Jez Burrows got a choir to sing strange example sentences from the dictionary

19 December 2017

For some time now, illustrator, former in-house Facebook creative and now writer Jez Burrows has been creating a bank of brilliant stories created entirely from strange explanatory sentences in the dictionary. For example, he explains, look up the word “murder” in the dictionary and you’ll get an explanation of the word and this sentence: “somebody tried to murder Joe”.

“Who tried to kill Joe? Is Joe okay? Did Joe possibly have it coming?” asks Jez. “Who knows. All we know is that Joe exists in an example sentence. Sourced and edited by fearless lexicographers, example sentences are intended to demonstrate the probable usage of a word, but when surrounded by definitions and phonetic spellings they read like tiny pieces of fiction that got lost and wandered into the wrong book.”

In these sentences, Jez found the inspiration for a series of short stories repurposing and combining the phrases to put them into entirely new contexts, to often hilarious effect. Now, Jez is putting the final touches on a book dedicated to these stories published by Harper Perennial in April 2018, and to celebrate – and announce pre-orders – he’s made this very Christmassy film.

Starring an eight-person choir, My True Love Gave to Me sees The Twelve Days of Christmas recreated in absurd fashion using dictionary example sentences. It is, in fact, the second in a series of films, the first made with songwriter Tom Rosenthal gathering “fifty more ways to leave your lover”.

Written and produced by Jez and directed by Skyler Vander Molen, it exemplifies the peculiar eclecticism of the English dictionary and its potential to entertain.


Jez Burrows: Dictionary Stories, My True Love Gave to Me


Jez Burrows: Dictionary Stories, My True Love Gave to Me


Jez Burrows: Dictionary Stories

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About the Author

Jenny Brewer

Jenny oversees our editorial output across work, news and features. She was previously It’s Nice That's news editor. Get in touch with any big creative stories, tips, pitches, news and opinions, or questions about all things editorial.

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