The Princess Bride Guide to Copywriting

The Princess Bride Guide to Copywriting

So there have been a lot of other posts around the blogosphere lately about the Star Wars Guide to Blogging and the Bridges of Madison County Guide to Marketing and I realized that at Men with Pens, we don’t really draw from pop culture for posts.

Then I realized that this is because James doesn’t do anything but work. His most common response to analogies of mine is, “What’s that?”

There I stand, agape, saying incredulously, “You don’t know who Joss Whedon is?”

“No?” says James. Then, a moment later, rather timidly: “Should I?”

Oh, my poor, sweet James. This post is for you, so that you’ll go out and watch The Princess Bride again and again until you have seen it at least a dozen times.

You know. Like a NORMAL person.

Without further ado, allow me to introduce The Princess Bride Guide to Copywriting. In writing this guide, I realized that most of my salient quotes came from the same character. Evidently, everything I needed to know, I learned from Inigo Montoya.

Repetition is Key

The first line anyone thinks of when the Princess Bride is mentioned is this one: “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

This is not the best line in the movie by a long shot. My personal favorite line is, “There’s a shortage of perfect breasts in the world. ‘Twould be a pity to damage yours.” Especially because it’s so rare you hear an attractive man use the world “‘twould” without sounding like a complete twit.

However, the line where he names himself is the line that people remember most. It’s the line people say to each other at showings of this movie. It’s the line they quote to one another afterward. And it’s a pretty awesome line. But that’s not why they remember it.

They remember it because the line is said, word for word, a grand total of six times, nearly one after the other.

Repetition makes people remember what you had to say. Use that to your advantage in your copy. Repeat what you want your customers to remember over and over again, and if you can, use the exact same words.

When they think about what you wrote, the words you repeated the most will be the ones that stuck in their heads. And if you can make those words as enjoyable to remember as Inigo’s line, they’ll not only remember you – they’ll remember how awesome they thought you were.

Know Your Terms

Vizzini, one of the movie’s great villains, likes the word inconceivable. He says that a ship following them would be inconceivable – shortly after, a boat is following them. He says it is inconceivable that said ship could catch up with them – and lo, the boat is gaining. He says it is inconceivable that the man in black could follow them straight up the cliffs while the man in black is demonstrably doing that very thing.

Inigo, at this juncture, turns to Vizzini and says, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

And Inigo is absolutely right.

If you use the wrong words as descriptors in your copy, it’s going to make you sound like an idiot – especially if you clearly think you have the right word. Double-check the meanings of any words you enjoy using the most, and be sure you’re using them properly. You don’t want to end up like Vizzini, do you? Of course not.

Keep it Short

“Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up. Buttercup is to marry Humperdinck in little less than half an hour, so all we have to do is get in, break up the wedding, steal the princess, and make our escape. After I kill Count Rugen.”

Clear, concise, and above all short as can be. To get that information, the audience watches approximately 45 minutes worth of movie. Inigo sums the situation up in a few brief sentences, and Westley (who has been inconveniently dead all that time) is immediately as appraised of the situation as we are. In about one-thousandth of the time.

Now, the only reason the audience stuck around for that 45 minutes is because Miracle Max was in the movie, and Miracle Max is wonderful. If we had to listen to Inigo telling that whole story word for word, we’d have gotten bored and run off.

If you want to explain something – anything – to the people reading your copy, do it fast. Summarize. If you can’t summarize it, walk away and come back and try again. Anything important can be communicated in just a few sentences. If Inigo can do it about a plan to bust into the castle and rescue Buttercup (and kill Count Rugen), then you can do it about whatever you’re writing copy on.

Shorter is sweeter, folks. If you want proof, come on into the comments and list off your favorite quotes from the Princess Bride. They’ll all be short. They’ll all be amazing. And they’ll all say a lot more than they originally appear to say.

Which is to say, they’ll all be damn good copy.

So throw ‘em out. Princess Bride quotes, anyone?

Post by Taylor

Taylor Lindstrom (fondly known as Tei) is a twenty-something copywriter and journalist from Boulder, CO. She’s the team’s rogue woman who wowed us until our desire for her talents exceeded our desire for a good ol’ boys club. She loves the color green, micro-point Uniball pens, and medieval weaponry.

Join the Discussion. Click Here to Leave a Comment.

  1. As you wish.

  2. “As you wish”

  3. Any thoughts on the Serenity guide to copywriting (if we’re talking Joss Whedon)?

  4. Michael Martine says:

    “There’s a shortage of perfect breasts in the world.”
    .-= Michael Martine´s last blog ..The Hustling Secrets No One Talks About =-.

  5. I have graduated from an American public high school.

    That I might not understand a word in my copy would be inconceivable.

    I gradunated with one hundred other people who were not igorant ether.

