or leave it.]

Robbie's last line itself needs some work. "Really" is often not a good idea -- in this context it could mean either "actually" or "very," changing the meaning of the line.

The assumption here is that it means "actually," as in "you were actually wise." "Very wise" doesn't work as well with the joke, as it doesn't refer to an extreme -- if he's not "very" wise, there's still room for him to be a little wise, but if he's not "actually" wise, he's just stupid, but being British makes him sound wise.

Yeah, that paragraph is a mess, but it makes sense in my head. Can't you see inside my head, people?

In either case, using the word "were" is also an iffy choice, as it refers to a specific moment in the past (that was a bad way to put it) something that has stopped happening (thank you commenters), rather than a general pattern of behavior Robbie has observed in the butler. "Were" would have worked if the preceding panel had been silent -- an awkward pause while Robbie takes in his butler's words, then comments on them; the "were" is then being used to mean "were just then," but then you would probably also want to add "being" to refer to the specific moment.

(As long as I'm dissecting the dialogue, "I wish I could tell" is also a very passive statement; never a good move.)

The line could be made clearer by changing "were" to "are" and "really" to "actually", and re-working the first bit:

"I never know if you're actually wise, or just sound that way because you're British."

35 comments:

Sumguy said...

Uh, no, not necessarily one specific time. Past continuous tense. Fail.

This is not your month. Next month doesn't look so good for you either.

R.W.McGee said...

Something I entirely missed the first time around, by the way. In every previous strip, the Butler has spoken in a refined manner but NEVER with a British accent.

Until Robbie SAID he was British, there would have been no reason to believe that...and it's interesting that only AFTER that moment, does the faux British accent suddenly appear.

Weird.

Anonymous said...

@Sumguy: Sorry -- past continuous tense doesn't work.

In every example on the page you linked to, "were" refers to an action that has ceased.

Robbie is not implying that the butler stopped being wise, he is referring to the long-standing appearance (which is continuing) of the appearance of wisdom.

Jai said...

Be that as it may (And it is), I don't expect a character such as Robbie to conduct his speech accordingly. If he had, it wouldn't seem out of character for him... but he hasn't, and that also sounds fine coming from him. I suppose, since there is no real reason for it not to have been, that his line may as well have been written a little more precisely.

Butler is good people (Negating everything I ever have and ever will say about grammar), but those two turns of phrase ("Bit of a nip" and "Column A and B") did not mesh appropriately in his last line. Which is not something I would expect that character to do.

sumothurguy said...

I tend to ignore the grammatical mistakes.

Scott is still making schoolboy errors such as "your" instead of "you're" in the last panel.

Jai said...

Britain wrote the book on "refined butlers", R.W. McGee. The accent has been implied all along! Potentially. Although Butler's never used British slang (Nor would his character deign to use "slang") or turns of phrase before, he does speak English. It does make his final line today seem like a bit of an affectation, but I can easily believe he's been British all along.

rossiter said...

I vote British from the get-go. (I always imagined Patrick Stewart's voice, since that seems to be the TV-model on whom Butler is based.) But I concur with the criticism that the last line falls way flat; it's just wrong in his mouth.

R.W.McGee said...

No, sorry, I know British accents, from Cornwall to Cockney to the East Midlands to Estuary to expatriates who have lived in America for several years. Butler has always spoken in a cultivated AMERICAN dialect...a put upon that would be realistic coming from an American butler who was trying to affect a 'high' style of speech.

Any British butler would merely use the actual accent, most likely in a South-East Midlands version of the RP (Received Pronunciation) dialect.

Now, do I expect Kurtz to become a master of British dialect to write his comics? No. But to imply that this butler has been English throughout strains credulity for me, and probably for anybody else who knows a British person well.

Anonymous said...

You guys -- you didn't read the strip.

He's only a nip British. The other nip is Wise.

R.W.McGee said...

Patrick Stewart would be a fair comparison, as he is a British native who played Captain Picard with an American accent, (and actually a mild Franco-American accent, the man can act.)

So, hypothetically if we are to believe Robbie hired a British butler, then made him use an excellent American accent, instead of speaking in English (which generally is the POINT of having an English butler) I suppose I could accept that premise.

