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BERRY
Kevork Djansezian  /  AP
Halle Berry said the word "thank" 32 times during her Oscar speech for her win for "Monster's Ball."
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updated 3/6/2006 12:57:10 AM ET 2006-03-06T05:57:10

It's good to remember the people who've helped you out along the way. Nobody knows that better than Hollywood's Academy Award winners — in fact, they seem to know it a little too well.

Gwyneth Paltrow showed up to the 71st Academy Awards ceremony in 1999 looking lovely in a pink Ralph Lauren dress and a 40-carat diamond necklace. But by the time she'd sobbed her way through a three-minute, 365-word acceptance speech for her best actress award, her look had gone from regal to ridiculous. Nobody seems to have been able to actually hear what she said through her tears, but a look at the Academy transcript reveals a thank-you list that was 24 names deep and included two dead people.

Adrian Brody, who won the best actor award in 2003, tried to play it cool. "I haven't really written a speech, because every time I wrote a speech for the past one of these things, I didn't win," he began. He then proceeded to launch into a 466-word speech, talking his way over two successive attempts to shoo him off the stage.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has a long-standing rule that acceptance speeches should last no longer than 45 seconds (this year, that limit has been raised to a minute), but it was not until 2003 that the show's producers attempted to enforce it. Yet, as Brody's speech illustrates, they have not always been successful.

So, what's in store for us on March 5?

To get an idea, we analyzed the texts of all 42 speeches given by the winners of best actor, best actress and best director since 1992 and came up with some interesting trends.

Not everyone thanks the academy — only 18 (or 43 percent) of our winners did. Writers, producers and nameless members of the "cast and crew" got the most love; directors and studios were close behind. Spouses tied with agents for seventh place, and parents ranked a dismal 12th place with a mere 11 mentions.

Oscar winners also turned out to be fairly verbose. The average speech was 277 words long, which is about half the length of this article. Actors and actresses were wordier than directors (304 words versus 240), and women's speeches were lengthier than men's by an average of 44 words.

Among the speeches we analyzed, the longest was given by Halle Berry in 2002. In those 528 words, she thanked more than 23 people, including her agents, her manager, her lawyer and "every nameless, faceless woman of color." The shortest speech was given in 2000 by director Steven Soderbergh. It was a mere 130 words. In it, Soderbergh thanked the academy, his fellow nominees and "anyone who spends part of their day creating." Then he explained that he would thank everyone else in private.

And just how sophisticated is an Oscar winner's vocabulary? Not very. Though some speeches included words like "geriatrics" and "uxoriousness," the Flesch readability test — designed to measure how difficult a text is to understand — placed them at a fifth-grade reading level. (By comparison, the Bush-Gore debates of 2000 were at at a sixth- and seventh-grade level.)

But our favorite Oscar sentiment came from Shirley MacLaine. "I deserve this," she simply said after winning best actress for the 1983 film “Terms of Endearment.”

Editor's note: For our own part, we'd like to thank the academy for providing us with the text of the speeches, programmer Sai Sriskandarajah for helping us analyze them and the Global Language Monitor for performing the Flesch test on them.

© 2012 Forbes.com

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