    Beth

    ToysPeriod is a leading online shop specializing in lego sets and model railroad equipment.
    .-= Beth Charette´s last blog ..New Product: BRIO 33584 Fire Station Set Wooden Railway Town Building New =-.

  6. I am just like James. Working all the time. I am not familiar with “The Princess Bride” either but this article points out very important rules of writing memorable content. English is my second language, so as a rule, I am trying to avoid long sentences. Taking into consideration the short attention span of most visitors to my web site, I try to convey my thoughts quickly.

    It works great for me to take a walk after writing an article and think about something completely different. When I am back, I can easily find ways to simplify the long, unnecessary passages. I am also trying to look at every sentence and see if there is a way to replace commas with full stops and divide them in smaller chunks of information.

    I can see the repetition of words in many books I read but I never thought of using this technique in my own articles. I will put that into practice and see how it works for my audience.

    Thank you for a great article.
    .-= Martin Gaik´s last blog ..How to Write an Effective Business Blog =-.

  7. Tei,

    Sorry, another heathen who hasn’t seen PB. Was that the one with Sting in it? SO instead I’ll quote you:

    And if you can make those words as enjoyable to remember as Inigo’s line, they’ll not only remember you – they’ll remember how awesome they thought you were.

    That right there is the key to it. I was thinking about phrases I repeat frequently at MCE (there are a few). I’ll bet the ones I repeat for semi-comic effect, much less often, are better remembered than the ones I repeat to emphasize a serious point. More enjoyable = more memorable. Thanks for saying it so well.

    Regards,

    Kelly
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..Inspiration Points: Post This Prediction on Your Wall… =-.

  8. It is all about the love story for me…”That day, she was amazed to discover that when he was saying “As you wish”, what he meant was, “I love you.” And even more amazing was the day she realized she truly loved him back.”

    The children and I have almost worn this movie out it is one fo our favourites.

    Oh and thanks for the advice on repetition, repetition, reteptiton.
    Elaine

  9. Mary E. Ulrich says:

    Google to the rescue: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093779/quotes

    Man in Black: They were both poisoned. I spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder. (Love the twist *pun*. All through the movie, there is humor in the lines, but also great storytelling method)

    Miracle Max: Sonny, true love is the greatest thing, in the world-except for a nice MLT – mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomato is ripe (Miracle Max was my favorite character, plus he shares his method for reviving the dead with a straight face.)
    [smacks his lips]

  10. From the man with the license plate 2BLAIVE….

    …and who once got to use the “perfect breasts” line in context in an unrelated conversation…

    “I’m sorry, Inigo, I didn’t mean to jog him so hard.” – Be careful with that repetition thing. Or any other advice, for that matter. It’s always possible to overdo anything.

    “I’m on the Brute Squad.” “You ARE the Brute Squad.” – It’s often better to look like you are a small company, than look like you are one guy scrambling to cover everything. Look into leveraging resources such as accounting services and answering services to help you look more professional.

    “Go easy on him. He’s been mostly dead all day.” – Remember that you are a working professional. That means you have the right to take sick days and vacation days just like any office drone.

    “ROUSes? I don’t believe they exist.” – Always be cautious about dismissing myths and rumors. They often begin with a kernel of truth.

    “You’re bluffing.” “It’s possible, pig.” – Always be cautious about believing myths and rumors, too.

    I think I may have strayed a bit from the original topic….
    .-= Lugh´s last blog ..Time goes by so fast…. =-.

  11. I can’t believe nobody has used it yet–““Have fun storming the castle!” Love Miracle Max.
    .-= Todd´s last blog ..Stop wasting your time-Lift weights to make real progress =-.

  12. Good Night Westley, Sleep Well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning!

  13. “I am not Left-handed”

    During one of the best swordplay scenes of all time

  14. The Princess Bride was one of the first movies in my DVD collection.

    One of my favourite quotes is, ironically, not a short one. There’s the scene where Count Rugen is about to go torture Westley and he asks Prince Humperdink if he’d like to come along.

    Humperkink replies, “Tyrone, you know how much I love watching you work, but I’ve got my country’s 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it; I’m swamped.”

    Cracks me up every time. What makes the quote memorable, of course, is short: “I’m swamped.” It wouldn’t have worked otherwise.
    .-= Stacey Cornelius´s last blog ..A cautionary tale of DIY car repairs and instant karma =-.

  15. @Lugh – This was just too funny:

    “Go easy on him. He’s been mostly dead all day.”

    Hoooo, yeah! I’m so going to use that.

  16. “Never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line.” In other words, play for keeps!

  17. “You mean, you’ll put down your rock and I’ll put down my sword, and we’ll try and kill each other like civilized people? ”

    Thanks Taylor

  18. Oh man, so many good ones are already taken! :)

    But I love this one:
    “If you haven’t got your health… you haven’t got anything.”

  19. In the Miracle Max house,

    “Get away from me witch!”
    “I’m not a witch, I’m your wife!… and I’m not even sure I want to be that anymore.”

