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Poor grammar in lyrics

PHJim 02 Mar 10 - 12:44 PM
Jorrox 02 Mar 10 - 12:48 PM
fretless 02 Mar 10 - 12:49 PM
Georgiansilver 02 Mar 10 - 12:50 PM
Snuffy 02 Mar 10 - 12:54 PM
Celtaddict 02 Mar 10 - 01:02 PM
GUEST,leeneia 02 Mar 10 - 01:03 PM
Amos 02 Mar 10 - 01:13 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 02 Mar 10 - 01:21 PM
Celtaddict 02 Mar 10 - 01:29 PM
Rog Peek 02 Mar 10 - 01:37 PM
Richard Bridge 02 Mar 10 - 01:44 PM
Valmai Goodyear 02 Mar 10 - 01:51 PM
Tim Leaning 02 Mar 10 - 02:43 PM
Artful Codger 02 Mar 10 - 02:47 PM
Amos 02 Mar 10 - 03:08 PM
Betsy 02 Mar 10 - 03:17 PM
Don Firth 02 Mar 10 - 03:24 PM
Bert 02 Mar 10 - 03:30 PM
GUEST,David E. 02 Mar 10 - 03:31 PM
Bonzo3legs 02 Mar 10 - 04:21 PM
PHJim 02 Mar 10 - 04:22 PM
GUEST,David E. 02 Mar 10 - 04:50 PM
Uncle_DaveO 02 Mar 10 - 04:58 PM
Dave MacKenzie 02 Mar 10 - 05:09 PM
Andy Jackson 02 Mar 10 - 05:16 PM
Lizzie Cornish 1 02 Mar 10 - 05:23 PM
mayomick 02 Mar 10 - 05:35 PM
GUEST,Gerry 02 Mar 10 - 05:36 PM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 02 Mar 10 - 05:41 PM
GUEST,mg 02 Mar 10 - 05:46 PM
PoppaGator 02 Mar 10 - 06:07 PM
Murray MacLeod 02 Mar 10 - 06:24 PM
Bupkes 02 Mar 10 - 06:32 PM
Artful Codger 02 Mar 10 - 06:35 PM
Murray MacLeod 02 Mar 10 - 06:58 PM
Artful Codger 02 Mar 10 - 07:32 PM
oldhippie 02 Mar 10 - 07:35 PM
robinia 02 Mar 10 - 08:48 PM
Seamus Kennedy 03 Mar 10 - 12:56 AM
Gurney 03 Mar 10 - 01:33 AM
Joe Offer 03 Mar 10 - 02:14 AM
melodeonboy 03 Mar 10 - 05:40 AM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 03 Mar 10 - 05:56 AM
MGM·Lion 03 Mar 10 - 06:17 AM
Mr Happy 03 Mar 10 - 06:28 AM
Nigel Parsons 03 Mar 10 - 06:33 AM
GUEST,Gail 03 Mar 10 - 07:02 AM
masato sakurai 03 Mar 10 - 08:48 AM
GUEST,Dr. Quelch 03 Mar 10 - 09:14 AM
Dave MacKenzie 03 Mar 10 - 09:24 AM
Snuffy 03 Mar 10 - 09:26 AM
MGM·Lion 03 Mar 10 - 09:33 AM
melodeonboy 03 Mar 10 - 10:11 AM
bubblyrat 03 Mar 10 - 10:31 AM
Dave the Gnome 03 Mar 10 - 11:13 AM
GUEST,mayomick 03 Mar 10 - 11:30 AM
GUEST,highlandman at work 03 Mar 10 - 11:50 AM
GUEST 03 Mar 10 - 12:00 PM
GUEST,semi-submersible 03 Mar 10 - 12:38 PM
mrmoe 03 Mar 10 - 01:01 PM
GUEST,highlandman at work 03 Mar 10 - 01:39 PM
meself 03 Mar 10 - 01:47 PM
Seamus Kennedy 03 Mar 10 - 02:18 PM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 03 Mar 10 - 02:28 PM
Dave the Gnome 03 Mar 10 - 02:41 PM
Joe Offer 03 Mar 10 - 02:52 PM
frogprince 03 Mar 10 - 03:21 PM
PoppaGator 03 Mar 10 - 03:26 PM
Howard Jones 03 Mar 10 - 03:46 PM
semi-submersible 03 Mar 10 - 03:54 PM
Uncle_DaveO 03 Mar 10 - 07:05 PM
Eiseley 03 Mar 10 - 09:14 PM
Genie 04 Mar 10 - 01:51 AM
Genie 04 Mar 10 - 02:24 AM
bubblyrat 04 Mar 10 - 07:29 AM
Dave the Gnome 04 Mar 10 - 07:47 AM
Mr Happy 04 Mar 10 - 08:39 AM
GUEST,mayomick 04 Mar 10 - 08:44 AM
melodeonboy 04 Mar 10 - 08:52 AM
Suegorgeous 04 Mar 10 - 09:04 AM
GUEST 04 Mar 10 - 10:20 AM
Matt Seattle 04 Mar 10 - 10:41 AM
Mr Happy 04 Mar 10 - 10:55 AM
GUEST,Gail 04 Mar 10 - 11:02 AM
Uncle_DaveO 04 Mar 10 - 11:23 AM
Nigel Parsons 04 Mar 10 - 11:49 AM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 04 Mar 10 - 02:43 PM
GUEST,mayomick 04 Mar 10 - 02:49 PM
Bupkes 04 Mar 10 - 03:08 PM
PoppaGator 04 Mar 10 - 04:42 PM
Suegorgeous 04 Mar 10 - 06:50 PM
Dave MacKenzie 04 Mar 10 - 06:59 PM
Howard Jones 04 Mar 10 - 07:04 PM
Dave MacKenzie 04 Mar 10 - 07:27 PM
olddude 04 Mar 10 - 07:53 PM
Genie 04 Mar 10 - 08:22 PM
Genie 04 Mar 10 - 08:35 PM
Uncle_DaveO 04 Mar 10 - 09:29 PM
Artful Codger 04 Mar 10 - 10:58 PM
Bupkes 04 Mar 10 - 11:08 PM
Richard Mellish 05 Mar 10 - 04:01 AM
Howard Jones 05 Mar 10 - 04:03 AM
Dave MacKenzie 05 Mar 10 - 04:20 AM
melodeonboy 05 Mar 10 - 06:49 AM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 05 Mar 10 - 09:05 AM
Robo 05 Mar 10 - 11:53 AM
Artful Codger 05 Mar 10 - 01:04 PM
Mavis Enderby 05 Mar 10 - 01:28 PM
mayomick 05 Mar 10 - 01:29 PM
Richard Bridge 05 Mar 10 - 02:31 PM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 05 Mar 10 - 03:01 PM
semi-submersible 05 Mar 10 - 05:02 PM
PoppaGator 05 Mar 10 - 06:12 PM
Artful Codger 05 Mar 10 - 11:41 PM
Jim Dixon 07 Mar 10 - 07:29 PM
Tattie Bogle 07 Mar 10 - 07:50 PM
Jim Dixon 07 Mar 10 - 07:50 PM
Artful Codger 07 Mar 10 - 10:30 PM
Jim Dixon 08 Mar 10 - 01:15 AM
Genie 08 Mar 10 - 02:34 AM
Jason Xion Wang 22 May 10 - 11:40 AM
PHJim 22 May 10 - 04:40 PM
Tootler 23 May 10 - 05:07 PM
McGrath of Harlow 23 May 10 - 05:39 PM
Marje 24 May 10 - 04:41 AM
GUEST,Amn't I? 24 May 10 - 05:11 AM
GUEST,MC Fat (at work) 24 May 10 - 07:31 AM
Marje 24 May 10 - 08:32 AM
Jason Xion Wang 24 May 10 - 08:42 AM
GUEST,Callie 24 May 10 - 08:53 AM
Gallus Moll 24 May 10 - 09:01 AM
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Subject: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: PHJim
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 12:44 PM

Many great songs contain poor grammar, and I wouldn't want to change a word of them. Hound Dog, Don't Think Twice or Backwater Blues are fine the way they are, but some songs just sound like a mistake has been made by someone who should know better.
Hearing the Olympic Theme Song with,"I believe in the power of you and I" brought this to mind. I know the correct version, "I believe in the power of you and me," wouldn't rhyme, but we shouldn't use incorrect grammar just to make a rhyme.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Jorrox
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 12:48 PM

Songs she sang to me
Songs she brang to me.

