I’m finally wrapping up my data collection for my analysis of Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s dialogue, and I can already see that the scope of this project turned into something far larger than I had anticipated. My binder contains hundreds of entries, each with an invented word or an unconventional turn of phrase. I’ve also given a lot of thought to the impact this dialogue has on the show. Each season, for at least the first five seasons, seems to follow a pattern–the first several episodes are lighter in fluffier in tone, and there are several more noteworthy moments in the dialogue in these episodes. The casual, inventive dialogue used creates a sense of familiarity both among the characters and between the characters and the viewers. It’s a language that is different from the way we generally speak, but similar enough to be easily understood, so it feels like the viewer is a part of this intimate group of friends shown on TV. In the show’s very first episode, when all the main characters are first introduced, I recorded 21 separate entries. Later in each of these seasons, once the characters have been established and the show gets much darker and more dramatic in tone, the entries in my unofficial Buffy dictionary generally decrease. For example, the episode “Becoming, Part 2,” which is season 3’s finale and one of the darkest episodes of the show, has no entries. The fun, inventive quotes like “Pretty juicy piece of clue-age, don’t you think? (season 4, episode 8)” add a lot to the lighthearted tone of goofy monster-of-the-week mysteries, but they would seem inappropriate and out of place in those later, much more serious episodes.
I’m nearing the end of my research, and I’ve noticed quite a few trends in Buffy‘s interesting dialogue. I had only planned to focus mainly on the formation of new words through processes like conversion and derivation, and I’ll write about those in my final post, but there are several other interesting aspects that I hadn’t considered. One thing that has really stood out to me is the use of made-up titles and epithets to quickly describe a character or their actions. These titles range from the simple “Mr. Technical” (Season 3, Episode 4) to the sarcastic “Mr. Flawless Plan Guy” (Season 2, Episode 7), to the lengthy “Bad-Magic-Hates-the-World-Ticking-Time-Bomb Guy” (Season 3, Episode 6).”
After doing some preliminary research and planning earlier this summer, last week marked my first real “full-time” week working on this project. I spent last week at my grandmother’s farm, where internet is hard to come by, so unfortunately I’m a bit behind on the blogging.
When the famous television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer began in 1997, the show’s writers, led by Joss Whedon, wanted to create dialogue for its high-school-age characters that felt young, innovative, and authentic. Instead of studying the way actual high school teens of the time spoke in southern California, where the show is set, they used a variety of word-formation processes to create new words and phrases for their characters to toss around. For example, at one point the titular character refers to the action of kissing a character named Willow “Willow kissage,” which is an example of a process called derivation. Here, the writers created a new word by adding the –age suffix to “kiss.” In another example, an exasperated character turns to someone who is annoying her and asks, “Don’t you have an elsewhere to be?” This is an example of a process called conversion, in which a word that is one part of speech is converted to another part of speech without changing the morphology of the word itself. “Elsewhere,” an adverb, is converted to a noun. These processes mimic the slower processes by which new English words come into being. This summer, I plan to investigate the dialogue from a linguistic perspective by collecting and categorizing examples from each episode. I will then analyze the dialogue’s impact on the show as a whole, and research further how Buffy’s dialogue impacted the speech of its watchers and eventually the general public during the show’s time on air.