    And my favorite, the lines I always think of first,

    “Mawwiage… Mawwiage is wot bwings us togever today…”
    .-= Henry Bingaman´s last blog ..Get It Done Right, Hire John Wayne… =-.

  20. When it comes to writing, you should learn to fence left-handed. By that, I mean you should experiment and learn new skills. There may be times when you will need to be able to do things differently that you would ordinarily do them.

    “Think outside the box” is so trite. “I am not left handed” is cool. Deeply cool.
    .-= Tony Noland´s last blog ..Anthology: 12 Days =-.

  21. So many great lines!

    “I just want you to feel you’re doing well. I hate for people to die embarrassed.”

    “You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.”

    “Because you have always been so kind to me, and I won’t be seeing you again since I’m killing myself once we reach the honeymoon suite.

    – Won’t that be nice.”

    “Do you want me to send you back to where you were? Unemployed in Greenland!”

    But the GREATEST exchange of dialog in the film is this:

    Inigo Montoya: That Vizzini, he can *fuss*.
    Fezzik: Fuss, fuss… I think he like to scream at *us*.
    Inigo Montoya: Probably he means no *harm*.
    Fezzik: He’s really very short on *charm*.
    Inigo Montoya: You have a great gift for rhyme.
    Fezzik: Yes, yes, some of the time.
    Vizzini: Enough of that.
    Inigo Montoya: Fezzik, are there rocks ahead?
    Fezzik: If there are, we all be dead.
    Vizzini: No more rhyming now, I mean it.
    Fezzik: Anybody want a peanut?
    Vizzini: DYEEAAHHHHHH!!!

    I could go on and on…

  22. I just love that the iocane is both tasteless and odorless – and instantly recognizable to the Man In Black.

    And of course, I hope people notice Christopher Guest as the six-fingered count and the genius behind Spinal Tap, Best in Show, Mighty Wind etc

  23. Sandy Lipten says:

    “Did I make it clear that your JOB is at stake?”

    (Vizzinni to Fezzig, who is carrying him up a the side of a cliff; they are hundreds of fit above the rocky reef below)

    There’s definitely a copywriting metaphor here, but I need to get to work so I can’t stay and think of it.

    Also: Have you ever heard of Plato? Aristotle? Socrates? Morons!

  24. “Have fun storming the castle” is the last thing I say when someone leaves the building.
    Followed closely on my list is ‘as you wish’ which has kept me married, this time, for over 20 years.
    I did the marriage vows speech for my son and his wife at their rehearsal dinner. It’s what brought us here that day.
    I own the DVD, VHS, the book, a framed movie poster and two T-shirts.
    On top of that, I live in the county Andre the Giant called home.
    But I’m not obsessed or anything.

  25. Sandy Lipten says:

    Hundreds of *feet* I meant, obviously.

    Also, forgot to applaud this wonderful post. Thank you!

    Those of you who haven’t seen PB, you really are missing more than you think. One of the wittiest movies ever made.

  26. The King: What was that for?
    Buttercup: Because you have always been so kind to me, and I won’t be seeing you again since I’m killing myself once we reach the honeymoon suite.
    The King: Won’t that be nice. She kissed me.

    Goes to show people only hear and see what they want to LOL!
    .-= Terreece Clarke´s last blog ..Day 3, 5 Ways to Enhance Your Writing Skills =-.

  27. I usually hate posts like these because they seem forced, but actually each one of these was right on.
    .-= Eric C´s last blog ..A Tribute to Sgt. Lucas T. Beachnaw =-.

  28. Inconceivable!
    .-= Deb Ng´s last blog ..Understanding Freelance Writing Rights and Usage =-.

  29. The Princess Bride was the first movie I ever saw in a theater. I believe I was 4 years old at the time. To this day, I still love watching that movie. Oh memories.

    Westley: Give us the gate key.
    Yellin: I have no gate key.
    Inigo Montoya: Fezzik, tear his arms off.
    Yellin: Oh, you mean *this* gate key.
    .-= Chris Arkwright´s last blog ..My P90X 90-Day Challenge =-.

  30. “Sleep well, and dream of large women.”

    “Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something.”

    Indigo: I must know
    Man in Black: Get used to disappointment.

    Fessig: Why do you wear a mask, were you burned by acid or something?
    Man in Black: No, there terribly comfortable, I think everyone will be wearing one someday.

  31. Awwww, lookit you guys go. See, James? SEE? See what you’re missing out on? Go waste a day watching the movie over and over again.

    Next I’ll get you on Star Wars. Oh, yes. It WILL happen.

    Meanwhile . . .

    Travis and Christa – Does anyone find it frustrating that there’s no response to “As you wish”? Someone says it to you, and you just have to either smile beatifically or command the farmboy to fetch you a pitcher. It’s not like you can say “As you wish TOO.”

