Murder, She Wrote

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Zsanna, Mar 28, 2008.

  1. Zsanna

    Zsanna ModErrata

    Hungarian - Hungary
    I can't imagine that nobody has asked about the meaning of the title of the (oldish) TV series yet but I could not find anything using the search.

    The construction (word order, comma) is a bit weird to me for one and I wonder what it supposed to indicate.
    Does it mean simply that "she is a detective novel writer" (= she writes about murders)?
    Or is there anything more to it?
  2. Cathy Rose Senior Member

    Northeast USA
    United States English
    I think the inverted word order, as in much of Shakespeare's writing, serves the purpose of putting the most interesting -- or useful, or eye-catching -- word in the forefront. Newspapers do the same thing with headlines and leads. For instance, you wouldn't write, "On March 27, 2008 a house on Elm Street was destroyed by fire." In that construction, you get all the way to the end of the sentence before you find out what happened. A good newspaper person would write, "Fire destroyed a house... ."
  3. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    I think it implies two separate meanings.

    First, that she is a murder mystery writer by occupation.

    And second, that she comes across a untimely death that could have been accidental, suicide, and then declares that it is indeed a murder.

    The dual meaning adds some intrigue.
  4. Zsanna

    Zsanna ModErrata

    Hungarian - Hungary
    Cathy Rose,
    Thanks, yes, OK.
    Can we interpret it like this: "here is a(nother) murder case she presents us"?
    Or else how could you sum up the meaning in a "normal" way?

    Yes, thanks! I imagined something like that. Do I guess well, that it would be difficult to find another form that could express such a double-meaning?
  5. Cathy Rose Senior Member

    Northeast USA
    United States English
    That, too, Packard! You're saying it could be interpreted as, "Murder," she wrote. Am I correct?
  6. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Maybe it's just a catchy title with no particular intent to convey a specific meaning?
    Or indeed, the intent to create mystery :)
  7. Zsanna

    Zsanna ModErrata

    Hungarian - Hungary
    This is also something you should take into consideration - unfortunately for non native speakers! :)
  8. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    No, double meanings are frequent. I saw a truck the other day for a roofing company that read, "Above all, a good roof"

    "Above all" has two meanings: "First priority" and "over head".

    There is a retail plush animal store that I saw called "Teddy Bear's home" (is that the home of Teddy Bear, or the announcement that Teddy Bear is now home?)
  9. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    It is an allusion to the famous motion picture "Murder, she said" based on the Agatha Christie novel "4.50 from Paddington".

    I know, this dosn't answer the original question but without knowing that you would be poking in the dark.
  10. Zsanna

    Zsanna ModErrata

    Hungarian - Hungary
    Sorry, I did not mean that... (Thanks for the other examples, though!) It is true that in English such "games" are frequent.
    What I meant was that it would probably be much longer and complicated to express the double meaning in another (= "straightforward") way.

    Thanks! I mentioned above that it is the title of a TV series because I did not know other sources for the same title. However, I don't think it changes much about the meaning, unless I'm mistaken...
  11. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    I hints that the character portrayed by Angela Landbury is a sort of Miss Marple and that she is a writer. This somewhat modifies Packard's "dual meaning" explanation in #3.
  12. Zsanna

    Zsanna ModErrata

    Hungarian - Hungary
    Oh, in what way?
  13. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    As I wrote above:
    First, that she is a murder mystery writer by occupation.:tick:
    And second, that she comes across a untimely death that could have been accidental, suicide, and then declares that it is indeed a murder. She is a sort of Miss Marple.

    The next question is then of course "why is the motion picture called 'Murder, she said'". You wrote you couldn't find anything searching for "Murder, she wrote". Maybe you will have more luck searching for "Murder, she said".
  14. Zsanna

    Zsanna ModErrata

    Hungarian - Hungary
    The trouble is that all this turns out fairly quickly just by watching one episode (and even without knowing that the character refers to Miss Marple) so it does not seem to "justify" that "tortured" title in itself...
    Also, why focus so much on the main character in the title when you watch it essentially for the story?
  15. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
  16. Zsanna

    Zsanna ModErrata

    Hungarian - Hungary
    In any case, my priority stays linguistic.
    This is why I looked up exactly these words (and in WordRef.'s search to avoid repeating a question that may have been asked already here).