The last line still does not work, however.

Fake Scott McCloud said...

R.W.McGee, you're even more hardcore than I.

Anonymous said...

I'm missing something here... how is Kurtz writing in any particular accent at any point?

R.W.McGee said...

high praise? lol.

Josh said...

What's a Simpsons reference? "a bit of column a, a bit of column b" didn't originate on the Simpsons, did it? I find that incredibly difficult to believe considering the people I hear using it. Did I miss something?

Anonymous said...

It was said in The Simpsons several times (I believe Homer and Grandpa said it), but it didn't originate from The Simpsons.

Anonymous said...

R.W. Mcgee, you are by far and away the most interesting and consistenly readable member of this blog. Also the least anonymous which counts for something. FSM is PVPMMS...but you are the reason I keep reading it.

I also appreciate the critiques of Ti Chan.

Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

R.W. Mcgee and anonymous sitting in a tree... K-I-S-S-I... wait, not me, the other anonymous... the one who...

Oh, bugger it.

R.W.McGee said...

I hate trees. It's the real reason I decided to be an author.

Anonymous said...

R.W., would you mind elaborating? How about some examples of past butler dialog that are indisputably American, and the appropriate British-butler equivalent?

(By the way, I assume that you're talking about word choice, sentence structure, etc. rather than "accent", which is 100% undetectable from written English unless it's put in there on purpose a la Huckleberry Finn.)

R.W.McGee said...

Absolutely I can. As you say, most of an accent is inflection, so the differences are not extreme...but another large part of accents deals with word choice--there are words that British people say, colloquiums and items that have different names from their American versions.

For example, if an American said 'elevator', a Briton would say 'lift'

I sent my British cousin some Butler dialogue to translate, when he gets back to me I will put it up if people are interested.

Anonymous said...

"For example, if an American said 'elevator', a Briton would say 'lift'"

Depends. If they grew up in the same block of flats as I did, most Britons would say 'graffiti-covered, permanently out-of-order metal box that stinks of piss'.

Ti Chan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ti Chan said...

I am so glad to see that I wasn't the only one to notice the strangeness of that last sentence. It just seemed like he had this sentence he wanted, and then decided "Let's make it BRITISH!" without knowing how to do that well. There are a lot of things that would seem more plausible and authentic than what he did; taking an ordinary sentence and then trying to force it into parameters he didn't know a lot about was not the way to go about it.

I'm sorry I missed out in the last fews days. I might miss out some more now and then. It seems I am pregnant. Much like our friend sage, I might take a week sabbatical from all web comics.

Mostly because it's just a lot of stress. You probably didn't even need to know that...

We'll see come tomorrow if I stay.

Anonymous said...

Man, accents have nothing to do with word choice. An accent is only related to pronunciation. You meant "dialect."

It's a minor mistake, but I'm surprised that I'm the only one who was confused by it.

Anonymous said...

Re: "Birds of a feather"

Is Brent way too big in that last frame? I'm assuming he's suppose to be stood behind Cole (in relation to the frame) and Cole's collar sticks out in front of him but he looks like he's closer to the 'camera'.

I dunno, just seems Cole's head is a size of two smaller than it should be.

Ti Chan said...

Wow, another gay joke. One I kinda like. I would have liked it better if he phrased it more in the Scrubs "Man Love" way. If you don't know what I am talking about, look it up on youtube.

And, yes, Brent head IS far too large, anon. His hand is also rather large and weirdly placed. Altogether, it makes Brent seem like he's awfully close to Brent. As in sharing-his-shoulder close.

And while accent's DON'T necessarily have to do with word usage, word usage does help pin point where a person learned English. Second hand English, too. And saying accent doesn't have to do with our butler's faux British accent doesn't mean he's any more British. He uses NONE of the British vocabulary mannerism. The words more necessarily use by someone with that dialect.

Feel better?

Anonymous said...

I wasn't saying the argument about dialect was inaccurate, I was just saying that it was using inaccurate terminology. Maybe my observation would have been better placed on rwmcgeemakesmesad.blogspot.com, however.

TheOriginalJes said...

Congratulations, Ti Chan!! I hope it's an engineer.