    Vandy – I think we’d probably have to go through Star Wars and Monty Python first. Then we can do Firefly.

    Michael – I know. I know. It’s so brilliant.

    Beth – I love a little shot of irony to start off my day.

    Martin – Then you are like James in that you MUST see it.

    Kelly – HEATHEN! Heeeeeaathen!

    Lugh – Your license plate says “2BLAIVE”? . . . I think I may love you.

    Todd – Miracle Max is the man. Or possibly the gnome. But the man nonetheless.

    Maureen – I had totally forgotten about that one. It features much more heavily in the book than in the movie. But it is a wonderful one.

    Stacey – One of these days I’m going to have to write a post about punchlines. So many people screw ’em up.

    James – WATCH THE DAMN MOVIE, YOU HEATHEN! . . . I live in despair, you guys. See what I live with?

    David – Good one. I always agreed with it.

    Rachael – Especially from a torturer. More irony! Oh, the day smells all iron-y.

    Henry – I am shocked it took us this long to get to mawwidge. Well played, sir.

    Tony – True this. Any hackneyed but true expression can be saved with a good dose of pop culture.

    Neztra – You win. I like “You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.” I should have used that one.

    Michael – Well, he did BRING the iocane. I should hope he’d recognize it. Otherwise he’s be all accidentally poisoning people when all he meant to do was put down a few lines of cocaine for them.

    Sandy – Yep, there is. You can’t get any more out of someone who’s already doing their best. Also, to get miracles you have to go see a miracle man, not a Turkish giant.

    Rick – Suuuuure.

    Terreece – Good job finding the moral in that one.

    Eric – Thanks. I try.

    Honorshammer – Oh, sleep well and dream of large women. Such good advice. True for all of us, really. Especially if the large women happen to be guarding the gates to Valhalla. Or a chocolate factory.

  32. A Princess Bride spin on anything is wonderful. Ironically, “I don’t think it means what you think it means” (appraised). Apprised, perhaps? At least it wasn’t under the “Know your terms” subhead. Ha. S.

  33. What a great idea. I appreciate the mandate to make sure you’re using your favorite words correctly. Does James know the difference between “appraise” and “apprise?”

  34. I would have to agree with Pat, in that my fave line is : “Never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line.” …being a bit Sicilian myself.

    Now to figure out how this can be relevant to my bodywork practice. :)

  35. It’s worth reading the comments today if only for all the Princess Bride quotes. That is really such a fun movie.!

    I always liked the marriage ceremony, starting with “Wove. Twue wove.”

  36. I love the interaction between Grampa and Grandson while the story is being read.

    “This isn’t going to be a kissing book, is it?”

    Not sure of the exact quote which means I must go home immediately after work and watch this movie. Again.
    I love watching PB with someone who has never seen it. Watching them watch is priceless.
    Great post!
    Now about Firefly….

  37. As someone who, for the better part of the year, had an Inigo Montoya quote as my Twitter avatar, I’ll offer this:

    Inigo Montoya: I donna suppose you could speed things up?
    Man in Black: If you’re in such a hurry, you could lower a rope or a tree branch or find something useful to do.
    Inigo Montoya: I could do that. I have some rope up here, but I do not think you would accept my help, since I am only waiting around to kill you.
    Man in Black: That does put a damper on our relationship.

  38. I’m with James and Kelly… I haven’t see Princess Bride either. And have no idea who Joss Whedon is.

  39. How could James (or anyone else, for that matter) not know who Joss Whedon is?

    And how could anyone never have seen The Princess Bride?

    “Inconceivable!”

    . . .

    Westley: “I told you I would always come for you. Why didn’t you wait for me?”
    Buttercup: “Well…you were dead.”
    Westley: “Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.”
    Buttercup: “I will never doubt again.”
    Westley: “There will never be a need.”

    . . .

    Buttercup: “We’ll never survive.”
    Westley: “Nonsense. You’re only saying that because no one ever has.”

    . . .

    Westley: “We are men of action, lies do not become us.”

    . . .

    “We are Men with Pens, bad blog posts do not become us.”

  40. Since everyone has covered many of the excellent lines from my absolute favourite movie of all time, I have few to add:

    Yes, yes, you’re very smart. Now shut up.

    Offer me money!
    – Yes!
    Power too, promise me that.
    – All that I have and more. Please…
    Offer me everything I ask for…
    – Anything you want.
    I want my father back, you son of a bitch.

  41. This really plays on the whole “secret language” of your audience, i mean picking the kind of pop-culture icons that your niche’s audience would most likely consume.

  42. Best. Movie. Ever!

    I should just buy this one.

    Very effective lesson, tying principles of copywriting to the Princess Bride. Makes everything much easier to remember.

  43. “Humperdink! Humperdink! Humperdink! Humperdink! Humperdink! Humperdink! Humperdink! Humperdink! Humperdink! Humperdink!”

