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I saw a phrase, stuck to the script in the following sentence in New York Times (Jan. 27) article reporting this year’s Academy Award nomination,

The Academy Award nominations, announced this morning in Los Angeles, mostly stuck to the script that Oscar-season observers expected.

My interpretation of stuck to the script here is a figurative expression of as anticipated, therefore, no surprise. Is it right?

By the way, this might sound a naive question, when someone like President, or Prime minister is delivering a speech, say the State of Union or opening address relying on a pre-prepared script on teleprompter, is he stuck to the script?

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The answers here are generally good but to put it simply I think the questioner didn't realize that in the phrase "stuck to the script" the word stuck is just the past tense of the verb stick rather than the adjective stuck – nohat Jan 28 '11 at 5:12
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Yes-ish: the phrase is right, but the grammar is slightly different from how you’re using it. Stuck always acts as a verb in this phrase, not as an adjective, so it would be

When Obama made his speech today, he stuck to the script.

When Obama makes a speech with a telepromter, he always sticks to the script.

In your original example, the core sentence structure is:

The nominations mostly stuck to the script.

That aside, your gloss of the figurative meaning is spot on, and I don’t have anything to add to Robusto’s excellent elaboration of it.

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Yes, it means they did what was expected. Nothing unusual.

"Sticking to the script" means not ad libbing (ad lib, from ad libitum, meaning freely or as you will).

It is extremely unlikely that a major public figure like the President would go off script and start ad-libbing, especially during a marquee event like the State of the Union Address. A comedian might do that, because they're quick-witted. Jon Stewart can do that. But most politicians know, deep down, that going off script can only get them into trouble.

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They all know it, but that doesn’t stop them doing it sometimes :-) – PLL Jan 28 '11 at 4:42

Sort of, but not quite. To "stick to the script" means to stick to a pre-determined sequence of events and words (the "script", figuratively). This is not necessarily the same as "anticipated, therefore, no surprise". In your example sentence "The Academy Award nominations […] mostly stuck to the script that Oscar-season observers expected" it does mean that, but that meaning arises from the script being "the script that observers expected". In rare cases, the "script" could be the opposite of what was anticipated, as in

"Most observers predicted that the president would back out of his earlier announcement following the protests, but surprisingly, he stuck to the script."

Here the "script" is the script that the president had announced earlier, not necessarily that the script that was 'anticipated, so no surprise'.

You are right that more generally a script can be anything pre-determined, as in a prepared speech. If the president simply reads from his teleprompter, you can say he sticks to the script (or, in the past tense, that he stuck to the script). If you say "he is stuck to the script", it can suggest that he doesn't have a choice and has to follow the script.

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