I’m only posting this because I love The Wire, but really you could pull a thousand individual quotes from the show and it wouldn’t do it justice. The issue with this compendium is it focuses on the gully street slang that is, yes, a large part of The Wire — but a large part that is balanced out by profound cultural critiques and real, humanized characters.
From Michael saying, “you look good, girl” just before taking a life, to Frank lamenting at the docks, “we used to make stuff in this country, now we just put our hands in the next guy’s pocket” there is no shortage of pullable soundbites that aren’t profanity-laced tirades (these aren’t really tirades, but “profanity-laced tirade” is such a common term it’s kind of hilarious).
To do The Wire more justice you’d have to pull some longer exchanges, such as these few I pulled from Bill Moyers Journal:
ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL: So for the time being, all teachers will devote class time to teaching language arts sample questions. Now if you turn to page eleven, please, I have some things I want to go over with you.
ROLAND “PREZ” PRYZBYLEWSKI: I don’t get it, all this so we score higher on the state tests? If we’re teaching the kids the test questions, what is it assessing in them?
TEACHER: Nothing, it assesses us. The test scores go up, they can say the schools are improving. The scores stay down, they can’t.
PREZ: Juking the stats.
TEACHER: Excuse me?
PREZ: Making robberies into larcenies, making rapes disappear. You juke the stats, and major become colonels. I’ve been here before.
TEACHER: Wherever you go, there you are.
NAMOND BRICE: Like y’all say, don’t lie, don’t bump, don’t cheat, don’t steal or whatever. But what about y’all? What, the government, Enron, steroids? Yeah, liquor business, booze– the real killer out there? And cigarettes, oh shit! You got some smokes in there?
FEMALE TEACHER: I’m trying to quit.
STUDENT 2: Drugs paid your salary, right?
HOWARD “BUNNY” COLVIN (an ex-narcotics detective): Not exactly, but I get your point.
NAMOND BRICE: We do the same thing as y’all, except when we do it, it’s like, “Oh my God, these kids is animals!” It’s like, it’s the end of the world coming. Man, that’s bullshit. ‘Cause this is like, what, hypocrite? Hypocritical.
HOWARD “BUNNY” COLVIN: You put a textbook in front of these kids, put a problem on a blackboard, or teach them every problem on a statewide test and it won’t matter, none of it. ‘Cause they’re not learning for our world, they’re learning for theirs. And they know exactly what it is they’re training for, and what it is everyone expects them to be.
SUPERINTENDENT: I expect them to be students.
COLVIN: But it’s not about you or us, or the tests or the system, it’s what they expect of themselves. I mean, every single one of them know they’re headed back to the corners. Their brothers and sisters, shit, their parents, they came through these same classrooms, didn’t they? We pretended to teach them, they pretended to learn, where’d they end up? Same damn corners. They’re not fools, these kids. They don’t know our world, but they know their own. I mean, Jesus, they see right through us.
To really do The Wire justice, just watch the whole show. A few times. Available on DVD.