    Great article!

  44. @rebeckar I believe the quotation you are looking for is “Is this a **kissing** book?”

    there was a time that I could nearly recite this whole movie. If you get me going it might still be possible.

  45. The Princess Bride is an all-time favorite of mine! I hadn’t thought of using it as a model for copywriting – great idea!

    Here’s a quote that sticks in my mind because of the tone.
    I like to use it in conversation: “Mauwidge…” (i.e., “Marriage…”)

    OK, OK, that doesn’t work for copywriting, but I think it’s funny!
    :)

  46. “Does anybody want a peanut”

    In reference to rhyming is irritating. At least, that’s how I always take it (as a creative writer)

  47. Melinda,

    BWAH ha ha—I wasn’t going to mention not knowing who Joss Whedon is. I’m afraid he may be a young’un, and then I’ll look old. But I’m old enough to have seen PB, and carefully avoided it, so I guess I’m already a problem child.

    I can, however, quote way too much Monty Python for my own good. :)

    Until later,

    Kelly

  48. Oh, so many good ones already mentioned. I love the exchange when the Sicilian is demonstrating his intelligence by guessing which cup is poisoned
    “…because I know that you know that I know….”

    Plus, you’ve got to admire the sheer branding and business model of the Dread Pirate Roberts! Such a powerful brand that the very name does the pirate’s work for him and once he’s got enough loot, he simply invokes the built in exit strategy and finds someone else to wear the mask. Brilliant!

  49. @Sara & Sara Appraising is figuring out what something is worth. Apprising, as in “apprising someone of the situation”, is equivalent to informing them, or sometimes advising them. I am pleased to note I knew both of those off the top of my head. Though I cannot vouch for James.

    Gina – Perhaps never allow death to be on the line when getting bodywork from a Sicilian? Keep it low-key and non-death-related?

    Deb – It’s weird how when someone wants to kill you, you just stop trusting their word.

    Melinda – AUGH!

    Jim – ‘sright. I do not comprehend.

    Victory – You would not believe how many of my titles for blog posts James rejects because he has no idea what they’re referencing. I once wrote one called “No one puts Jamie in the corner” and he rejected it because he had never heard the line. The things he misses out on . . .

    Maureen – good for you, sister. I propose a Princess Bride recite-along, like a singalong but better.

    Kelly – He IS a youngun, and I wouldn’t actually necessarily expect anyone to know him because he’s not the face of any particular industry. He is, however, the guy behind the creation Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and most recently Dollhouse. He is regarded as something of a purveyor of Things That Are Awesome.

    SusanJ – You have just given me a brilliant idea for another post. Well done.

  50. Wow, I was just thinking the other day how I haven’t seen a writing blog write about the permanence of the “Inigo Montoya” quote in our minds, because it’s definitely what I remember from that movie the most (and I don’t even like that movie that much!)– and I don’t even remember it being repeated– and it would serve as a great example for an article on writing/copywriting/making words stick in readers’ minds. (The only other quote I remember is “As you wish” and the part about the poison.. which isn’t really a quote. Oh, and “Inconceivable!”)

    Great post. I don’t know if it’s the first time I’ve commented here, but I really enjoy this blog, and thanks for writing and helping others with your words :)

  51. Also, I want to say, James -get the to Netflix now and rent the Princess Bride. It is two hours of laugh out loud goodness. Watch it with your kids – it has something for everyone. It’s one of my family’s favorite movies and I admit to watching even when no one else is around.

    If you ever follow one bit of my advice, this would be it. Run,don’t walk.

  52. I’ve really enjoyed all the quotes today.

    As far as a line staying with you…
    I saw Mandi Patinkin in concert last year and guess how he closed his show?

    “Hello… My name is Inigo Montoya. You keeled my father. Prepare to die.”

    The audience went wild.

  53. SGuilfoyle says:

    I think the poster above is looking for the kid’s response to “this isn’t a kissing book, is it?”
    Then Grandpa says, “Someday you might not mind so much.”

    This quote comes from memory and won’t be dead on. But during the duel.

    “I see you’re using Benetti’s defense.”
    “I thought it fitting considering the rocky terrain.”
    “unless your opponent has studied his Agrippa. … which I have.”

    Here’s the full quote –
    Inigo Montoya: You are using Bonetti’s Defense against me, ah?
    Man in Black: I thought it fitting considering the rocky terrain.
    Inigo Montoya: Naturally, you must suspect me to attack with Capa Ferro?
    Man in Black: Naturally… but I find that Thibault cancels out Capa Ferro. Don’t you?
    Inigo Montoya: Unless the enemy has studied his Agrippa… which I have.”

    I’m sure there’s somethig to be said about preparing to the best of your ability, but even then, someone else might know a little bit more.

