“Marriage is a fine institution, but I’m not ready for an institution.”~~ Mae West
Language is many things — a means of communication, the basis for thought, one way to indulge in humor. And since literary devices help make the narrative/speech beautiful and funny, why not use them?
No reason, really. “Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again.” ~~ L. Frank Baum
Like with every literary form (and/or double talk), overuse or misuse (worse, even, using it as a trick) sticks out like a red flag and sounds like an annoying alarm.
Beep! Beep! Newbie or show-off here!
Horrified, I tell you, I’m terrified — like most writers, I guess — by the sound of that alarm, and prefer never to hear its sound. At least not after a round of edits.
But when is such a device a gimmick?
Entertainers are held to different standards — they’re there to entertain, after all — but once an artist presents her art (help me God, if ever the time comes), it is scrutinized, right?
Here is what I mean.
An Internet headline caught my attention the other day. It screamed: Jay-Z’s List of Double Entendres. Curiosity grabbed my finger and pressed on that lovely link. And voila, there was an article — someone listing the many cool double entendres on the singer’s new album.
Since I’m interested in the device, I read on.
Here’s number 1 on the list: I’m not a businessman, I am a business, man.
The singer has his own style, however does the line fit the definition? Sure, fans don’t care, but writers and readers are so darn curious. It’s what keeps us typing at all hours, what drives us to avoid sleep in favor of a good book. A peculiar bunch of people.
So, about the phrase — it felt direct, maybe too instructive, as if the artist feared someone might miss the meaning, so a second clause was added to be certain the adoring fans get it. The fans are immensely important in turning the album into what the industry calls instant platinum.
I scrolled down, and there was one part where the artist talked about dropping a triple entendre. The line in question: Oww/Hoes turn their heads like owls/I’m the man of the hour/Triple entendre don’t even ask me how. The clever entry, it appears, is the play on the words owl and hour, but don’t quote me. It rhymes, so that counts.
So, did the alarm beep here? I’m sure not. Famous artists make up their own words and meanings, and do so with authority.
Me … well … I think double entendres thrive on insinuation and ambiguity, the reason I like using them. I forgive myself for this and for my love of the old rule. It’s a writer thing, (comma police, anyone?), nothing to do with the entertainer.
So, feel free to shake me out of my literary daze, or make it hazier. :)
Photo credit: Mae West, I’m No Angel trailer screenshot; from Wikimedia Commons.