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Old 08-26-2012, 10:05 AM   #1
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Acknowledging media references

Is it necessary (and if so, is there a preferred way?) to acknowledge references to phrases from popular culture?

For example: "Beam me up, Scotty," Billy said.

There are two possible contexts for such a piece of dialogue. In one we may have made it obvious that Billy is a Star Trek fan and so the origin of this phrase is hopefully apparent even if the reader is not familiar with it. In the second we could just expect that the reader is familiar.

In another piece of writing I paraphrase an Oscar Wilde quote, which presents a slightly different problem. I could add, "as Oscar Wilde might have said in this position," but that seems ugly and hopefully unnecessary. The reader will either recognise the source and (hopefully) get a laugh, or blithely read over it, never knowing what they missed.

Is it necessary/usual to acknowledge such snippets? Does the context change the required acknowledgement? I'm thinking that a brief "Acknowledgements" page at the end of the book might be the best way to deal with such cultural references.
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Old 08-26-2012, 01:16 PM   #2
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There is absolutely no requirement to acknowledge such cultural references in a novel. They are, as you say, a part of popular culture.
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Old 08-26-2012, 06:27 PM   #3
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There is absolutely no requirement to acknowledge such cultural references in a novel. They are, as you say, a part of popular culture.
Are you sure? I know "Its on like Donkey Kong" is part of "culture" but Nintendo is very active about suing people for using it.
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Old 08-26-2012, 07:06 PM   #4
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I'm pretty sure, but I'm always happy to be corrected .
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Old 08-26-2012, 07:13 PM   #5
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I'm pretty sure, but I'm always happy to be corrected .
Well just to be clear, I claim no real understanding of the American Legal System.
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Old 08-26-2012, 07:38 PM   #6
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Heck, nor do I, but I honestly cannot recall ever having read a novel in which anyone's acknowledged this type of reference, and so from that I conclude that it's unnecessary to do so.
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Old 08-26-2012, 08:50 PM   #7
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The trouble with using that Donkey Kong phrase is that it's trademarked, and in those cases, things can get contentious.
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Old 08-26-2012, 08:55 PM   #8
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It's not only unnecessary to do so, I think it's a little insulting, as the implication is that I wouldn't understand the reference otherwise. It's condescending. It's also unnatural.

In some contexts, I might say (indeed, I have said...): "A facility for quotation covers the absence of original thought."

But I would never in real life say: "As Lord Peter Wimsey said, 'a facility for quotation covers the absence of original thought.'"

And I would certainly never say, "As Lord Peter Wimsey said in Dorothy Sayers's 'Gaudy Night (tm)':..."
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Old 08-26-2012, 09:08 PM   #9
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The trouble with using that Donkey Kong phrase is that it's trademarked, and in those cases, things can get contentious.
Actually, it was not. They sued to get a trademark on it AFTER someone else came up with it. It is an interesting read, but its been a while since I looked at it. If I recall right a rap singer used it in a song years before it became popular, and once it became popular Nintendo sued saying they should be given a trademark on that phrase, even though they had no prior claim to it.
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Old 08-26-2012, 09:09 PM   #10
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The trouble with using that Donkey Kong phrase is that it's trademarked, and in those cases, things can get contentious.
It's interesting - they filed for a trademark recently, but the phrase actually comes from a rap song long before that. I don't think it would interfere with a character using the phrase in a book, anymore than having your detective drive a Ford, drink a Coke, carry a Smith&Wesson, or shut down a Mickey Mouse operation would be actionable.
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Old 08-26-2012, 09:30 PM   #11
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It's not only unnecessary to do so, I think it's a little insulting, as the implication is that I wouldn't understand the reference otherwise. It's condescending. It's also unnatural.

In some contexts, I might say (indeed, I have said...): "A facility for quotation covers the absence of original thought."

But I would never in real life say: "As Lord Peter Wimsey said, 'a facility for quotation covers the absence of original thought.'"

And I would certainly never say, "As Lord Peter Wimsey said in Dorothy Sayers's 'Gaudy Night (tm)':..."
I have used the second, or its equivalent, in real conversation. I may even have used the last (without the "(tm)" ) - but then not everyone I speak with are fans of the same books or shows that I am, so sometimes an explanation is not unreasonable - it's not always condescending. I grant you that it's not usual, but "would never say" is a little extreme.

PS. I love the example, by the way. It's so wonderfully ... there must be a word for it, if there's not there should be.
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