  54. Guess what we are doing tonight….watching Princess Bride! Thanks for the great post. Elaine

  55. What a terrific post, thank you, and thank you for bringing back fond memories of Princess Bride.

    Since all the best quotes seem to be taken, here are a few favourite but more obscure ones…

    Grandpa: “When I was your age, television was called books”

    —-

    Westley: I told you I would always come for you. Why didn’t you wait for me?
    Buttercup: Well… you were dead.
    Westley: Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.

    —-

    Buttercup: We’ll never survive.
    Westley: Nonsense. You’re only saying that because no one ever has.

    – Anna, New Zealand

  56. Courtney Ramirez says:

    Too cute! I bet this was as fun to write as it was to read.

  57. Summaries are often a good idea after you’ve given a laundry list of items. As Wesley does after describing what he would do to Humperdink, and then says: “THAT is what To The Pain means. It means I leave you wallowing in freakish misery, forever.”

  58. Westley, “To the pain.”

    Fezzik, “I just want you to feel you are doing well. I hate for people to die embarrassed.”

    Humperdick, “Surrender!”. Westley, “Oh, you mean you wish to surrender to me? Very well, I except.”

    Westley, “This is true love- you think this happens every day?”

    Inigo, “I do not mean to pry, but you don’t by chance happen to have six fingers on your right hand?”

    Inigo, “You seem a decent fellow, I hate to kill you.” Westley, “You seem a decent fellow, I hate to die.”

  59. Princess Mom says:

    “You’ve fallen for one of the classic blunders; the most common of which is to never get into a land war in Asia…”

    Man in Black: “Smell this, but do not touch.”
    Vezzini: “I smell nothing.”
    Man in Black: “What you do not smell is called iocane powder.”

    But I have to say my favorite gag is when the Man in Black reveals himself to be Westley as he’s rolling down the hill toward the Fire Swamp, and Buttercup follows him by *rolling headfirst down the hill.*

  60. “Life is pain Highness. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.”

  61. James: You’re not alone. I’ve never seen the movie either.

    (Ducking)

  62. when they go into the fire swamp…
    Buttercup: We’ll never survive!
    Westly: Nonsense. You’re just saying that because nobody ever has.

    and later…
    Westly: Well, I wouldn’t want to build a summer house here but the trees are really quite lovely…

  63. Darn. All my favorite quotes are taken, leaving me with little else but the Shrieking Eels. I’ll pass.

    By all means, do PB, Monty Python and Firefly (juggling geese!), but do not neglect Black Adder. One mustn’t forget the fabulous writers over at the BBC did more than just Monty Python and Dr. Who.

    My children think they can out-geek me. They haven’t got a CHANCE.

  64. No more rhymes, I mean it!

    Anyone want a peanut?!

  65. @janebenimble and @henrybing briefly mentioned this one from the Impressive Clergyman. It is one my favorites, and it exemplifies your repetition remarks:

    “Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam… And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva… So tweasure your wuv.”

    Thanks for the post. Much fun.

  66. David Cranford says:

    Are you finished?

    Not even remotely!

  67. And don’t forget Airplane!

    “We have to go to the hospital”
    “The hospital – what is it?”
    “It’s a big building with sick people, but we don’t have time for that now!”

    My entire floor in residence in University memorized that movie during the 2 weeks that it was featured on free pay TV. The gags never stop.

  68. Okay, after almost 70 brilliant responses to this wildly funny and spot-on post, I think it’s time to remind folks of who actually wrote all these kick-ass lines: the incomparable William Goldman, also the screenwriter of “Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid” and “All the President’s Men”, each of which won him an Oscar. He also wrote the scripts for “The Stepford Wives”, “Marathon Man”, “A Bridge Too Far”, “Misery”, “Chaplin” and “Absolute Power.” His great autobiography is called “Adventures in the Screen Trade.” He wrote PB as a novel first and it began life as a bedtime story for his two daughters.

    The copywriting metaphor here? The *people* who write the great lines are rarely cited or even remembered (except by us writing nuts). But if our lines live on, that can sometimes be reward enough.

  69. Miracle Max: He probably owes you money huh? I’ll ask him.
    Inigo Montoya: He’s dead. He can’t talk.
    Miracle Max: Whoo-hoo-hoo, look who knows so much. It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there’s usually only one thing you can do.
    Inigo Montoya: What’s that?
    Miracle Max: Go through his clothes and look for loose change.

  70. OK – so we now have the entire script of TPB posted here. Those of you who haven’t watched it – you don’t need to now
    .-= Michael´s last blog ..Great Work Interview Scott Belsky, founder of Behance and the 99% Blog =-.

  71. My fav? Besides “As you wish”-

    Humperdink *smells the vial* Iocane powder. (Wait a minute, isn’t it oderless?)

  72. Michael,

    You’re right! Whew. Saved again. 😉
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..Sour Sales Save Stores! =-.