    Thank you all for your answers.
  17. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    In the 1940's, "Murder!" was a slang exclamation that indicated that something particularly good was a real "killer". There was (I believe I remember hearing it sung) a song called "'Murder!', She Said", and the phrase passed into 1940's slang. The 1961 movie title would have been an allusion to the old slang phrase, and the television series (with its clear connection to the whole Agatha Christie - Miss Marple genre) was almost certainly named to suggest the famous Miss Marple movie, with "said" being changed to "wrote" because the lead character is an author of the Agatha Christie type: that is, a lady who writes murder mystery novels.
  18. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Ok. That is a perfectly valid thing to ask. Let me try to help you with that:
    Why is there a comma? Because there is a deviation from normal word order.
    Why is there a deviation from normal word order? Because "murder" is an exclamation.
    Why is murder an exclamation? Because of the Miss Marple allusion. Post #17 says it all.

  19. Zsanna

    Zsanna ModErrata

    Hungarian - Hungary
    It is interesting to read the different background information as well as conclusions concerning such an "innocent" title...

    Already to the question "Why is there a deviation from the normal word order?" I can see several explanations (n° 2, 6, 18) - but none seems totally satisfactory.
    (I think it is a common trait in non-native speakers, and as I am no exception, I also wish to "put more into it than there is really in it".)

    However, I think that starting from Cathy's "catchy title" suggestion, we could be on the right way. To call it an exclamation may be a bit too strong even if I feel a "strong affirmation", a stressed statement behind the word "Murder".
    However, I can see lots of possibilities to explain that.
    I feel still closest to the sense that Packard explained, i.e. she says "murder" in a situation where a sherif(f)/or anybody else would think it's just an unfortunate death. (And, you could say that just like Miss Marple, she starts to investigate and will solve the problem. There, it is the "writer - mistery solver" bit that is emphasized. A totally valid-looking explanation.)
    But the same thing could be interpreted equally in various other ways: "she is not only a mistery writer, i.e. someone who makes up strange events on a piece of paper but she meets them in reality as well" (in which case it's the "theoretical-reality" bit that's emphasized by the title...) or "if she says "Murder!", you'd better watch out, it's going to be something extraordinary!" (using GreenWhiteBlue's contribution - hopefully not distorting it too much!) where the accent is (maybe) on the "simple writer-adventures in real life" aspect... (I don't claim to have found always the right formula for what I meant.)
    In fact, I feel some truth in all these. Hm.
  20. stock1992 Member

    Tokyo, Japan
    << Moderator's note: This thread has been added to an existing thread. Please scroll up and read from the top. >>

    Hi, everyone,

    I think this may go without saying, but Murder, She Wrote is the title of an American mystery TV series, which aired from mid '80s through mid '90s.
    My question is about the grammatical interpretation of this title. Would someone tell me which one of the following is correct?

    1) an inverted sentence: She Wrote Murder.
    2) a relative pronounce clause: Murder (that) She Wrote
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 7, 2014
  21. Glasguensis

    Glasguensis Signal Modulation

    English - Scotland
    Bearing in mind that it's a series about an author, it's a play on the convention in English writing of starting a quotation before inserting the speaker, as in:
    "Gosh!", said Fred, "Look at the time!".
    So this is saying that she literally wrote the word "Murder", as if she were saying it. It's an inverted sentence but of a particular style.
  22. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    Neither one.

    As we continually advise learners, poetry, song lyrics and titles often convey an intuitive message despite lack of any particular structure defined by so-called rules.

    I strongly suggest you accept it as such.
  23. JamesM

    JamesM Senior Member

    I always thought of it as meaning:

    "Murder!", she wrote.

    '"Murder!", she cried' is a fairly typical, if not actually clichéd, phrase from a murder mystery novel. I think I lean towards Packard's understanding. She discovers murders ("Murder!", she cried) but she is a murder mystery novelist so "cried" is changed to "wrote". I think it's an awkward series title, to be frank.
  24. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Most likely, James. See also above:

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