Neil Diamond. Sing Me. Then again, don't.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: fretless
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 12:49 PM

I'm usually more surprised when a song gets the finer points of grammar right. and I still smile every time I hear the subjunctive ("If I were the king of the world") in Three Dog Night's Joy to the World.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Georgiansilver
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 12:50 PM

Artistic licence!!! Grammar plays no important part in poetry or songwriting.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Snuffy
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 12:54 PM

Poetry creates its own universe with its own grammar; verse never breaks free of the shackles of dull conformity.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Celtaddict
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 01:02 PM

I disagree, Georgiansilver. Grammar helps make meaning clear. This is not to say it must be used formally in all verse; the lyric beauty of 'Fern Hill' and many others would suffer or vanish if we wanted all things clear, but knowing a form and choosing to depart from it for artistic reasons is not the same as a form playing no important part.
My biggest complaint about John Denver as a songwriter was that, if he had an option to use 'lie' or 'lay' in a lyric, he seemed invariably to use the wrong one.
The examples cited by PHJim are sound in my opinion; I don't watch television so did not hear the Olympic theme but 'I believe in you and I' would have made me cringe mightily in any context.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 01:03 PM

If it sounds unnatural, probably forced because of the need to rhyme, I try to change it. In such cases it calls attention to itself and interferes with the story.

When it helps convey the story, I keep it. For example, if it helps convey 'This is a song by a person who never travelled far and never had much schooling,' then it belongs.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Amos
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 01:13 PM

We can now add a NEW vector in the argument about "What is Folk?". If grammar matters, it ain't folk.



A


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 01:21 PM

That "I" has been around a long time.

In vernacular song, don't make no never mind.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Celtaddict
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 01:29 PM

Leeneia, both good and valid points. I agree.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Rog Peek
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 01:37 PM

It ain't no use in turnin' on your light, babe
A light I never knowed
An' it ain't no use in turnin' on your light, babe
I'm on the dark side of the road

knew and road just don't rhyme.

Rog


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 01:44 PM

One early version of "Working on the CHain Gang" had

"Going home to see my woman, whom I love" - which didn't really sound all that chain-gang-ish.

But on the other hand "So far from she" makes me want to vomit every time I hear it.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 01:51 PM

How about coming to Mike O'Connor's workshop on songwriting in the tradition on Sunday 6th. June at the Lewes Saturday Folk Club in Lewes, Sussex, UK? Full details on this thread..

Mike's songs include The White Shepherd, Carrying Nelson Home, The Best of Autumn, Unite, Unite, etc. The workshop will cover the art & craft of songwriting: the first reasons for writing, the tools & materials available for following a traditional style, & polishing & performing.

Valmai


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 02:43 PM

The songs with perfect grammar are the ones that sound like an opera singer"Doing " the pop thing.
@kin awful.IMO


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Artful Codger
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 02:47 PM

But are "knowed" and "road" the best choices anyway? Could just be lazy versification.

Certain grammatical deviations simply reflect common usage among the folks the lyrics either originated with or are intended to represent. For instance, "ain't" ain't wrong within certain vernaculars, only when used in modern, formal English. But when grammar is twisted unnaturally--and not for obvious comic effect--it grates or at least distracts.

I can't suppress a snicker when I hear McCartney's "Live and Let Die": "in this ever-changing world in which we live in".

That said, I have to point out that the Olympics song doesn't necessarily contain a grammatical error. Consider: I believe in the power of "you and I". In this reading, "you and me" would be more grammatically questionable. Nevertheless, this interpretation, without preparation, is unlikely to occur to listeners, so I still consider it clumsy song versification, as glaring as the the Olympic torch.

English depends heavily on word order for proper interpretation, so the liberties taken in verse not infrequently lead to some comical referential ambituities: was it the cowboy or his horse that kissed the girl? I find these kinds of gaffes occur more frequently than disturbing grammatical errors; caveat songwritor.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Amos
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 03:08 PM

McCartney's "Live and Let Die": "in this ever-changing world in which we live in".

Are you quite sure it isn't "..in which we're livin'..."??



A


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Betsy
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 03:17 PM

Amos , IMHO I'd say the line is OK - for "live in" (think of " exist ").


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Don Firth
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 03:24 PM

". . . in which we live in."

Uh. . . ?

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Bert
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 03:30 PM

Although colloquial misuse is often bad grammar, If a phrase or word is often misused then it can be acceptable in a song.

When I first heard "Sing it pretty Sue" it really grated, but it is a common usage which is acceptable in its own environment.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: GUEST,David E.
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 03:31 PM

Did this use of "me" instead of "I" come along in the last 40 years or so? I swear I remember my teacher whacking my knuckles with a ruler for saying "You and me." "You and me" may be correct but it still hurts my, umm...ears, every time I hear it.

David E.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 04:21 PM

One should never need to use the subjunctive in a love song if one's love is certain!


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: PHJim
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 04:22 PM

David E.
If you wouldn't say,"I believe in the power of I," then don't say ,"I believe in the power of you and I."
On the other hand, "I'm going to the festival," so "You and I are going to the festival."
How about,"you and I" replaces "we" and "you and me" replaces "us".


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: GUEST,David E.
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 04:50 PM

I'm sure you're right Jim, but it still sounds mighty awkward to these old New England ears. I had assumed it was just accepted bad grammar brought to us by the folks who gave us "youguys." That's okay though, correcting my "gramaa" has given my son a lifetime of enjoyment.

David E.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 04:58 PM

I swear I remember my teacher whacking my knuckles with a ruler for saying "You and me." "You and me" may be correct but it still hurts my, umm...ears, every time I hear it.

This usage depends entirely on the rest of the sentence. Your teacher to the contrary, "you and me" can be the absolutely correct words, and such was ALWAYS so, not just in recent years.   

"He had a soft spot in his heart for you and me."   As you'd (I hope) never say ". . .in his heart for I", you should never say ". . .in his heart for you and I." The "you" doesn't change the grammar of the matter.

On the other hand, of course if we're talking about the subject of the clause, it will be "you and I": "You and I went downtown," and not "You and me went downtown."

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Dave MacKenzie
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 05:09 PM

Sometimes the bad grammar has been around a lot longer than the grammar. There used to be quite a fashion for trying to turn English into Latin.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Andy Jackson
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 05:16 PM

I'm fed up of bad grammar!!!!


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Lizzie Cornish 1
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 05:23 PM

Oh shite! Grammar has come to songs and poems!   

Well, that's it, we may as well all give up and go home now, before our subjunctives begin to wither in the wind.

By the way, what IS a subjunctive? I seem to have reached near on 55 years old without bothering about it, but hey, perhaps I really need to!

Perhaps I need to find that 'Eats Shoots and Leaves' book one more time. Oh, that's right, I threw it out! Why? because in the introduction the author admitted she was more strung out by the use of inappropriate words in the media, used to describe the 9/11 disaster, than she was about the three thousand plus people who'd died.

At that point, I realised I was about to read the words of a woman who had her priorities SO wrong..and I chucked the book in the rubbish bin.


"I disagree, Georgiansilver. Grammar helps make meaning clear."


No. It is the way the singer interprets the song that makes the meaning clear..and if that singer is also the songwriter, then the meaning overrides ANY grammatical error...and to be honest, a brilliant song takes you WAY beyond grammar and into the realms of another world, where grammar was never even invented and humans judged all on emotions.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: mayomick
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 05:35 PM

No holds barred when it comes to writing a good song. Tautology can work fine and well in a song also . A redundancy in prose like "fine and well" sounds rotten ,but in a song it can strenghten a meaning while supplying the necessary syllables to fit a rhymne .As in The Rising of the Moon which contains the lines.

"I bear orders from the captain make your ready quick and soon /for the pikes must be together by the rising of the moon."


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: GUEST,Gerry
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 05:36 PM

The tune don't have to be clever,
And it don't matter if you put a couple extra syllables into a line.
It sounds more ethnic if it ain't good English,
And it don't even gotta rhyme.

Excuse me: rhyne.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 05:41 PM

""It ain't no use in turnin' on your light, babe
A light I never knowed
An' it ain't no use in turnin' on your light, babe
I'm on the dark side of the road

knew and road just don't rhyme.
""


"A light I've never known" would work quite well though!

I'm just playing Devil's advocate with that comment.

My reading of that song is that it is couched in the kind of language I might expect to hear fom ordinary folk in many different parts of the USA, and I don't have a problem with that, any more than I would with Geordie, or Scots dialect in song.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 05:46 PM

I would far rather stick to the rhythm and rhyme and forgoe the grammar than the other way around. mg


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: PoppaGator
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 06:07 PM

When I read the title, I groaned. Since when is painstakingly correct grammar expected in folksong?

But then I read the first two posts, and agreed completely that those particular examples are cringeworthily awful. Of course, those examples are contemporary (or, at least, recently written) songs ~ not authentically traditional lyrics voicing the informal speech of real people. Nor even plausible down-home diction created by a modern lyricist (like Dylan's "I never knowed," which always seemed OK-enough to me).

"The world in which we live in" has always bugged the hell out of me, too. Amos' suggestion that McCartney is "really" singing "in which we're living" doesn't hold water, much as I wish it did. Even allowing for differences of dialect, the requisite "R" sound just isn't there in his recording. Now, if I were ever to sing this song, I would "adapt" it by using Amos' brilliant little revision. Too bad Paul didn't think of it before he published and recorded. (Since it was a movie theme, perhaps he was working under undue deadline pressure...?)

