Gabagool and Malpropisms: Dialogue Lessons from The Sopranos was written by Lincoln Michel and appears on the Counter Craft website.
“I’ve been slowly working my way through a rewatch of The Sopranos and remain in awe of the show. Despite debuting over 20 years ago, it still feels like a breath of fresh TV air. I think the reason is tone. The Sopranos is a show that feels full of life. Yes, it’s a mob drama with lots of violence and intrigue, but there’s also a huge amount of love, small talk, lightness, surreality, and humor. The Sopranos is adept at moving between tones. Most TV dramas of the last 10-15 years have been remarkably humorless and monotone, at least to me. They might have a few jokes now and then, but from the cinematography to the soundtrack the tone is one of Very Serious Stuff. Many of them are good, some even great, but they all feel a bit dreary to me. A bit lifeless.
(The recent shows that feel closest to The Sopranos in their ability to mix tones are half-hour comedies, like Bojack Horseman. Although Succession is a rare hour drama exception.)
One particular aspect of craft The Sopranos excels at is dialogue, and a notable feature is the errors. The characters are constantly speaking in malapropisms, mangled idioms, and mispronunciations. They mishear things or misquote each other. It happens so much it feels like a distinctive feature of the show. I can’t think of a single other TV show that deploys so many errors in dialogue…”
If you don’t know, a malapropism is when you accidentally substitute a similar sounding word or phrase for the correct one. Some Sopranos examples:
Tony: “I was prostate with grief.”
Little Carmine: “There’s no stigmata connected with going to a shrink.”
Christopher: “Create a little dysentery in the ranks.”
Jonny: “She’s an albacore around my neck.”
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