Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Princess Bride: You are wonderful!

It seems I’ve struck a chord with some of my readers via The Princess Bride. I’m glad, because I’d already remembered a few more mental nuggets, so here goes…

You’re back again?

Sure am.

Are you still on that Princess Bride trip?

Oh, yeah. That movie rocks!

Well, I was under-whelmed by your first example, but I’ll play along. What have you got for me today?

You are a great friend, just listen to this superb dialogue…

Inigo Montoya: You are wonderful.
Man in Black: Thank you; I've worked hard to become so.

That’s it? Two lines? Are you stingy or what?

Me, stingy? Not at all. I’m economic. Why give you more than you need? The beauty is in the brevity. Don’t you see it?

Perhaps not. Illuminate me.

Well, maybe I cheated you a little. This snippet is taken in the midst of a great fencing duel between Inigo and the Man in Black. Inigo has been practicing and studying fencing for over 20 years. He recognizes the brilliance of a superior swordsman: the Man in Black.

And that’s your point?

Not at all. The profundity is not just in Inigo’s recognition of superb human achievement, but in the Man in Black’s acknowledgment and explanation.

I see the acknowledgment, but I seem to be missing any explanation. He simply says, “I’ve worked hard to become so.”

Ahh, you do see it! How does one arrive at a pinnacle of achievement? One must work hard. Here our philosopher-protagonist slays in two sentences the demons of self-importance and instant-gratification!

He does?

Certainly. He is wonderful in his art, but simply says, “Thank you.” He is a master of his craft, but lays out the simple map of his journey, “I have worked hard to become so.” What genius!

Well, I’m still not sure if I see what you see, but you are, as usual, intriguing. You have more examples?

I do. We shall talk more… perhaps tomorrow.

(These dialogues are based on a similar technique practiced by the author of Godel, Escher, Bach: Eternal Golden Braid. I steal freely. He copied Socrates. I copy him copying Socrates.)


  1. Damn it. I'm placing an order on Amazon tomorrow.

    Tbanks for the kind words by the way, over in my neck of the blogo-woods.


  2. Ooooh, I love it when one can find so much meaning and depth in just a snatch of dialogue. When I first read the exchange I didn't know if you could pull it off - but ya did. ;) You're really good at this! You've got me thinking of the movies and books that I've seen/read that accomplish what 'The Princess Bride' script does, and maddeningly I cannot pinpoint them. Oh, I just thought of one...

    Anyway, keep going! This is fun. :)