In advertising, dialogue is a tricky thing. It can sound horribly unnatural, clearly penned by a copywriter (or all too often the client themselves). It’s incredibly easy fall into the trap of ‘client speak’: “hello Bob” “hello John” “I see you’re painting your fence with Ronseal” “Yes it’s very good and affordable and it dries in just 4 hours, maybe you should get some too Bob”. People would never actually talk like this, so why do we let these kind of scripts get made? Interesting, compelling dialogue is so much more likely to be effective, and it’s out there just waiting to be heard, noted down and reused.

It’s true, often the best script copy will not come directly from the mind of a copywriter. It will originate from the mouth of that overweight businessman on the 5.46 to Victoria, or the snippet of conversation you overhear walking through Covent Garden on a Saturday Morning.

We get told regularly not to walk around with headphones plugged in. If we can’t hear people, we can’t pick up on the brilliantly funny and fantastically weird things they say, and we can’t let it have a positive influence on the work we produce. I’ve got into the habit of making a note of the best things I overhear when I’m out and about, or read in the ‘word on the street’ section of Time Out, and making these notes has been one of the most valuable tools I have used this year. Here are some gems I have amassed.

‘What did you expect? He’s 43 and his mum still does his ironing.’

‘Please never say the words “Sex weasel” to me again.’

‘There’s nothing funnier than a singing goat.’

‘Shakespeare? Why would you wanna go and see Shakespeare? He’s dead!’

‘Totally outran her to a seat. Bitch didn’t stand a chance. Admittedly she was pregnant.’

‘No, you can’t go to a funeral dressed as one of the Beatles.’

“I’m always exaggerating. I exaggerate about a million times a day.”

‘but you know I don’t eat for 16 hours on a Tuesday!’

“They need to get some decent mirrors in this place. I don’t look good in any of these ones.”

“She had the most unfortunate face I’d ever seen. Until I saw her mother.”

‘Stop questioning me! What is this? The Spanish Armada?’

‘Jesus totally invented the beard’


Since September, I’ve also had a special note called ‘Andrea Quotes’ on my phone. My dear friend, much missed ex-flatmate, and newly affirmed ‘Norwegian Psycho’ is a brimming fountain of interesting dialogue, and collecting it has become somewhat of a hobby. One day I plan on releasing a book of all the weird and wonderful things she says, but for now I’ll give you a little sample (chapter 1, let’s say):

(discussing Halloween) ‘I want to be a slutty pumpkin’

‘Cats are like teenagers’

(on the death of her hydrangea) ‘Well I’m sorry for not being a plant whisperer’

(at vauxhall farm) ‘I hate horses, they’ll kill you any chance they get’

‘Where is the plastic foil?’

(talking about market reindeer) ‘It will be tame because it’s been in prison’

‘I think cheese is the best word in the English dictionary. I like to say it.’

‘Your hair smells like sausage’

‘I don’t know if I want him in my bed or in a cage next to my bed where I can stroke him’

(on smelling her new Khaki jacket from Camden Market) ‘I’m going to wash this because it smells like war’

‘When I was little my parents shaved my head so I looked like a bald polish bloke’

‘I tried waxing my bikini line myself, it was like committing suicide’

(talking about Maria from the Sound of Music) ‘And then she goes from nun to hooker’

‘I saw an elf on the tube yesterday’

‘My uterus hurts’

‘Oh my god I’ve consumed more food in the past 2 days than the average African child does in a lifetime’

‘Do you reckon I’ll get a seat on the tube for looking like a cancer victim?’

‘But it’s so delicious to be evil’

‘It looks like I’ve got an std on my nose’

(sniffing a tube of savlon) ‘this smells like Mexico’

‘The good news is I’d make a terrible terrorist’

‘Just because I’m chewing doesn’t mean I am eating’

‘What site do you use to buy a puppy in England? Do you use eBay?’

(pointing to our mugs) ‘are they all Cat Stevens?’ (Me: do you mean Cath Kidston?)

‘Look, a fireman. Finally some testosterone’

‘I want to be hair free as much as I want to be guilt free’

(when we ran out of toilet roll) ‘I can’t believe I actually dried myself with A4’

‘Can you cook me some water please?’

‘That school looks like Auschwitz‘

‘You’re the one with the premium taste-buds, you eat roast chicken on a Wednesday’

(After yet another batch of burnt cookies) ‘I’m going to sue Betty Crocker so much’

‘I need to change the way I speak English. There’s too much air in it. I sound lazy.’

(talking about grey salmon meat) ‘It tastes like death’

So, if over the next few years you should you see a commercial for Savlon shot in Mexico and featuring cats acting like moody adolescents, or the words ‘std on my nose’ ever creep their way into a script, you’ll know where I got the inspiration.