And as for believing that "you and I" is always correct, and "you and me" always wrong? I've encountered that myself; it's the kind of phony snobbery also seen when people use big words without knowing their actual meaning. If our friend's schoolteacher actually taught him that (i.e., if it was not a misunderstanding on his part), it's a real shame, especially since no subsequent instructor ever set him straight (until the above explanations emerged on this thread). Just goes to prove that even in New England, ignorance is not unknown. (Of course, it may be that, in New England, there is undue societal pressure to pretend that one is more erudite than is actually the case.)


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 06:24 PM

can we establish once and for all that McCartney did not write

"In this ever changing world in which we live in" ...

He wrote

"IF this ever changing world in which we live in
(makes you give up and cry)

Admittedly, it still jars a bit, but nothing like to the extent which it would have done with three "in's"


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Bupkes
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 06:32 PM

If the original grammar is noticeably wrong and grates, I feel free to change it. After all, I'm a "folk" too.

But if the "correct" grammar sounds stilted or just doesn't work, then I'll sing the original.

For example, in Rod MacDonald's "A Sailor's Prayer" (here's an author-approved text), the chorus line

"I will not lie me down, this rain a-ragin' "

just doesn't work with "lay me down"; the original sounds good, wrong grammar and all, so I sing it that way.

But the last verse (in which "death waits just off the bow"), with awkward wording, seems to me such an artless mess, I sing it differently every time, and no one seems much bothered. (And if anyone did notice, I'd tell them what I did, of course.) Mostly, the verses are an excuse to sing the lovely chorus, in my opinion.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Artful Codger
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 06:35 PM

Amos: You're right, listening closely I hear the line is "But if this ever-changing world in which we're livin' / Makes you..."
That makes more sense than with three in's, one clearly redundant; someone pointed it out to me the other way, and I stupidly took it on faith. Memorable music, but the lyrics always seemed tossed-off, another melange of half-songs. The phrase "in which we're livin'" still sticks out as a silly tautology: where else would we be living?

Betsy: It could be "in which we live" or "we live in" (with a dangling preposition), but "in which we live in" is clearly improper: one would not say "We live in in the world".


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 06:58 PM

what McCartney sings , and has always sung is

"If this ever changing world in which we live in"

not " in this ever changing world ..."

and not " ... in which we're living ".

I agree that "If this ever changing world in which we're living" would have been less egregious, but that's not what Macca wrote or sung.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Artful Codger
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 07:32 PM

Lizzie: Eats, Shoots and Leaves is, IMO, a brilliant book, both highly entertaining and informative. Although Ms Truss may appear overly concerned with punctuation--as any serious writer should be; it's there for a reason--she's really a pragmatist discussing punctuation for the same reason we're discussing grammar in this thread: because awkward or improper usage confuses or distracts rather than clarifies. Her advice includes a healthy dose of irreverence toward punctuation rules; ultimately, her concern is clarity, not fastidiousness.

The more attention a writer pays to crafting his language, the less noticeable the effort should appear in the end result: attention should flow unencumbered to the sense and the manner of expression, not to jarring side issues. Nor should the reader or listener need to mentally back up to puzzle out the meaning. There's a difference between idiomatic usage (which aids in creating character and place) and bad grammar (which just throws you like a rodeo bull).

I must agree with Truss: the modern habit of dispensing with punctuation hinders rather than aids communication. Out of respect for your audience, you shouldn't omit punctuation--or capitalization--any more than you should speak in a monotone. Punctuation is the written counterpart of inflection; use it well.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: oldhippie
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 07:35 PM

I always thought part of the charm of a song are its expressions. For instance, in Tom T Hall's "Old Dogs and Children and Watermelon Wine", there's the line: "Women think about theyselves when men folk ain't around". It would not sound correct with proper grammar. I agree with those who invoke poetic / artistic license in this discussion.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: robinia
Date: 02 Mar 10 - 08:48 PM

Sometimes "cleaning up the grammar" really ruins the song.    Singing "if I were a mole in the ground, I'd root that mountain down" (instead of "if I'se a mole in the ground . . .")   Honest, I heard someone sing it like that;


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 12:56 AM

"I bear orders from the captain make your ready quick and soon /for the pikes must be together by the rising of the moon."

I believe the words are:


I bear orders from the captain,
"Make you ready quick and soon,
For the pikes must be together by the rising of the moon."

What's wrong with that?

Quick and soon are not tautological, IMO.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Gurney
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 01:33 AM

If I don't like it, I don't sing it.
That attitude makes my repertoire poorer than it could be, makes me avoid some nearly (IMO) great modern songs, because the grammar grates on my sensibilities. My loss.

I understand why PHJim posed the question.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 02:14 AM

I think that most times, language can be grammatical without being ridiculous, so I think it's a good idea to follow the rules of grammar whenever possible. There are certain grammatical errors you can get away with when writing lyrics, and other errors just make the songwriter look stupid.

"For you and I," "between you and I," and anything written by Neil Diamond fall into the latter category.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: melodeonboy
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 05:40 AM

It's not a matter of "bad" grammar; it's simply a matter of whether you speak/sing (or claim to speak/sing) in Standard English or not. I generally use the same grammar when I sing as when I speak. I therefore sing "She swum and she swum...." (Marrowbones) rather than the usual "She swam and she swam..." because I don't naturally use the word "swam". In the same way, I sing "And the blackbirds and thrushes sung from every green spray.." because it comes naturally to me to sing it that way.

Were I singing a song where, for example, the word "swam" was used to rhyme with, say, "ham", then I would make the effort to sing "swam" in order to preserve the rhyme.

As for "between you and I", that's not, to the best of my knowledge, a non-standard or dialectal form; it's just hypercorrection!


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 05:56 AM

""'I will not lie me down, this rain a-ragin'""

As I read that line, Marty, I believe the grammar is essentially correct.

I lie down, but I lay down my burden.

I don't see that the addition of the "me" in this case alters that, since the composer is not saying that he has picked himself up, and is now laying himself down again.

Since "lay down is what you do to something you are carrying, I think the word "me" is added for scansion purposes only, and I would not find it difficult to live with.

Now, of course, twenty people will tell us why that is wrong.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 06:17 AM

'Between you & I' is indeed a solecism, since 'between, as a preposition, takes the accusative. But there is, alas, respectable Bardic precedent for it: Antonio's letter to Bassanio, Merchant of Venice III ii, "... all debts are cleared between you and I if I might but see you at my death." It must be all right if it's Shax, as they say ~~ but this is till a usage I avoid like the plague!


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Mr Happy
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 06:28 AM

""It ain't no use in turnin' on your light, babe
A light I never knowed
An' it ain't no use in turnin' on your light, babe
I'm on the dark side of the road

Or alternatively:

It ain't no use in turnin' on your light, babe
A light I never knew
An' it ain't no use in turnin' on your light, babe
I'm on the dark side of the avenue!!

Perfick!!

Also, what's this hangup with 'You & I', why not 'I & you'??


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 06:33 AM

An' it ain't no use in turnin' on your light, babe
I'm on the dark side of the avenue!!

Perfick!!

Only 'perfick' if you're happy with the scansion, as you've just added two more syllables!


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: GUEST,Gail
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 07:02 AM

I think the 'you and I' in the Olympic song is downright embarrassing. It's not dialect or idiom. It's quite simply a common misunderstanding. As someone has mentioned, at school we had 'you and I' drummed into us to stop us saying 'you and me did something', but the correct use of 'you and me' was often left out.

Another one that always makes me cringe is that song which seems to misquote Kipling by saying 'the female of the species is more deadlier than the male'.   Yuk.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: masato sakurai
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 08:48 AM

Gin a body meet a body
Comin thro the rye,
Gin a body kiss a body,
Need a body cry ?


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: GUEST,Dr. Quelch
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 09:14 AM

POOR GRAMMAR IN LYRICS!!!
More to the point is the discraceful lack of grammar and appalling spelling to be found and, it would seem, tolerated on MUDCAT. May I recommend a refresher course in English language for all those who have forgotten what they were taught at school. If children are leaving school with such low standards of written English what hope is there?
An absolute abomination. They could do better with a little effort.!!


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Dave MacKenzie
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 09:24 AM

Masato

1)    that's the subjunctive

2)    It's not English, it's Scots, which has different grammatical rules.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Snuffy
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 09:26 AM

Masato, thanks for coming up with a couple of examples of the subjunctive to show Lizzie what it looks like.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 09:33 AM

"discraceful lack of grammar and appalling spelling "

DisCraceful indeed, Quelchie! Fetch the cane & bend over!!!


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: melodeonboy
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 10:11 AM

Cripes! I'm off to hide in the tuck shop!


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: bubblyrat
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 10:31 AM

When Cliff Richard's hit "Travelling Light" was released in Spain,they called "The Light That Travels" !! Apparently,the concept of travelling without much luggage ,and the way of expressing it,in Spain,is rather different.

