Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Correct Usage

The Screenwriter's and Novelist's Guide
to the
Correct use of 'Pull', 'Drink', 'Hit', etc.
Alan Green

You would never take a pull off a joint - you hit or huff a joint. If you say, 'Give me a pull off that joint' you're a dork (although no one will be able to remember the next day because you're all getting stoned). You may pull a cigar, but not a pipe or cigarette. You draw a pipe or cigarette. Of course, if you are smoking dope in a pipe the same rules apply - you hit a dope pipe. You only draw a pipe if you are smoking fine flavored (or plain) tobacco.

Rarely, you can pull from a cigarette but you have to alter the usage. You can say 'he pulls hard on his cigarette'. But, here 'cigarette' doesn't fit. Better would be, 'he pulls hard on the butt'. This however requires a qualifier or finish as in: he pulls hard on the butt, then flicks it away.

Now, let's say you're in the desert with your army buddies on a top-secret mission. If you turn to one of them and say, 'hey, give me a drink from your canteen' they won't know what you mean. They'll look at you cross-eyed. Huh? You will have to correct yourself: 'I mean, give me a pull (actually, swig would be best here. But, you could get away with pull) off your canteen'. Notice, the second time he said 'off your canteen' not 'from your canteen'. Here, the speaker has come fully to his senses. You do not drink from a canteen; you take a swig off a canteen.

(You may say 'Give me a drink from your canteen' if you are at risk of dying. If you've been out in the desert for days and are running out of water you do not say anything so cheeky as 'Gimme a swig (or pull) off your canteen'. You stick to basic language and ask for a drink).

The most correct use of 'pull' is when you're among hobos, bums, drunks, or other undesirables, and you're passing a bottle around. You say, 'gimme a pull' and extend your hand to whoever has the bottle. He'll know what you mean and will pass it to you. Another variation of this is if regular people are around a fire at night. Under these conditions, it is allowable to talk as if you were a hobo or chronically unemployed or a minor criminal. If regular nine-to-fivers find themselves camping and are sitting around a fire, they may say 'pull'. They would probably be better off using the more conventional 'hit', though. While pull has an old-world charm, it also carries a vaguely homoerotic quality, and is therefore not used too much today. However, if there is a campfire nearby it tends to nullify any unintended homoeroticism that would otherwise be plain in an office setting. Go figure...there's just something about fire that cancels out that kind of thing. Hobos, however, do not need the presence of fire to ask for a pull. Hobo talk is not homoerotic. Ever. Despite the similarity between the words hobo and homo.

For screenplays, it's best to say hit, drink, gulp, or sip (depending on the type of vessel from which the beverage is being consumed). In novels you may use pull, but only when it really applies, and not more than once per novel.

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