  73. I always liked ‘Hello, Lady!’ from Andre the Giant. Also, ‘Anybody want a peanut?’

  74. For everyone who thinks the best line is about being left handed, I beg to differ:

    “I’m not left-handed either.”

    Is far more amusing.

    Nice summation, although I’m sure you could come up with more life lessons from Inigo than – you should shoot for six.
    .-= Shane Curcuru´s last blog ..Year in Review =-.

  75. Have fun stormin’ the castle!

  76. Have fun storming the castle!

  77. Love this movie. If you haven’t seen it – you must. Great piece.

  78. Of course, the entire point is that Humperdinck *can* identify the odorless substance by scent. He is the greatest hunter in the world. He can track a falcon on a cloudy day. (Admittedly, all this in made much more plain in the book. I highly recommend the book as an adjunct to the movie. It explains a few things, expands quite a bit, and has a different spin on a couple characters. It’s not quite as funny, though.)
    .-= Lugh´s last blog ..Time goes by so fast…. =-.

  79. It would take a miracle.

  80. “We are men of action. Lies do not become us.”

  81. Dale Alison says:

    The Sicillian quotation must be taken in its entireity:

    “You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders: The most famous of which is ‘never get involved in a land war in Asia,’ but only slightly less well-known is this: ‘Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line!’

    Goldman wrote TPB in the early ’70s when this was advice we all should have heeded.

  82. Love that movie (and Joss Whedon). Think all the good lines have been taken. Someone got Count Rugen’s (6-fingered man!) “Get some rest.. if you don’t have your health..” so here’s another one I think hasn’t been done, which was the lead-in line.

    Prince Humperdink: Tyrone, you know how much I love watching you work, but I’ve got my country’s 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it; I’m swamped.

    Great tips for smarter, sharper writing!
    .-= Davina K. Brewer´s last blog ..Public Relations, Social Media, Marketing: Get the Picture =-.

  83. What an excellent post. I haven’t seen the movie in a while, so I don’t remember any specific quotes, but I love that movie.
    Actually, “you killed my father, prepare to die” is the only quote I can recall at the moment, so your point about repetition holds true.
    .-= Rick´s last blog ..Tips for Writing for the Web =-.

  84. “If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.”

    Great article. I’ll be feeding this blog from today forward.

    lol ur pols!
    .-= bonafide´s last blog ..JOE BIDEN, SMARTER THAN SARAH PALIN? =-.

  85. Now if only I had a Holocaust cloak…
    Well, why didn’t you list that as one of our assets?

  86. Is it bad that I’ve watched The Princess Bride no less than 50 times? At least? I can recite all of the lines – and can’t pick just one, but looks like a number of folks got to it before me.

    I have to go with Davina’s line as my favorite – and since it’s my favorite movie, this is a great way to think about how I frame my writing and the impact just a few words have. I’m taking a poetry class right now so that’s teaching me a thing or two…
    .-= Laura Cococcia´s last blog ..Inside The Writer’s Mind: Interview with Luis Alberto Urrea =-.

  87. Fezini say go back to the beginning, (hic) and that’s where I am back at the beginning…

  88. Ans one of the greatest put-downs of all time:

    “BOO!… And that’s what she is – the queen of refuse… the queen of slime, the queen of filth, the queen of putrescence. Boo, Boo! BOO!”

  89. Excellent. What a wonderful movie, eh? I was married last year & our priest did indeed say, as we asked him, “Have you the wing?”
    .-= Karen´s last blog ..1884 Engraving of ‘Chalk Study’ by Albert Moore =-.

  90. “No more rhyming now, I mean it!”
    “Anybody want a peanut?”

    and

    “Why are you smiling?”
    “Because I’m not left handed.”

    and

    “I would rather destroy a fine piece of art than an artist such as yourself.” – not sure that is a perfect quote.

    One of my favorite films because it is obvious they actually studied under a fencing master before they filmed the sword-fighting scene . . . which ironically makes light of all the other sword-fighting scenes in action movies.
    .-= Tyrean´s last blog ..Maryland Zoo partners with the B&O Railroad, Maryland Science Center, and Port Discovery for the Months of January and February. =-.

  91. Loved this! The writing tips are practical…The Princess Bride is awesome…and this is really cleverly written. Thanks for sharing!

  92. SGuilfoyle says:

    Fezzik has advice for all of us.

    Inigo: Fezzik, you did something right.
    Fezzik: I won’t let it go to my head.

  93. When I think of Princess Bride, one thing comes to mind:

    R.O.U.S.

  94. Great post. Thanks. But don’t forget the writer of all these little gems, the great William Goldman. Absolutely brilliant!

    The Princess Bride
    Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid
    All The President’s Men

    The list goes on.

  95. I saw the movie with a group of friends on the opening night. My then-boyfriend went home and changed his answering machine greeting to:

    Hallo! My name is Marc ######.
    You reached my answering machine!
    Prepare… to leave a message!