" I Can't Get No Satisfaction" means,obviously, "I CAN get SOME Satisfaction " .....doesn't it ?? But does it matter ??

Another "Knowed & Road " combination ;

"And the only home I ever knowed
Was a suitcase and the open road " ....Delightful!! (Buffy St Marie).

"Roses are red,and violets are purple;
Sugar is sweet,and so's maple syrple " !! Stunning !! (Roger Miller).

Sometimes,it just wouldn't seem right if it was "Correct".


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 11:13 AM

Is '...and which is more, you'll be a man my son' Grammaticaly correct?

I'm pretty sure that 'And Lord knows where, and I don't care, my belt and my tunic goed;' isn't:-)

I also think that as a lot of rules of grammar (split infinitives for one) were made for Latin we can safely go where no Roman hyas been before....

BTW - If the poor gramma gets run over by a truck it is probably country rather than folk...

Cheers

DeG


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: GUEST,mayomick
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 11:30 AM

Seamus
There ain't nothing wrong with those lines from The Rising of the Moon - they work very well in my opinion. My point was that the addition of the word "soon" was unneccessary and redundant from the point of view of adding any meaning to the sentence . Make ready as quickly as possible would have been 'correct', but quick and soon and helps the rhymne and sounds better which is what is important when it comes to a song .

The double negative works in a similar way to strenghens an idea - as in "ain't no use". The double negative was once widely used in everyday speech to emphasise a negative .It was discredited and done away with by formal grammarians some time around the nineteenth century so as to make language conform to the formal rules of mathematics where a double negative equals a positive .


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: GUEST,highlandman at work
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 11:50 AM

I used to know a real, actual person who, in his everyday doings, spoke as if the nominative "I" were always correct. As in, "bring that file to I." Unbelievable. And English (or whatever it was he was speaking) was apparently not a second language for him, either. He must have just gotten some really, really bad advice somewhere in his past.
-Glenn


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 12:00 PM

Grammar existed long before anyone named it or ever described any rule of grammar. It's something people do instinctively: develop systems, for using our word-symbols to get ideas across. Sign language, for instance, was assumed - even by its speakers - to be just a list of sign-words, until some bright researchers pointed out the spacial grammar and inflections of direction, speed, size, facial expression, etc. which people had developed and were consistently using without consciously thinking about it. Another natural language had evolved under our noses.

The rules of grammar are not there to tell us what to do, they are descriptions of how people use language. Prescriptive pedantry can give the word "grammar" a bad name, but we simply cannot get our meaning across in speech without following some kind of grammar. The alternative is babbling: "mean one what something," for example.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: GUEST,semi-submersible
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 12:38 PM

Sorry, that was I (cookieless) at 12:00.

By the way, "Dr. Quelch," I loved your poker-faced post. I'm not sure how many rules of style you broke: half a dozen, not counting repeat offenses? Anyone who took that post seriously had better see if his legs are still attached.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: mrmoe
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 01:01 PM

......."I'm usually more surprised when a song gets the finer points of grammar right. and I still smile every time I hear the subjunctive ("If I were the king of the world") in Three Dog Night's Joy to the World."

There is no such thing as "Three Dog Night's Joy to the World."! .....I'm sure you meant to say Hoyt Axton's "Joy to the World".....don't give a shit about grammar, but as a songwriter I'm very offended when credit for authorship is improperly given.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: GUEST,highlandman at work
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 01:39 PM

Gee, mrmoe, you must stay very offended most of the time.
Take your beef to the radio announcers who never, ever ID the writer of a song when it is played. People remember what they hear over and over again, and in the pop radio world it's the recording artist, not the songwriter.
Sorry.
-G


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: meself
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 01:47 PM

'I used to know a real, actual person who, in his everyday doings, spoke as if the nominative "I" were always correct. As in, "bring that file to I." SNIP He must have just gotten some really, really bad advice somewhere in his past.'

Or else he just came from a background in which that was accepted and common usage.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 02:18 PM

Mayomick - not to split hairs or anything, but 'quick and soon' to me means 'pack your gear as fast as you can, but start doing it ASAP, not half-an-hour from now.'
Two separate meanings but with the same end.

And as for perfect grammar in lyrics, I think Tom Lehrer is hard to beat.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 02:28 PM

All this chitter chatter makes I smile,
Ain't 'eard such fuss in quite a while,
Don't make no matter at th'end o't day,
T'ain't 'ow I says it, 'tis what I say.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 02:41 PM

I could be entirely wrong but isn't the structure 'Bring that file to I' common in the English West Country dialect? 'File' needs to be pronounces 'foyle' and 'I' needs to be pronounces 'Oy' though:-)

Cheers

DeG


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 02:52 PM

Don's "All this chitter chatter makes I smile" makes me think of a well-known English folk song that uses that construction. What's the song? Is that construction (makes I do something) used with frequency in any region of England?



I think that if a grammatically-incorrect language construction appears commonly in spoken English, it's perfectly OK to use it in a lyric. But when it's not common usage and done just to match a meter or rhyme, it's WRONG, WRONG WRONG!!!! (are you hearing what I'm saying, Neil Diamond?)

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: frogprince
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 03:21 PM

And in response to a remark back there somewhere: Grammer didn't get run over by a truck; Grammer got run over by a reindeer.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: PoppaGator
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 03:26 PM

Amen, Joe.

************

Speaking of "forced," one of my least-favorite lyrics is the second verse of "Let It Be Me," most famously recorded by the Everley Bothers and Willie Nelson, lyrics translated from the original French by one Manny Kurtz:

Don't take this heaven from one
If you must cling to someone
Now and forever, let it be me

The grammar, per se, might not be incorrect, but the syntax is graceless and, well, weird. Use of the word "one" is often more formal or even more correct than "you" or "me," but in this case, it seem to be used only to force a rhyme.

Too bad, it's a lovely melody, and the rest of the English lyrics are fine.

*****************

Use of "I" in preference to "me" as the object of a verb or preposition is common usage in Rasta/Jamaican, as far as I cen tell from song lyrics. It would not surprise me to learn that the origin of this quirk might be found somewhere in England.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Howard Jones
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 03:46 PM

Glenn's post about someone saying "bring that file to I" illustrates the pitfalls. As DeG points out, it's common enough West Country usage, an example of dialect following it's own grammatical rules. Glenn's comment about that person have "gotten" some bad advice is itself "wrong" in terms of standard English - although of course it's perfectly good American. Another example of different forms of the language having different grammatical rules.

As well as the differences between the British and American forms of English, colloquial and dialect forms (not to mention other regional variations) all differ. Nevertheless they do all have their own rules, so if you're going to use dialect you have to use its correct grammar.

The difficulty with songs is finding a balance between using language you're comfortable with and which is intelligible to your audience (which may mean altering both vocabulary and grammar) without significantly altering the character of the song.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: semi-submersible
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 03:54 PM

Good! My cookie's back at last.

David el Gnomo:
Yes, Kipling's grammar was correct there, but there should be another comma after "and" to make the phrase "which is more" a parenthetical phrase: If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds' worth of distance run, yours is the Earth and everything that's in it; and, which is more, you'll be a Man, my son.

Yes, Don T, but I agree with Leeneia too. The medium must not obscure the message. Stopping the flow to figure something out can lose our interest. It doesn't matter how brilliant your ideas are if your audience does not get it.

If a singer speaks and no-one understands, does the song say anything?

Example: Primiti Too Taa. Lizzie Cornish, does this renowned Primitive Sound performance "take you WAY beyond grammar and into the realms of another world, where grammar was never even invented"? If "it is the way the singer interprets the song that makes the meaning clear" then how should a meaning (that "overrides ANY grammatical error") be made clear in this case? Does it stir your emotions? Vacuous fluency did make an instructive contrast with my expectations. Hey nonny no?

Lizzie C, without your correct use of grammar we'd not get the wit of your remarks about subjunctives. (And no, learning the subjunctive is optional because it's been withering in English for generations, possibly since the industrial era's increasingly mobile and international working classes started dismantling a few of the more troublesome features of English usage.)

Maybe brilliance (or poetry, Snuffy?) consists of developing something in the audience's mind that wasn't there before, but which makes sense according to all you know, because it agrees with most of the implicit rules you use to assemble and weigh ideas.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 07:05 PM

This thread reminds me of a roommate I had in my freshman year at the University of Minnesota.

He maintained that he had been taught that the proper comparison of "bad" was:

bad

worse

more worser !

And he would not be corrected on that!

It should be said that he was enrolled in what was called "University College". University College was a sort of make-up course for very marginally qualified students. After a year of University College you just MIGHT be allowed to enroll in the University proper.

I should say that he didn't come back for the second quarter.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Eiseley
Date: 03 Mar 10 - 09:14 PM

Hey, this is my first post!
One of my favorite nongrammatical lines is from The Wind in the Willows where Rat and Badger are talking. Badger says he'll "larn" them weasels and stoats a thing or two. Rat corrects him and says, "You mean you'll teach them." Badger disagrees and it ends up with Rat going into the corner to mutter "Larn 'em, teach 'em, larn 'em, teach 'em."
But then again, children's books are my THING!


