Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Famous Movie Quotes Ruined by the Passive Voice

I was teaching active voice versus passive voice today to my freshyman--just how to construct, not about how it destroys strong writing--and my mind began to drift--what movie quote's strength and brevity would most be ruined by a passive voice construction.

[Active: subject + verb + object
Passive: orig. object + to be + verb + -ed + by + orig. subject]

Scrolling down a filmsite list, here are some contenders ["I could have been a..."]

[N.B.: You would be surprised by how few great movie quotes are in neither simple present or simple past tense with an action verb. Or maybe you wouldn't, I don't know].

He is going to be made an offer by me that can't be refused by him. (The Godfather)

A bigger boat is going to be needed by you. (Jaws)

Houston, a problem is had by us. (Apollo 13)

Banks are robbed by us. (Bonnie and Clyde)

Badges? No badges are had by us! No badges are needed by us! No stinking badges need to be shown to you by us! (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre)

Today, the luckiest man on the face of the earth is considered by me, to be myself. (The Pride of the Yankees)

What she's having will be had by me. (When Harry Met Sally)

The need for speed is felt by me. (Top Gun)

A census taker once tried to test me. His liver was eaten by me with some fava beans and a nice Chianti. (Silence of the Lambs--but no silence of dangling modifiers, apparently)

Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, mine is walked into by her (Casablanca)

Paris will always be had by us. (Casablanca).

Dead people are seen by me. (The Sixth Sense)

You, my pretty, and your little dog too, will be gotten by me! (The Wizard of Oz)

The truth can't be handled by you! (A Few Good Men)

Birthin' babies is known nothin' bout by me. (Gone with the Wind)

Frankly, my dear, a damn is not given by me. (Gone with the Wind)

Every time a bell ring is heard by you, it means wings have just been gotten by some angel. (It's A Wonderful Life)

I do wish we could chat longer, but an old friend is being had by me for dinner. (The Silence of the Lambs--and the passive voice reveals the joke! HaHA!)

****

On a side note, what I thought was my favorite example of the active voice versus the passive voice turns out to be a bastardization.

It's an old French proverb that I heard to have gone:

In love there is always one who kisses and one who is being kissed.

[which really brings out the difference between "active" and "passive" in their adjectival senses]

but then the actual quote turns out to be:

In love there is always one who kisses and who offers the cheek.

[which isn't as punchy, for my purposes.]

Oh well. Worse battles have been lost, I suppose.

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