Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Double Meaning

Have you ever used a term and later realized that it may not have been taken the way you intended? For writers, this is always a concern. I like to tell people that’s why I’m a writer first and a speaker second—I like the opportunity to make sure I’m clear. When I write a sentence that I later judge could be taken more than one way, I can edit it. When a sentence falls out of my mouth that I later realize might not have carried the meaning I intended, I can only cringe.

Today I was talking to my writing group about the depth of detail necessary to make a dramatic scene work—and that if a writer builds up to a moment of suspense, a payoff is required. Readers want to hear the details about the heist, the murder, or the romance. It's the moment for which they've been waiting. “It’s the money shot,” I said to the group. I was at home later, working on my blogs, when I realized that term can be taken in more than one way. When I said it, I was thinking of the term as it relates to paparazzi getting a clear shot of celebrity, but the original term refers to a much coarser event (go check Google if you don’t know).

Oh dear.

All I could do was laugh and blush at the same time.

Do you check your work for double meanings? Have you ever realized, after the words were spoken or printed, that your figure of speech might have been taken the wrong way? Just as misplaced modifiers can hang off the wrong word, a misused reference can leave the wrong impression. Sometimes the result is merely comical, and sometimes it’s embarrassing.
Photo courtesy of Jay Simmons at


Sarah Allen said...

Fun post! This phrase always reminds me of 'Much Ado About Nothing', when Benedict, after talking to Beatrice, says, 'There's a double meaning in that.' Anyway, great posts and I really appreciate your encouragement and advice! Thanks!

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Sarah Allen said...
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TH Meeks said...

Thanks, Sarah! I was mortified, really, when the double meaning hit me later that evening. Oh well, lesson learned! Oh, and for some reason your comment came through twice, so that's why it's showing one was removed--thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!