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Genie
Date: 04 Mar 10 - 01:51 AM

One of the worst offenders - and I still have no idea how or why the songwriter came up with the line - is a country song with the hook:
"Forever and ever, till death do we part ... "

The only way this makes sense, grammatically, is if it means "we will part until death" -- which is obviously a strange wedding vow!

Of course, Neil Diamond's horrible line from "Play Me": "Songs she sang to me, songs she brang to me ... " makes me cringe every time I hear the otherwise lovely song. But that's really not "grammar," is it? It's a semantic error - much like the use of "ain't" as a substitute for "aren't," "didn't," "haven't," etc. But unlike "ain't," "brang" is not all that common, even in regional dialects, nor is it an almost mandatory part of blues or country music.

-----

BTW, in "Live and Let Die," McCartney SOUNDS to me like he's singing "... this ever changing world in which we're livin' ."    The first time I heard the song I thought he was singing "... in which we live in," but once someone pointed out the alternative, grammatically correct, line, it sounds more like that than it does like the awkward, redundant version.   As to what "Macca" originally wrote, I'd have to see his original lyric sheet -- not an album liner note or some sheet music from a third party -- to know that.
(Sheet music and liner notes sometimes have egregious errors.)


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Genie
Date: 04 Mar 10 - 02:24 AM

"The double negative works in a similar way to strenghens an idea - as in "ain't no use." The double negative was once widely used in everyday speech to emphasise a negative. It was discredited and done away with by formal grammarians some time around the nineteenth century so as to make language conform to the formal rules of mathematics where a double negative equals a positive."

English differs from some other languages in eschewing double negatives. In French, they're common, for instance. But even in English - regardless of how it came about - "ain't" sort of calls for the double negative.   I do accept "ain't" as more of a colloquialism or slang than "bad grammar," and how often does anyone say "I ain't got any cigarettes?" or "I ain't had any loving (as opposed to 'lovin'") since January, February, ... ?" You don't usually speak or write proper, standard English but then throw in the word "ain't."   But it's not at all uncommon for someone to speak or write something with perfect, standard grammar except for saying something like "between you and I."

Joe, I generally agree with this: "I think that if a grammatically-incorrect language construction appears commonly in spoken English, it's perfectly OK to use it in a lyric. But when it's not common usage and done just to match a meter or rhyme, it's WRONG, WRONG WRONG!!!! "

I guess the question is, how "common" does something have to be before it becomes "acceptable?"   I'll admit that there are instances where the pronoun "I" SOUNDS awkward and weird to me, even though I know it's "correct." E.g., "That would be I," sounds odd, while "It is I" does not," to me - but "It's me" also sounds OK. Maybe it's just a matter of familiarity, and eventually "Give it to him and I" will (shudder) also sound natural. But so far, even though that kind of construction has begun to be used more and more in the last decade or so by people who should know better (English majors, newscasters, teachers, etc.), it hasn't become "standard usage" by well-educated, articulate people. That's why I hate its usage in song lyrics.

I also think that when poor grammar is used in the lyrics of commonly heard songs it tends to make people THINK it's correct.   Not so much with colloquialisms or slang, but when an otherwise grammatically correct lyric includes one incorrect usage such as "for you and I."   

I know that sometimes it's done for the sake of rhyme. An old trad song, has the line "For poor, ornery people like you and like I" to rhyme with "I wonder as I wander out under the sky."   But Iz (Israel Kamakawiwo'ole) has a fairly popular song, with lyrics in Hawai'an and English, that has a tag line "for you and I," which isn't part of any couplet or rhyme scheme. Totally unnecessary to use "I" instead of "me."   And today's music lyrics often don't rhyme anyway.   I've known of songwriters who often dispense with trying to rhyme yet will use "I" instead of the correct "me" apparently just because it rhymes with a previous lyric word.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: bubblyrat
Date: 04 Mar 10 - 07:29 AM

In England,we are often urged to talk proper,like what the Queen do.
But seriously ....we all need to have,and to learn, some basic rules of grammar in our own language,otherwise how could we learn anyone else's tongue ??

Meanwhile :
            "They were goin' down the river,
                Sittin' in the stern ;
             She were 'oldin' 'is'n
                   An' 'e were 'oldin' 'er'n "

As to trying to get people to understand the correct usage of Sink / Sunk....Ring /Rang.....Hang / Hung etc,and,worst of all, Fewer / Less ( drives me nuts !)   ... I give up !! And nobody I know writes
'bus (Omnibus)....'phone (Telephone) and 'plane (Aeroplane) as do I !! But of course, they damn well SHOULD !! Sigh !


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 04 Mar 10 - 07:47 AM

I have got the knack of sink/sunk etc. but I am not sure about sat/sitting or stood/standing.

Obviously 'I was sat sitting there' is an incorrect comedic phrase in the best Hilda Baker tradion but which is right, "I sat there" or "I was sitting there"?

Both sound OK to me and seem pretty interchangeable. Under which circumstances would you use one in preference to the other?

I am not sure if it is bad grammar or just bad but, to keep to the topic, the Turtles 'Elenore' takes some beating:-)

Elenore, gee I think you're swell
And you really do me well
You're my pride and joy, et cetera
Elenore, can I take the time
To ask you to speak your mind
Tell me that you love me better


In fairness, I do believe it was written as a spoof.

Cheers

DeG


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Mr Happy
Date: 04 Mar 10 - 08:39 AM

...........'course, in traditional mummers plays, actors frequently proclaim their entrance with 'In comes I!!' not 'In I come' or 'In comes me'


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: GUEST,mayomick
Date: 04 Mar 10 - 08:44 AM

Seamus , I understand your point.
Genie ,the point I made about the double negative and mathematics was made in Chamber's History of the English Language which I don't have to hand.

Hope this isn't too much of a transgression , but seeing that so many grammar experts seem to be honing in on this thread ,here's something that has been puzzling me ......

The word "amn't" meaning "am not" is never seen written in English other than when it's being said by an Irish person in reported speech . " Well no ,I amn't going to the shop today Mr Murphy" ,for instance. But in England amn't is used widely in everyday speech pronounced as "armpt" and sometimes confused with "aren't " . A cockney might say for instance "I am supposed to be at work today , amn't I ?" But if you spell it like that ,it always reads like it's being said by an Irish person. How should amn't be spelt in English English ?


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: melodeonboy
Date: 04 Mar 10 - 08:52 AM

"Both sound OK to me and seem pretty interchangeable. Under which circumstances would you use one in preference to the other?"

"I was sitting there" may describe a longer action during which a shorter action could take place, often accompanied by "while" or "when", e.g. "I was sitting there when the burglar came in", or "The burglar came in while I was sitting there". (Combined past continuous and past simple). If you said "I sat there when the burglar came in", that would indicate that the burglar came in and then you sat down!

"I sat there" (past simple) often describes an isolated action or one in a sequence, e.g. "I walked into the room, took my wig off and sat there".

I know that's only the tip of the iceberg, but I hope it makes sense (despite the rather silly examples!).


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Suegorgeous
Date: 04 Mar 10 - 09:04 AM

Never heard "amn't" in all my English-born days! :0 (though it seem more correct than "aren't" in first person singular)


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Mar 10 - 10:20 AM

I amn't aware of any parts of the UK where "amn't" isn't used.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Matt Seattle
Date: 04 Mar 10 - 10:41 AM

Gauche rhyme or spoof, the Turtles knew it was
et cetera
and not
eK cetera.

The one that gets me is singular noun with plural verb, often heard on BBC radio, e.g. 'The occurrence of severe weather events are increasing', indicating a short attention span where the verb agrees with the nearest noun rather than the subject of the sentence or clause.

Perhaps inconsistently I relish the quirks of dialect. A favourite from my Dad (born and raised in Glasgow) is 'I used to could'. I've since learnt that the future version of this is 'I will can'.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Mr Happy
Date: 04 Mar 10 - 10:55 AM

........similarly the common usage of 'spoonfulls' rather than 'spoonsfull', 'brother-in-laws' instead of 'brothers-in-law' etc


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: GUEST,Gail
Date: 04 Mar 10 - 11:02 AM

Matt, that one really bugs me too. Even the most respected news commentators have been heard to say, for example, 'what we need are more trains'. Surely they must of known better. Oops, there goes another one.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 04 Mar 10 - 11:23 AM


Obviously 'I was sat sitting there' is an incorrect comedic phrase in the best Hilda Baker tradion but which is right, "I sat there" or "I was sitting there"?


Either of those usages is correct, depending on whether you are intending to speak in active voice or passive voice.   

I sat there = active voice

I was sitting there = passive voice

As a general matter of writing style in general prose writing, the active voice is MUCH to be preferred to the passive. It's my impression that those who use passive voice in general prose usually (1) have something to hide, or (2) because of feelings of inadequacy, want to use passive because they think it sounds more formally "proper". In each of those cases, the speaker wants to hold the action at arms' length.

