By Sarah-Ann Binning

Gathered around a table at Jefferson Dining Hall, Gail, Cagney and I fell into one of our nerdiest conversations. I was in the middle of “Precision Language” and I finally trudged my way through learning who/whom. Gail chimed in with a comment I have never forgotten: “Yeah, you know that song ‘Who do you love?’ If it were grammatically correct you would sing, “Whom do you love?”

At this point in the conversation Cagney jumped in and started singing the song in proper English.

Over the years, I’ve often returned to this conversation, mainly to chuckle at how silly “Whom do you love” sounds. Yet, I wonder how different would the greatest hits of America be if musicians had an editor proof read lyrics?

What if musicians used their music to teach their audience proper English?

Think about it; musicians and bands are highly influential. Tweens cut and paste their lives from celebrities, trying desperately to mimic their ambitions, morals and glam.

Maybe sometime in the future someone famous will follow my advice. But for the time being, I’m left enjoying correcting the grammar of poorly written songs.

Rich Girl” by Gwen Stefani and its Fiddler on the Roof counterpart. “If I was a rich girl.” The verb mood here is subjunctive, which calls for “were” to be used rather than “was” … “If I WERE a rich girl.”

An example of subjunctive mood used correctly is “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol.  The chorus line: “If I lay here. If I just lay here, would you lie with me and just forget the world.” (NOTE: thanks Gail for correcting my subjunctive here!)

God Bless the U.S.A” by Lee Greenwood. This patriotic songwriter needs to examine his independent and dependent clause agreement in the lyric “And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.”

The use of “where” indicates a place-reference. In this lyric, it is meant to reference “American” but “American” is NOT a place. For the song to work grammatically, Greenwood would have to sing “I’m proud to be in America, where at least I know I’m free.

In the early months of sophomore year, I learned that Gail, Cagney and I were not the only grammar nerds. As my soon-to-be-roommates and I made the drive to sign our lease Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry” starts playing on the radio.  As Gail reminded me, Corinne vented about how she hates this song because it was grammatically incorrect.  So what is Fergie’s grammatical infraction?

“And I’m gonna miss you like a child misses their blanket.”

Allow us, for the time being to ignore the fact that “gonna” is not a real word. Can you find her mistake? Child is singular; thus it cannot be “their” blanket. It could be his or her blanket … but not their blanket. Or made child plural and you could sing “like children miss their blankets.

Okay, so “children miss their blankets” doesn’t quite roll of the tongue in a melodious fashion.  But “like a child misses her blanket” does. Come on Fergie: edit before you sing!

I must also note that Fergie receives an honorable mention for her song “Fergalicious.” Thanks to her, millions of children will misspell tasty for the rest of their lives. “T to the A to the S-T-E-Y, girl you tasty.” Was the extra “E” really necessary in the song? You couldn’t rewrite the rhythm to spell tasty correctly?

Interested in more grammatically incorrect musics? I suggest this my hmphs blog post.

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