The Michael Scott Guide to English

He’s the world’s best boss (says so right on the coffee mug he bought for himself), but after seven seasons, Michael Scott is handing the reins of Dunder Mifflin over to someone else.

And, as Michael might tell you, a great boss should leave a legacy. Among the memorable contributions he has made to his employees and viewers are email forwards, Chris Rock impressions, a screenplay for Threat Level Midnight and a surprisingly broad collection of grammar lessons.

Michael is the master of the mixed (you might even say mangled) metaphor:

“I lost Ed Truck, and it feels like somebody took my heart and dropped it in a bucket of boiling tears. And somebody else is hitting my soul in the crotch with a frozen sledgehammer.”

“I need you to dig up some dirt on Josh, see if there are any skeletons in his attic.”

He can even multi-task, mixing metaphors and throwing in a bonus pun:

“Business is like a jungle. And I am like a tiger. And Dwight is like a monkey that stabs the tiger in the back with a stick. Does the tiger fire the monkey? Does the tiger transfer the monkey to another branch? Pun. There is no way of knowing what goes on inside the tiger’s head. We don’t have the technology.”

Sometimes he’s got the right word at the wrong time. Michael’s malapropisms:

“I have written these things, because it is my responsibility as manager of this branch to profligate great ideas.”

“I am not one to be truffled with.”

“There were these huge bins of clothes, and everybody was rifling through them like crazy and I grabbed one. And it fit. So I don’t think that this is totally just a woman’s suit. At the very least it’s bisexual.”

“Two Queens on casino night … I’m going to drop a deuce on everyone.”

And if he doesn’t have the right word, he just makes it up. Micheal’s neologisms:

“Sometimes I’ll start a sentence and I don’t know where it’s going. I just hope to find it somewhere along the way. Like an improv conversation. An improversation.”

“Well the website is a brainchild of my brainchild, Ryan. It is my brain-grandchild!”

“Today I am headed over to the job fair at Valleyview High School to find some new interns. Get some fresh blood. Um, youth-anize this place.”

Michael can turn an idiom on its ear:

“I’m not usually the butt of the joke. I’m usually the face of the joke.”

And redefine an aphorism:

“That seems mean … but sometimes the ends justify the mean.”

He knows that removing a prefix from a word gives you its root – well, usually:

“I’m not superstitious… I’m a little stitious.”

Jan: I admit it, I underestimated you.
Michael: Well, Jan, maybe next time you’ll … estimate me.

“I did not want to hear about it either but I did. Now I can’t stop picturing it. He leaves work, he’s on his way home – wham! – his capa is detated from his head.”

And he can confuse his homophones as well as anyone:

“Webster’s dictionary defines wedding as ‘the fusing of two metals with a hot torch.’ Well, you know something? I think you guys are two metals – gold metals.”

“You may look around and see two groups here. White collar, blue collar. But I don’t see it that way. You know why not? Because I am collar-blind.”

“This machine … it strengthens your back core, your arm core… The Marine Corps actually uses it. I think that’s where they got ‘core’ from.”

But perhaps his greatest linguistic legacy will be his ingenuity with innuendo:

(Say it with me now:) “That’s what she said.”

See a video montage here and a crowd-sourced compilation here.

Ah, Michael, we’ll miss you. Thanks for the mammaries.


If you enjoy a little pop culture with your grammar, here are two entertaining posts for further reading:

The Inigo Montoya Guide to 27 Commonly Misused Words (“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”)

A TV Guide to Grammar and Usage


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