Mamet’s style, marked by a cynical, street-smart edge, precisely crafted for effect, is so distinctive that it has come to be called “Mamet speak.” He often uses italics and quotation marks to highlight particular words and to draw attention to his characters’ frequent manipulation and deceitful use of language. His characters frequently interrupt one another, their sentences trail off unfinished, and their dialogue overlaps. Moreover, certain expressions and figures of speech are deliberately misrepresented to show that the character is not paying close attention to every detail of his dialogue (e.g., “or so forth” instead of “and so forth”). Mamet himself has criticized his (and other writers’) tendency to write “pretty” at the expense of sound, logical plots.
One classic instance of Mamet’s dialogue style can be found in Glengarry Glen Ross, in which two down-on-their-luck real estate salesmen are considering stealing from their employer’s office. George Aaronow and Dave Moss equivocate on the meaning of “talk” and “speak”, turning language and meaning to deceptive purposes:
Aaronow: Yes. I mean are you actually talking about this, or are we just…
Moss: No, we’re just…
Aaronow: We’re just “talking” about it.
Moss: We’re just speaking about it. [Pause] As an idea.
Aaronow: As an idea.
Aaronow: We’re not actually talking about it.
Aaronow: Talking about it as a…
Aaronow: As a robbery.
Moss: As a “robbery?” No.