Just watching The Last Samurai on DVD. One of the samurai warriors who have captured Tom Cruise’s character has just barked “Insolent swine!” at him.

The writer must be especially adept at stifling his gag reflex to have penned a line like that. (So far, nobody has shouted “After him, you fools!” But it may just be a matter of time. This is, after all, the guy who may have killed Star Trek’s movie franchise for a generation with “Nemesis.”) I hope he wrote it reluctantly after a studio executive insisted on the line in a script note.

Then again, sooner or later, anyone who writes for money probably has to fall back on an “Insolent swine!” or two sooner or later. I’ve written my share of “Let me be clear” and “It’s great to be back here in insert name of city here!” lines in speeches. And I’d like to say I’ll never write another one, but I’m not sure that isn’t a promise I won’t break. (Much like my pledge years ago to avoid triple negatives.)

Not on purpose. It’s just that when a deadline is looming, and “Let me be clear” or “Insolent swine” comes more easily to mind than “Four score and seven years ago,” well… let’s just say the fight against mediocrity demands eternal vigilance.

Subscribe to SpeechList

Insight, advice and ideas for speechwriting, speaking and leadership communications — from my inbox to yours.

Thanks for signing up! Now just one more step: check your email inbox for a confirmation link, and you're all set!