R.W.McGee said...

I think an angry ex-girlfriend might already have that domain name anonymous 3:16, check it out and get back to me.

Anonymous said...

Jesus Christ. As much as I hate you guys sometimes, Kurtz is a fucking crybaby. I'm breaking my own rule of "not saying anything nasty about Kurtz himself," but I just can't help it. That news post is a volley shot right over FSM's bow. I don't even like FSM but fuck me running is Kurtz not coming across as the most butthurt internet toughguy real life crybaby ever.

Critics DO play a fundamentally important part in the creative process. Some critics, such as Pauline Kael, do nothing but damage artists for their own gain, yet these folks are few and far between and the majority of them. Most critics aren't up to the level of critique-as-artform as Roger Ebert, they're closer to AO Scott.

Regardless, I have to say that Scott's post is just about the most damaging - to himself - thing he could have posted. A lot of artists out there, actors, musicians, directors, are sensitive people and can't take criticism. Some choose to avoid it outright and their output suffers; others simply take the good with the bad; still others let the negative criticism get them down (David Lean and Sam Peckinpah are two brilliant artists that come to mind).

What we have here, though, is a man who chooses *only* to acknowledge compliment and outright dismisses, deflects or ignores *any* criticism. His bullshit comparison of the Prime Directive is fucking weird, as is his Star Trek obsession as of late, and I can't help but wonder if he realizes how much he flails. I'm usually a Kurtz defender, but I'm sick of his bullshit.

The best thing Scott Kurtz could do at this moment is shut down his e-mail address, close down the forums and simply ignore *the entire world* and just create his comic as he sees fit. As is, I think the guy has a fucking huge complex, is surrounded by yes men and doesn't have the wherewithall about him to make heads or tails of what he should be doing.

Cole's midlife crisis represents his own. Congratulations, Scott, you have done something so many artists fail at: you've successfully, if unwittingly, transplanted yourself into your own creation. Fellini did this, with great success, in 8 1/2. You've got the greatest opportunity of your career at the moment to do something honest, heartfelt, real, tangible and amazing with your work. Do it.

That will speak far louder to your critics than any whiny blog post you might make, and I think you'll find that, nitpicking aside (and you should be grown up enough and able to handle criticism enough to take that in stride), they'll mostly applaud you. Don't be a fucking chump and take the easy way out like you have been for the past few months, skirting Cole's issues at work and at home. Stop being such a preachy nanny when your own life isn't even straight. It's fucking tiring. And AGAIN, I HATE FSM, SAGE, RW MCGEE AND MOST OF THE OTHER CONTRIBUTORS HERE, but your post today is SICKENING.

Put up or shut up, Scott. It won't matter one damn iota one way or another to your bank account, fans or detractors whether you do or not, really, but if a handful of people's criticisms have gotten you this wound up, you just might need to do it for yourself because something is *wrong* and everyone who cares to look can see it.

You're like fucking Dante from Clerks, Scott. It's about time you shit or get off the pot. I'm waiting for your jail cell moment of clarity, but I'm just not sure it's going to happen.

Anonymous said...

Did you intend to post that on the PvP forums and miss or something because you know Scott doesn't read this blog any more. He had to actually 'block' access to it from his PC to avoid reading it.

Sunny said...

Hate is a very strong word. :(

Don't worry anonymous, Scott still reads this blog. He'll never ever admit to it but whatever is posted here will end up being read by him.

I wonder what sage thinks about this new blog post on PvP. Does Scott really think ignoring critics competely is the only way to go?

Anonymous said...

Of course he doesn't. It's just more of the bullshit soup he has to feed himself every night so he can sleep well.

Chet said...

That news post is a volley shot right over FSM's bow.

Yeah! And the dirty blaggart, he doesn't even bother to mention FSM at the same time he's shooting at his bow! Why, the dishonest rascal instead decides to dishonestly mislead us into thinking that he's talking about an entirely unrelated review of his own book!

How evil for him to address criticism without even mentioning FSM! Why, it's almost as if he doesn't even think that FSM is a critic?

R.W.McGee said...

Um, no, he's explicitly called FSM a critic...so it's not like that at all.

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