    Inigo’s mantra is by far my favorite, but I also like:

    WESTLEY: “Get used to disappointment.”

    You can’t always get what you want, you bully. This helps me a lot when I’m getting pushed around. Then, there’s one of my favorite friendly insults….

    WESTLEY: “… you vomitous mass.”

    And, finally, no lesson with this one, but a nun (adults only) chuckle, one that few people seem to catch…

    INIGO: I’m going to do him left-handed.
    VIZZINI: You KNOW what a hurry we’re in!
    INIGO: Eh- it’s the only way I can be satisfied. If I use my right… over too quickly.

    Thanks, for the article. It’s the first of yours I’ve read. Enjoyed the comments too.

  96. And remember, this is for posterity, so please be honest. How do you feel?

  97. Lunaleska says:

    My 2 fave PB quotes are not the short ones…. I’ve seen it that many times that I can recite it word for word 😛

    anyway there they are…

    Count Rugen: [admiring his torture contraption] Beautiful isn’t it? It took me half a lifetime to invent it. I’m sure you’ve discovered my deep and abiding interest in pain. Presently I’m writing the definitive work on the subject, so I want you to be totally honest with me on how the machine makes you feel. This being our first try, I’ll use the lowest setting.
    [Count Rugen activates the water powered torture machine. Wesley writhes in great pain]
    Count Rugen: [calmly] As you know, the concept of the suction pump is centuries old. Really that’s all this is except that instead of sucking water, I’m sucking life. I’ve just sucked one year of your life away. I might one day go as high as five, but I really don’t know what that would do to you. So, let’s just start with what we have. What did this do to you? Tell me. And remember, this is for posterity so be honest. How do you feel?
    [Wesley cries and moans in pain]
    Count Rugen: Interesting.
    ————————————————————————————–
    Prince Humperdinck: First things first, to the death.
    Westley: No. To the pain.
    Prince Humperdinck: I don’t think I’m quite familiar with that phrase.
    Westley: I’ll explain and I’ll use small words so that you’ll be sure to understand, you warthog faced buffoon.
    Prince Humperdinck: That may be the first time in my life a man has dared insult me.
    Westley: It won’t be the last. To the pain means the first thing you will lose will be your feet below the ankles. Then your hands at the wrists. Next your nose.
    Prince Humperdinck: And then my tongue I suppose, I killed you too quickly the last time. A mistake I don’t mean to duplicate tonight.
    Westley: I wasn’t finished. The next thing you will lose will be your left eye followed by your right.
    Prince Humperdinck: And then my ears, I understand let’s get on with it.
    Westley: WRONG. Your ears you keep and I’ll tell you why. So that every shriek of every child at seeing your hideousness will be yours to cherish. Every babe that weeps at your approach, every woman who cries out, “Dear God! What is that thing,” will echo in your perfect ears. That is what to the pain means. It means I leave you in anguish, wallowing in freakish misery forever.
    Prince Humperdinck: I think you’re bluffing.
    Westley: It’s possible, Pig, I might be bluffing. It’s conceivable, you miserable, vomitous mass, that I’m only lying here because I lack the strength to stand. But, then again… perhaps I have the strength after all.
    [slowly rises and points sword directly at the prince]
    Westley: DROP… YOUR… SWORD!
    Prince Humperdinck: [Humperdinck’s mouth hangs open, drops sword to floor]

  98. A bit late to the party on this, but I think this quote illustrates a great copywriting truth. In order to motivate your reader, you need to find out what their hot buttons are, and give them what they really want.

    Inigo Montoya: But this is Buttercup’s true love – If you heal him, he will stop Humperdinck’s wedding.
    Miracle Max: Wait. Wait. I make him better, Humperdinck suffers?
    Inigo Montoya: Humiliations galore!
    Miracle Max: That is a noble cause. Give me the sixty-five, I’m on the job.

  99. @Stacy – There’s no such thing as being late to a party :)

  100. This post, actually the comments made my night. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. When I got to
    Inigo Montoya: Fezzik, tear his arms off.
    Yellin: Oh, you mean *this* gate key.
    My wife had to come and check on me.
    Thanks again

  101. Now really, and excuse me, who the hell is Joss Whedon??? BTW, good and refreshing post…

    • Joss Whedon is a writer/director/creative genius. He is best known for creating Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He also did Firefly/Serenity and Dollhouse, in addition to a number of movies. If you are particularly geeky, you probably also know Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog, which he put together during the writers’ strike.

  102. Peter of Joondalupland says:

    “Unless you have studied his a-grippa… And I have!”

  103. Peter of Joondalupland says:

    “Sleep soundly .. and dream of large women.”

  104. Peter of Joondalupland says:

    “And Australia, as everybody knows, is peopled with criminals.” – Obviously Mr Goldman has visited us!

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