"I made a mistake" is far better than "Mistakes were made". In that case, you'll note, precisely who made the mistake is obscured. Seldom would a speaker actually come out and say "Mistakes were made by me".

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 04 Mar 10 - 11:49 AM

David el Gnomo:
Obviously 'I was sat sitting there' is an incorrect comedic phrase in the best Hilda Baker tradion but which is right, "I sat there" or "I was sitting there"?
The phrase which most often causes raised hackles (along those lines) is "I was sat there" which seems to suggest that the speaker was forced into the seat by some third person.

Cheers
Nigel


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 04 Mar 10 - 02:43 PM

You'm a five foot flirt wi' the face of an angel,
You better had leave I alone,
Why the way you're acting it nearly unnerves I,
The thing that preserves I is my joviality,


Excerpt from a man who knew when and how to mangle grammar to very good effect......Cyril Tawney.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: GUEST,mayomick
Date: 04 Mar 10 - 02:49 PM

Sorry, Amn't I silly not to have put my name down. I'm that last guest.
Suegorgeous,
People use "amn't I?" all the time in the UK unless they are very posh.I think they do it without noticing it .Were they to analyze it,most people would probably say that they were using bad grammar - misusing the words "aren't I?"

"Mum ,do you love me?"
"Of course I love you ,I'm your mum amn't I?"

Nobody in the UK would say , "Of course I love you ,I'm your mum ,am I not?" .


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Bupkes
Date: 04 Mar 10 - 03:08 PM

Since Don T. commented thoughtfully about my post on the line from "A Sailor's Prayer"

    "I will not lie me down, this rain a-ragin' ",

I'd like to explain how I see the rules for lie and lay, because using these verbs give everyone a lot of trouble, in general. They're highly irregular verbs, and it's additionally confusing that lie even has lay as a past tense.

The commonest confusion involves the meanings to lie, "to rest in a horizontal position" and to lay, "to place something down".

Lay is a transitive verb, so there must be a something to place or put down. "They lay the carpet in the room." (They lay what? They lay the carpet.) The past tense of lay is laid: "Yesterday they laid the carpet."

Lie is intransitive, and never has an object. "We lie in the sun." ("We lie what?" doesn't make sense here.) The past tense of lie is lay, confusingly: "Yesterday we lay in the sun."

So, "Now I lay me down to sleep" is standard usage, and "I will not lie me down" is not. Richard Lederer once said he used the warning mnemonic, "You only lay down when you have carnal relations with a duck!"

In the chorus line from the song "A Sailor's Prayer", I read into it that the sailor well knows the coarse meaning of "to lay", and he wants to present himself as seriously making a solemn vow, not as Barnacle Bill. That, to me, is what makes his mistaken grammar poignant.

[PS: I consulted and took examples from William F. Russell's book The Parents' Handbook of Grammar and Usage (1982, Stein and Day, New York).]


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: PoppaGator
Date: 04 Mar 10 - 04:42 PM

Uncle Dave O: I hate to split hairs in a discussion that has already become somewhat too pedantic for my taste, but I feel quite sure that the clause "I was sitting" is not an example of passive voice.

The difference between "I sat" and "I am sitting" is not the difference between active and passive. That would be true only if the "I" in question were being sat upon (the object of the action in question as opposed to the subject performing the action of sitting).

I think the distinction, explained as well as I can without resort to the technical grammatical terms that I no longer remember, is that "I sat" describes a single one-time happening that occured in the past, while "I was sitting" describes an ongoing condition in the past. An extremely fine distinction, perhaps moreso in regard to "seated-ness" than it might be in other contexts. In other words, "I sat" refers to the moment at which one assumed a sitting postion, while "I was sitting" communicates the idea that I ccntinued to sit for a period of time.

A better example of active vs passive voice: "I wrote the letter" (active) as opposred to "the letter was written by me" (passive). According to The Elements of Style, use of the passive is to be avoided whenever the same idea can be expressed equally well (and more concisely) in the active voice. In practice, over-use of the passive voice is characteristic of a writer/speaker trying to appear more erudite that he/she actually is, much like employing the phrase "you and I" as the object of a predicate or preposition, where the objective (and, to some, seemingly more informal) "you and me" is actually correct.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Suegorgeous
Date: 04 Mar 10 - 06:50 PM

Mayo

I have never ever heard of "amn't" before this thread. And I would bet that no other English person has either.

OK - has any other English person heard of this?

"Nobody in the UK would say , "Of course I love you ,I'm your mum ,am I not?" "

They certainly WOULD say that. But more often, they'd say "aren't I?". Even though, strictly speaking, it's not correct.

Sue


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Dave MacKenzie
Date: 04 Mar 10 - 06:59 PM

Having lived in England for 34 years, and listened to English radio for over 60, I'm surprised Sue has never heard "amn't" for am not.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Howard Jones
Date: 04 Mar 10 - 07:04 PM

Mayomick, I now understand what you are saying, although my first reaction was the same as that of Suegorgeous. However I believe you are mistaken in thinking the construction you quote is a contraction of "am not I". Do you have actual evidence for this? My reasons for disagreeing are:

Firstly, if this were the case it would be pronounced with a short a, the same as "am".

Secondly, I have never heard anyone pronounce it as "armpt" or seen it written as "amn't". Everyone I know, myself included, says "aren't" and that's how it's usually spelled. I think it's a bit tortuous to infer a silent "m" because you think it should come from "am"

I'm not even sure that "aren't I" is actually grammatically incorrect. The whole "aren't I?", "aren't you?", "isn't he?" construction is a rearrangement of the proper word order - you would say "am I not?", not "am not I?" - but is so universally used that I am more inclined to think of it as the correct construction when used in that particular context. This is only found in colloquial speech, and you wouldn't write it unless you were quoting or reporting speech. Colloquial speech frequently uses different grammatical constructions from written English - indeed, anyone who insists on speaking strictly grammatical English usually sounds a bit prissy.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Dave MacKenzie
Date: 04 Mar 10 - 07:27 PM

The a in am and amn't is the same, and the m is not silent.

I have occasionally heard aren't I, but only by dialect speakers.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: olddude
Date: 04 Mar 10 - 07:53 PM

i am guilty for sure


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Genie
Date: 04 Mar 10 - 08:22 PM

Country music routinely uses "lay" where "lie" would be grammatically correct. E.g.,
Don Williams's "Lay Down Beside Me"
or
"Would You Lay With Me (In A Field Of Stone)?"
or
John Denver's "Annie's Song" ("... Let me lay down beside you, Let me always be with you ... ")

One that uses "lay" correctly is the classic country love song (Conway Twitty, I think) "Lay You Down."


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Genie
Date: 04 Mar 10 - 08:35 PM

I thought that "amn't" was once correct and in common usage, maybe even in the US (or the colonies before we became the USA) and that it was generally pronounced like "ant" -- sort of the way we often say "gonna" or "wanta" instead of clearly articulating "going to" or "want to."    It's been ages since I gathered that etymological tidbit, and I can't cite a source or vouch for its accuracy.   But I can easily see how "amn't" - pronounced as "a'nt" could morph into "ain't" as quickly as, in some regions, "can't" may be pronounced as "cain't." There's also "hain't," which seems to derive from "haven't" or "hasn't" or "hadn't" being pronounced as "han't."

Back to the issue of this thread, though, I think a lot of folk, blues, and country music would lose much of its character and color if lyrics never used slang or dialect or even an occasional deliberate 'mangling' of the language. (And what's with all this adding syllables like "o" or "ay" to perfectly proper words - as in turning a fine proper young woman into a "lassie-o?" Shocking, I say! Shocking!)


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 04 Mar 10 - 09:29 PM

Poppagator, you are correct on the transitive/intransitive thing. I done goofed! Mea culpa! Mea culpa! Mea maxima culpa!

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Artful Codger
Date: 04 Mar 10 - 10:58 PM

It's worse when they turn a lassie into a Lassie. ;-}

My dictionary says "ain't" derives from "am not", was widespread in the 18th century, and is still perfectly normal in many dialects and informal contexts in both North America and Britain.

I only find grammar "errors" unacceptable when they violate the conventions for the dialect of the characters (including the "narrator") in the song.

If I recall rightly, mg asserted that rhyme is more important than grammar, but I disagree: a lapse in rhyme or a "poor" rhyme is quite common, and is seldom given much thought, whereas a grammar error (which does not accord with dialect usage) will cause the audience to wince, and that more than nullifies any benefit gained by reaching for the rhyme.

Moreover, if a songwriter is serious about his craft, he guards against becoming overly attached to what he writes. A stand-up comedian is expected to write at least five times (and closer to ten times) the material he will eventually use--any less, and it's rare that he won't bomb. He must resign himself that 80%, 90% or more will just have to be trashed--and that's before even facing an audience. Perhaps if songwriters wrote more like comedy writers, the label "singer-songwriter" wouldn't cause so many people to cringe.

