Jasper Carrott – Driven to Distraction – Sentences


As has been shown in the preceding posts, there are a number of differences between the written and spoken material. in this section I shall look purely at the words used and how they are strung together. A table of all the grammatical statistics can be found in appendix E – Grammatical statistics.

To facilitate counting the transcript sentences, they were edited to resemble a written sentence. for example,

(C,1-6) "Cars are (.) care are funny things y’know (.) (T) (.) and and I have a mother-in-law right I have a mother-in-law (1) (T) and (.) er I’m not going to do all the old mother-in-law jokes (.) you’ve heard ’em all before anyway and er (.) I have terrific mother-in-law as well (.) fabulous person (.) and I’ve just bought her a house (J.1) in Iran (J.1)"


"Cars are funny things, y’know, and I have a mother-in-law and I’m not going to do all the old mother-in-law jokes, you’ve heard them all before anyway and I have a terrific mother-in-law as well, fabulous person, and I’ve just bought her a house – in Iran."

Clauses are considered as complete and incomplete and include sub-ordinate clauses.

The first consideration is the type of words that appear. By definition a sentence contains a subject and a predicate, but what about the use of adverbs and adjectives to describe what is happening? Looking at the three scripts (B,C,D) they have 7, 12 and 14 adverbs or adverbial phrases, respectively. Allowing for false starts and less sketch material, then the discrepancy in (B) can be discounted as the adverbs tend to appear in the same places in each version.

However, the count for the adjectives are 7, 17 and 2 and of the two that appear in the written version, one appears in both live acts. (B,15-16), (C,27) and (D,3) all read as:
"They’re just like any other normal psychopath."

The importance of this is that adjectives and adjectival phrases are being used for emphasis in reformulations and restatements. Consider the following (the first has been edited of fillers).

(D,19-20) " We were going up a hill, in top gear, doing something like eleven miles an hour."
(B,44-47) "We’re going up a hill. We’re going up a hill and it’s a really steep hill and we’re in top, y’see and we’re doing about eleven miles an hour."
(C,49-53) "We’re going up a hill, right. We were going up a hill. It’s a very steep hill. A four in one hill, right and we’re doing thirteen mile an hour – in top."

In the book it is just "a hill." In the first, 1975, act it’s a "really steep hill," whilst in his 1981 show it is "a very steep hill. A four in one hill" He is using adjectives for descriptive language to build up images in his audience’s mind, reminding them that his mother-in-law has no concept about using gears. The repetition of "We’re going up a hill" is similarly used for build up in his act.

As mentioned previously, the actual phrases and punch-lines used in his written and live material are remarkably similar and the diversions from the book form are wholly attributable to relating to a responding audience.

With that in mind I shall look at the grammatical statistics between the ’87 and ’81 acts, as compared to the written. (Full tables of these can be found in appendix E – grammatical statistics).

Firstly sentence length. These are (B,29), (C,13) and (D,14). Taken on a whole, his final spoken act averages less than half as many words per sentence as that of his earlier show and less in fact than even the published form. There are two reason for this, primarily that he is more comfortable in front of a live audience and so makes fewer errors and recovers from any mistakes instantly. The second reason is his use of accents and reformulations to get ideas across. This also results in shorter clauses as a whole.

The figure for words per completed clause (B,4.97), (C3.63) and (D5.37) back this up. The following sentence goes a long way to explain this:

(C,71-74) "By the time we’d got to the car the bloke had gone out, gone in, had a bath, got changed, come out. He was pruning his rose y’know."

For the actual complexity of the sentences, in terms of clauses and the use of conjunctions, the written and 1981 versions are, statistically, quite similar. The figures for completed clauses per sentence are (B,5.8), (C,3.5) and (D,2.6), so that (C) uses more clauses, but they are shorter to compensate.

Finally is the consideration of conjunctions, particularly ‘and’ which goes a long way to show Jasper Carrott’s progress. In relation to the number of sentences (B1.7), (C,0.53) and (D,0.55) they are over three times as frequent in the earliest show. Though not to the same degree, it is also reflected in words and clauses per per conjunction. The readings – (B3.4), (C,6.5) and (D,4.8) – again show conjunctions are used much less often once his style of delivery had developed, been polished.

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