10 August 2011

The Wizard Will Explain It!

As long as I’m on the topic of this message from the MGM Wizard of Oz, how do you read this message grammatically?

The “SURRENDER” is an imperative verb, but to whom is it addressed? Most people seem to treat that as a message to Dorothy, which should have been punctuated as “SURRENDER, DOROTHY.”

Without the comma, “DOROTHY” becomes the object of the verb. The Witch’s message is therefore directed at the Wizard and the people of the Emerald City, telling them to turn Dorothy over to her.

Two additional facts about this moment in the movie, according to Aljean Harmetz’s Making of The Wizard of Oz:

  • A special-effects man wrote the message using a syringe filled with ink inside a tank of water, producing the effect of skywriting without the expense.
  • The message was originally “SURRENDER DOROTHY OR DIE, WWW”. But the movie’s editors realized that just the first two words made the message abundantly clear.
Or did it?


david elzey said...

wouldn't it have been worse as planned, because then wouldn't the comma after "die" suggest the message was directed *to* "WWW" and not from her?

would have been nice to see the world wide web introduced back in 1939 though.

J. L. Bell said...

I understand the studio tried


but that didn’t have the right feeling.

Hungry Tiger Talk said...

Well, I always understood it to be a command to the Wizard and citizens of the Emerald City - Which given the citizens reactions, "Who's Dorothy" is what I think the writers intended.

But I realize my understanding is based on what my Mom told me the words meant. I saw the film before I could read and I must have gotten a parental explanation about what the WWW was writing.