The Saintly Syntax of South Boston

As many people have pointed out, each of these two characters follows some sort of Subject-Verb-Objectd ordering. Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” follows a Subject-Objectd-Verb order and Yoda’s fabled “Do or not do, there is only try” follows an Objectd-Subject-Verb order. While the differences in the placement of the subject and the object are notable, it’s worthy to mention the consistency with the verb. Both characters place the importance of the action as the last signifier, which is an interesting concept as it pertains to both storylines.

I tried to put together a phrase structure tree but couldn't get past this stage.

Now, time for my video selection. There is a scene in The Boondock Saints in which a character uses an expletive as a noun, verb, proper noun, adjective, and probably other grammatical terms that I’ve missed. His speech starts at 5:10 in the video. FYI: There is obviously NSFW language and violence.

Here is the text if you were unable to gather what was said:

Rocco: Fuckin’- What the fuckin’. Fuck. Who the fuck fucked this fucking… How did you two fucking fucks…


Rocco: Fuck!

Connor: Well, that certainly illustrates the diversity of the word.

Now I’m going to focus mainly on what Rocco initially says. They are transformational phrases – questions. According to our textbook, “A transformation can show the relationship between the declarative version and the interrogative version.” (Curzan 187). Why I picked this is because you can see the shift from declarative to interrogative play out as Rocco further comprehends the situation. He progresses from “What the fucking” – which is a declaration of the situation – to phrases that both contain yes/no questions and wh-questions.  While it may be deemed crude or vulgar, it shows the capacity of language in colloquial forms – mainly how it can grow and be manipulated.

This type of thing is usually specific to the genre. Action movies usually feature a working-class person that expresses colloquial astonishment at whatever situation they are in on the plot line. Do any other instances stand out to anyone else?




Works Cited


Curzan, Anne. Adams, Micheal. “How English Works: A Linguistic Introduction.” 3rd. Longman. 2012. 187-189. Print.

rgaffney22. “Boondock Saints- Diversity of the Word.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube. Jun 30, 2007. Web. 5/14/15.


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