I raise this point because if you're having to resort to awkward grammar, maybe you should toss the tack you're taking and find a new one.

A different standard also applies to adapting old works than to writing new ones. We expect a lower level of literacy and poetic quality in old lyrics. With new works, you emulate that at your own risk. Dialect is fine, but Diamondesque lyrics?--well, you'd better be a Neil Diamond.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Bupkes
Date: 04 Mar 10 - 11:08 PM

"Amn't" is new to me, and at first I thought it was someone parodying this discussion. But I see some convincing examples in a page of Wikipedia devoted to it. There it says, among other things,

'The Standard English form "I'm not" is available as an alternative to "I amn't" in Scottish English and Hiberno-English. There is no undisputed standard equivalent of "amn't I": "am I not", "aren't I", and "ain't I" may respectively be considered stilted, affected, and substandard.'


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 05 Mar 10 - 04:01 AM

Returning to the I/me issue: I suspect that the common use of "(X) and I" in the accusative (i.e., for those who eschew such grammatical terminology, contexts where the one pronoun alone would certainly be "me") arises mainly from overcorrection, when teachers have condemned "me" in the nominative (i.e. where it would be "I"), and children have then applied this even where "me" would be normal. This could easily be exacerbated when some of those children become teachers of the next generation.

However there has been a further stage of development: that speakers have become so afraid of getting it "wrong" that they have adopted "myself" instead. The more often this is heard, the more it comes to seem normal, and the more people adopt it. If anything, I think I hear "(X) and myself" or "myself and (X)" more often nowadays than either "(X) and me" or "(X) and I"; this despite no-one having the slightest trouble in knowing which word to use when it is "I" or "me" alone.

One usage where the prescriptive grammarians wanted "I", but "me" is more natural, is in phrases such as "It's me". No-one would suggest that "C'est moi" is bad French and ought to be "C'est je", and there is no more reason to object to "It's me" in English.

Apropos "larn" or "learn" instead of "teach": at one time both senses of "learn" were good English, and the equivalent words still have both senses in the other Germanic languages.

Richard


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Howard Jones
Date: 05 Mar 10 - 04:03 AM

The Wikipedia article, assuming it can be relied upon, clarifies the confusion and disagreement over "amn't". According to the article, it is a feature of some dialects of Scottish and Irish English. It is not, in my experience, a feature of English English. I say "aren't", and I am not a dialect speaker - I speak "middle-class standard Southern English", slightly tinged by 30 years living in the North. So far as I am aware, everyone I know also says "aren't". I am quite sure I have never heard "amn't" with the "m" pronounced, not even in Scotland (which I visit several times a year).

I have just picked up a novel at random to check how this usage is written down, and the author uses "aren't I?". This author is Val McDermid, who as it happens is Scottish, and the words are being spoken by a Scottish character, albeit an educated professional person rather than someone speaking vernacular Glaswegian.

I find the Wikipedia comment that "aren't" is "affected" rather surprising, since in my experience living in England it is the normal construction, at least in speech.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Dave MacKenzie
Date: 05 Mar 10 - 04:20 AM

I aren't convinced.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: melodeonboy
Date: 05 Mar 10 - 06:49 AM

And I certainly ain't!


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 05 Mar 10 - 09:05 AM

""Nobody in the UK would say , "Of course I love you ,I'm your mum ,am I not?" "

They certainly WOULD say that. But more often, they'd say "aren't I?". Even though, strictly speaking, it's not correct.
""

True Sue, or even ain't I?

Amn't is a term I have heard, but rarely, and only in a very few dialects.

But then I'm a Southerner, so everything I say is suspect, north of Birmingham.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Robo
Date: 05 Mar 10 - 11:53 AM

Please repeat after me: Poetic license . . . poetic license . . . poetic license.

And now, idiomatic expression . . . idiomatic expression . . . idiomatic expression.

And last, suspension of disbelief . . . suspension of disbelief . . . suspension of disbelief.

And let us not forget, as the old Texan said, "there ain't no money in poetry, and that's what sets the poet free."


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Artful Codger
Date: 05 Mar 10 - 01:04 PM

Strictly speaking, "aren't I?" and "It's me" now are correct, and occur more frequently in "standard", even formal, usage than the supposedly "grammatically correct" alternatives, which are consequently less so. They have become fixed idioms, and do not follow the rules applied to other contexts.

This points out that grammar rules are not entirely consistent across the board; "correct" usage depends on grammatical context. We say "You went" but "Did you go?" We say "Did you go?" but not "Did you be?" "Aren't I?" as the negative form of "Am I?" is just one of those things. If you claim it's not "grammatically correct", you don't know what correct grammar is.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Mavis Enderby
Date: 05 Mar 10 - 01:28 PM

"I believe in the power of you and I"

Are you sure this isn't a misheard lyric - perhaps the writer had got a particularly nice job in specialist fashion, textiles or clothing?

I believe in the power of U&I

For appalling grammar and forced rhyme you can't beat Ian Dury:

Einstein can't be classed as witless.
He claimed atoms were the littlest.
When you did a bit of splitting-em-ness
Frightened everybody shitless


A work of genius...

Pete.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: mayomick
Date: 05 Mar 10 - 01:29 PM

Don must come from a very rough part of Southern England indeed to speak so commonly and incorrectly . Likewise Suegorgeous .I was born and bred in the East End of London where we were taught to speak properly. In the east-end it was "amn't" - pronounced like "aren't" only with an "m" instead of an "n". The teachers were always trying to stop kids saying aremn't at the schools I went to -that was in the fifties and sixties .

I think this aremn't pronunciation might have started with posh English teachers trying to knock "amnt" out of kids of Irish parentage ,but confusing them into saying aremn't. When I was growing up you used to have people trying to sound a bit posh making all sorts of mistakes .Putting an "h" at the beginning of a word that should have started with a vowel was another one. Sometimes you'd get someone saying something like Hi harm't 'alf clever, harm't I ? I often wondered whether the word ham for a ham actor didn't come about that way . Professional actors mocking the hamateurs .Sorry for more thread creep.... mick


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 05 Mar 10 - 02:31 PM

Oh fuck. What a lot of shit. There are many many attempts above to lay down or enunciate rules of grammar that are just plain wrong.

One cannot expect perfect grammar in vernacular speech. Some solecisms, however, grate even in casual speech or writing.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 05 Mar 10 - 03:01 PM

""Don must come from a very rough part of Southern England indeed to speak so commonly and incorrectly .""

Notting Hill, Mick!

That's Ladbroke Grove, West London, on the edge of Steptoe and Son country.

From birth to age seventeen, and the nearest place I heard amn't in use was Oxborough, Norfolk, when I spent summer holidays with my Dad's sister Mary, and her Norfolk born and bred husband, Fred.

My father was a County Cork man, and my mother the daughter of a Cornish farmer, who immigrated from County Mayo, and I did hear amn't from him on occasion.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: semi-submersible
Date: 05 Mar 10 - 05:02 PM

Further to the question of "I sat there" versus "I was sitting there": both correct, not always interchangeable.
"I sat" may refer either to the action of seating yourself, or to the duration of your sitting: "I sat there all evening."

"I was sitting" refers only to the period after you seated yourself. Returning to my seat and finding it occupied by someone else, I would not assert my prior claim with "I sat there" but rather "I was sitting there," or "I sat there first." The simple past "I sat there" could imply my occupation of that seat was over and done: mere historic information.

You could with only a slight change of meaning substitute "was sitting" in the phrase "I sat there before anyone else could take that seat"; while "was sitting" would make a great difference to "I sat there immediately when Dad told me." The past progressive (?) tense "I was sitting," instead of telling about the action itself, describes a scene after action ends.

I'm not getting this out of a textbook: I'm describing how our language, as I see it in use, gets ideas across as faithfully as possible. Is it any more pedantic than discussing modes and harmonies? Pedantic is making arbitrary rules and telling others to follow them: prescribing, not describing.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: PoppaGator
Date: 05 Mar 10 - 06:12 PM

Semi-s., you are indeed correct. Uncle Dave, in your gracious acknowledgement, you suppied the terms that I couldn't remember yesterday: transitive/intransitive.

I've heard "amn't," probably more often in movies and on TV than in the flesh, since it isn't common usage where I live. In my experience, I've heard the "m" vocalized pretty clearly; learning that the "m" is often silent among native speakers of dialects featuring this contraction, it's even more clear to me that "amn't" has evolved into "ain't," i.e., that "ain't" is a direct "descendant" of "amn't."


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Artful Codger
Date: 05 Mar 10 - 11:41 PM

The verb "to sit" is perhaps a confusing example to use, since it can refer to two different actions: that of taking a seat (usually clarified with the addition of "down") and that of remaining seated. semi-submersible is concentrating on the second meaning (remaining seated), where the time at which "I" assumed the seat is immaterial to the sentence; the process of remaining seated was still in progress when the other action occurred. The concept of "in progress" is why the tense is called the past progressive.

