The 89th Academy Awards witnessed quite an unusual drama that had the Twitterati use the hashtag #OscarBlunder in their tweets. What was the blunder? The film La La Land was declared the winner of Best Picture. The La La Land team were celebrating their win onstage but their celebration lasted only for a few seconds as the presenter, Warren Beatty, announced that there was an error and the actual winner was Moonlight. Reading the tweets with the hashtag #OscarBlunder was a delight. Here is the most delightful tweet:
Donald J(oke) Trump@SC45POTUS: I hope the US presidential election officials will come forward today and say they read the winner from the wrong envelope. #OSCARBLUNDER.
While I was discussing the hashtag with my son, I received a call from a friend and the conversation went like this, “Why don’t you write a column on the commonly used expressions in the Oscar acceptance speeches?” he suggested. “It sounds good,” I replied and started reading some of the speeches. The Academy Award Acceptance Speech Database contains more than 1,400 acceptance speeches of winners since 1971.
It is quite natural for winners to express their joy and surprise. Everyone lets out an exclamation of their emotions in a different way using different words. Here are some leading exclamations: “wow”, “my God”, “gosh”, “oh, God”, “this is unbelievable”, “good God”, “I can’t believe it!”, “I don’t know what to say”, “this is incredible”, “oh, man” and “oh no”.
Oscar winners usually express their gratitude by thanking the organisers, their families, mentors and others. They use phrases like “I’d like to thank”, “I thank everybody”, “Too many people to thank” and “I love you”. How do winners express their gratitude in a way that wins the heart of the people? Here are extracts from two thank-you speeches by well-known Oscar awardees:
- “Ladies and gentlemen, please forgive me if my words are inadequate in thanking you for your very great kindness. If I were to mention all those who have shown me such wonderful generosity through ‘Gone with the Wind’ I should have to entertain you with an oration as long as ‘Gone with the Wind’ itself.” (Vivien Leigh for Gone with the Wind, 1940)
- “Thank you, Academy. Thank you so much. Huge honour. You know my sister told me that all kids love to get gold stars and this is the biggest and the best gold star that I have ever had in my life.” (Helen Mirren for The Queen, 2007)
Co-writer of Moonlight Alvin McCraney, who won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, gave this beautiful acceptance speech:
“This goes out to all those black and brown boys and girls and non-gender conforming, who don’t see themselves. We are trying to show you – you and us – so thank you. This is for you.”
When we learn to appreciate good speeches, we learn to deliver better speeches.
Dr Albert P’ Rayan is an ELT Resource Person and Professor of English. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org