10 Dialogue Verbs that Only Work in Parodies

After finishing my previous post about said bookisms, I was suddenly overwhelmed with ideas for further said-bookism-related writings. Thus, I determined to set out another, lighter list. The verbs here are bad, but they are in a special category of bad, one where the only response to such ridiculous wording is to burst out laughing.

When used seriously, these words kill the mood. But if used in a parody, they could be hilarious.

#10: Questioned

I put this one on the bottom of the list because it seems a bit subjective, but I do think it could be very funny if handled correctly. The thing about this word as a dialogue tag is that even though it’s technically a valid grammatical option, it reads like the author didn’t know any interrogative verbs and thus turned “question” into a verb to compensate. I know that that is in no way what it is, but for some reason that interpretation has stuck with me, and it makes me giggle a little every time I see this word in a dialogue tag. It could be pretty funny if someone wrote a parody of poor writing where they pretended it was the case by adding some bizarre malapropisms like “exclamationed” and “speeched.”

#9: Cajoled

I wasn’t really sure whether to include this one at first, because I thought it might be possible to use it effectively. Then I remembered that every time I’ve seen it used and not winced, it was in the prose rather than the dialogue tags. Even people with chronic cases of Thesaurus Syndrome seem to avoid having characters “cajole” their lines. Combined with the funny sound of the word, it makes for good parody material. Ideally, the writer would completely ignore all connotations of the word and just use it as a synonym for “said,” alongside several other bizarre and obscure words with funny phonemes.

#8: Verbalized

In contrast to the “it just sounds kind of funny” feel of the previous two entries, this one has more of a “so stilted and clinical that it’s funny” appeal to it. I can just imagine someone writing a parody of overly-technical styles where characters “verbalize,” “vocalize,” “communicate,” and “pronounce” their lines. For best results, combine with overly-verbose and bizarrely specific descriptions, such as calling puzzle pieces “interlocking cardboard chips” and giving a precise measurement of each character’s hair length.

#7: Dribbled

I have never seen this word in a dialogue tag, but thinking about it makes me picture the character melting. Perhaps it’s a mark of how strange my mind is that I find that funny. Since the connotations of the word are rather sappy, I think it would work well in a romance pastiche, mocking the drippy dialogue between the main couple. Just make sure to only apply it to really, really saccharine lines.

#6: Yakked

Oddly enough, I have seen this word used in a dialogue tag… in the infamously bad fanfic My Immortal. This may be a very strong argument for the “troll” side of the “real vs. trollfic” debate, because “yakked” is a silly verb, and I’m pretty sure that not even an incompetent fanfiction writer would use it seriously. It does have a really funny sound to it, though. Yakked. Yak yak yak! Say it with me, guys: yak! Yak yak yak! Yak yak yakkity yak yak yakked! Yak! Yak yak yak! You have now lost the ability to register “yak” as a legitimate word.

#5: Blubbered

In a bizarre twist of language, a great number of crying-related verbs sound kind of funny to me, largely because of their present-tense homonyms or homophones. “Bawl” sounds like “ball,” “wail” sounds like “whale,” and “blubber” is, of course… blubber. I think this one stands out to me because I register the noun “blubber” as a “sortamatopoeia”; that is, if whale blubber made a sound, “blubber” would be it.

#4: Exploded

In my previous post, I mentioned how the dialogue tag “burst out” made me picture the words bursting gruesomely from the character’s chest. This word is similar. Whenever a character “explodes” a line, I picture them literally exploding, often to hilarious effect. Seeing that effect used consciously in a parody would make me laugh my ass off.

#3: Enunciated

Though similar to “verbalized,” this word has a particular feel to it that I find inexplicably humorous. Just sit back from your computer for a moment and enunciate the word “enunciated.” For best results, make sure to overemphasize the stress a little more than strictly necessary. It sounds funny, right? Come on, this cannot be just me.

#2: Ululated

Ululation was a favorite joke of Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman in How NOT to Write a Novel, though even there it never ended up in a dialogue tag. Personally, I think this would be a great parody of the “sound” tags, e.g. “hissed” and “snarled.” While it is technically possible to hiss, snarl, moan, or sigh a line if the wording and length are suitable, I’m pretty sure it would be impossible to ululate a line… and since both the act of ululation and the word “ululate” seem to be funny in and of themselves, well, bonus!

#1: Ejaculated

Admit it: you knew this one was coming. Oddly enough, I’ve seen “ejaculated” in dialogue tags more than any other word on this list, except perhaps “questioned.” This is probably because some works can actually get away with it; that is, older ones, written before the word “ejaculated” was associated with, er, penile emission. However, despite its drop in commonality in the present day, it does make its way into modern stories; for example, I recall one particularly hilarious example from Harry Potter, where Professor Slughorn “ejaculated” Snape’s name. I love J. K. Rowling, but that was ridiculous. I suppose it just goes to show that even great writers can make the occasional goof. Really, the only place you should see “ejaculated” in the modern day is in a parody, especially a parody sex scene. Of course, if you aren’t writing parody, never use this verb anywhere close to the sex scene if you value your reader’s immersion.

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