As an example of the past progressive with the first meaning of "sit", consider: "I was just sitting to dinner when the intractable vermin slipped a whoopee cushion under my descending posterior." Of course, this tense has other uses, as a previous poster indicated; for instance, "He was just sitting, staring into the distance" (more emphasis on the duration of the action than with "he just sat").

The simple past ("sat") doesn't necessarily imply that the action has completed: "the mountain sat like a sepulchre upon the landscape" (and it's probably sitting there still, if the strip miners haven't gotten to it).

While the simple past and the past progressive can often be swapped, there's usually a shift of focus, however subtle--if not an overt change in meaning. The difference is usually significant enough that we make the right choice automatically, without conscious deliberation--it's only when we attempt to describe why we chose what we did that we get confused.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 07 Mar 10 - 07:29 PM

'Tis my Father, I amn't able to stand my Ground.
?Terence's Comedies Made English by Sir Roger L'Estrange (1733).

Amn't I a brother, and no brother ever loved a sister better....
?Comic Dramas in Three Acts by Maria Edgeworth (1817)

But it was not long till, as I was hearing them read the 19th lesson, I asked them, as you directed me, 'How must we be justified?'
'By my good works,' says Jem Flynn.
'By faith,' says Bob Jones, 'amn't I right?'
'By faith and works,' says Darby Morris, 'amn't I right?'
'By faith without works, amn't I right?' says Miles Johnson.
'O! you're all right,' says I, 'more or less....'
?from an article "Case of the Protestants of Ireland" in Fraser's Magazine January, 1837.

"Well, Vara, look at me. Amn't I a poor wasted crathur now, in comparishment to what I was thin?"
?Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry, Volume 2 by William Carleton (1833)

"Alley," said he, "are you not my wife, and amn't I your husband? ..."
?From "The Two Brothers: An Irish Tale" in Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, Volume 4 (1836)


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 07 Mar 10 - 07:50 PM

Common usage in my part of Scotland (Lothians) is a variation in the tenses of the verbs to go and to come: instead of "He has gone" they say "He has went" and instead of "He has come" it will be "He has came".


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 07 Mar 10 - 07:50 PM

My friend, I don't know whether you knowed it or not, but there was a child of Rip,? Meenie her name was.
?from "Rip Van Winkle" as played by Joseph Jefferson, in Representative American Plays by Arthur Hobson Quinn (1765)

As I knowed I dursted not look into your Honner's fase, if I had not found out my Lady, thoff she was gone off the prem's in a quarter of an hour, as a man may say; so I knowed you would be glad at heart to know I had found her out: and so I send thiss Petur Partrick, who is to have 5 shillins, it being now near twelve of the clock at nite; for he would not stur without a hearty drinck too besides: and I was willing all shulde be snug likeways at the logins before I sent.
?from Clarissa, or, The History of a Young Lady by Samuel Richardson (1768)


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Artful Codger
Date: 07 Mar 10 - 10:30 PM

So was Dylan trying to emulate 1700s speech, or is that just pointless information? ;-}


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 08 Mar 10 - 01:15 AM

No, I don't think Dylan was trying to emulate 18th century speech. It only illustrates that "knowed" was recognized by writers as dialect speech as early as the 18th century.

Furthermore, I think that neither Dylan nor the 18th-century writers used "knowed" only because they didn't know any better. They were consciously using it to depict characters who spoke that way habitually.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Genie
Date: 08 Mar 10 - 02:34 AM

Robo, some lyricists should have their poetic licences revoked!

I agree with you, Richard (and others) - slang and dialect are fine in song and perfect grammar is neither required nor the hallmark of great poetry/lyrics, but when bad grammar seems to reflect sheer laziness or lack of imagination on the part of the writer - and does not reflect any commonly accepted usage, even in slang or dialect, it can be grating.   Just as some word usage we may hear on the street can be grating.

Dylan's use of "knowed" in a song with a hook that starts with "Ain't" seems quite natural to me; it fits in fine with the language style of the song. Ogden Nash's deliberate neologisms and mangling of language are meant as humor and, as such, not offensive (though the puns may be groan-inducing). Diamond's use of "brang" in the otherwise grammatically perfect "Play Me" is something I find grating.
"Last Saturday night I got married; me and my wife settled down" does not bother me because of the song "Goodnight, Irene" is pretty much in dialect throughout. Even the county music tendency of using "lay" to mean "lie" doesn't bother me much, because that's become common usage.   And "It's me, it's me, O Lord, standin' in the need of prayer" seems natural to me. But "Open up your morning light, say a little prayer for I" (Paula Cole: "I Don't Want To Wait") is like chalk on a blackboard (especially since several of the parallel couplets in her lyrics do not rhyme).   I would suspend her poetic license for that flagrant foul! ; D


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Jason Xion Wang
Date: 22 May 10 - 11:40 AM

Hi Everybody...

I myself do not use English as the first language... I'm a Chinese.

I was quite puzzled when I first heard "Let me lay down beside you" (It was twelve years ago). I looked up the dictionary and found nothing about that usage...

Later on I became a John Devner fan, I started to realize that use "lay" to replace "lie" is only to make the lyrics sound better, and has nothing to do with the grammar.

Actually, I think that Denver used "lie" and "lay" right on most occasions, such as:

"There are lovers who lie unafraid in the dark..." (Shanghai Breezes)

"Lie there by the fire and watch the evening tire..." (Poems, Prayers and Promises)

"Then to lay me down and love lady's chains..." (I'd Rather Be a Cowboy)


Lines like this one use lay" because it's used in past tense IMO:

"I lay in my bed and I wondered after all has been said and is done for..." (On the Wings of a Dream)

As to "knowed" used by Bob Dylan, I think it's only a poetic usage to make a rhyme. Dylan is a great poet.

Anyway, this is just my own opinion, an opinion from a foreigner!

Take care...

Jason


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: PHJim
Date: 22 May 10 - 04:40 PM

Now do I be a fair young country boy
Me father came from Fareham.
He had another six just like I;
By Christ, how he could rare 'em.
Now, do me mum make dumplings nice
I bet you'd like to try 'em.
I've yet to find me a better one,
A country boy like I am.

For I can drive a plow and milk a cow;
I can reap and mow.
I'm as fresh as a daisy that grows in the field,
And they calls I "Buttercup Joe."

I have no complaints with Buttercup Joe, but I still hate the line from the Olympic song.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Tootler
Date: 23 May 10 - 05:07 PM

It ain't no use in turnin' on your light, babe
A light I never knew
An' it ain't no use in turnin' on your light, babe
I'm on the dark side of the avenue!!


Yuk!


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 23 May 10 - 05:39 PM

If Dylan had been worried about this kind of thing, he could of course have written:

"It ain't no use in turnin' on your light, babe
A light I never saw
An' it ain't no use in turnin' on your light, babe
I'm on the wrong side of your door"


But he wasn't, and quite right.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Marje
Date: 24 May 10 - 04:41 AM

Just stumpled on to this thread, and just for the record: I grew up in a Scottish family in Northern Ireland,where "amn't" was common among both Scottish and Irish speakers, particuarly in the interrogative "amn't I?". In other contexts you could substitute "I'm not" for "I amn't", but when you turn it round for the interrogative, it was always "amn't I?"

When I came over to England as a student, my friends mocked me for saying "amn't I", and insisted that I should say "aren't I". I protested that no one would say "I are" or "I aren't", or "are I?", and that "aren't I?" was illogical and ungrammatical. I have tried to stick to my guns, but I still don't often hear "amn't" in England.

It's not something I would defend to the death - the verb "to be" and all its parts are probably more subject to dialectical variants than any other words. I just feel irritated, even now, that others should have tried to "correct" my usage, which was logically and gramatically flawless even if they didn't like the sound of it.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: GUEST,Amn't I?
Date: 24 May 10 - 05:11 AM

No amn't I! "The sky is on fire, I'm dying, ain't I, I'm going to Carolina in my mind!"


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: GUEST,MC Fat (at work)
Date: 24 May 10 - 07:31 AM

Being frae West Central Scotland I too find myself saying 'Amn't I' on occassions.


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Marje
Date: 24 May 10 - 08:32 AM

Well if you're going to Carolina in your mind, chances are that you're American, ain't you? But I'm British, amn't I?

Marje


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Jason Xion Wang
Date: 24 May 10 - 08:42 AM

What a clever answer, Marje... Looking up for that usage on internet dictionaries...


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: GUEST,Callie
Date: 24 May 10 - 08:53 AM

according to my ears (and the album liner), it's this:

But in this ever changing world in which we live, it
makes you give in and cry


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Subject: RE: Poor grammar in lyrics
From: Gallus Moll
Date: 24 May 10 - 09:01 AM

West of Scotland:

I am so = I am    = am
                  
I am not = I am not = am not = amn't OR amny/umny which then becomes

umurny OR no amurny

In school children of all backgrounds always ask ' has the bell went' and the teachers reply 'yes it has gone' or 'yes it has rung'

- I was appalled to see an earlier post suggesting that 'saw' should rhyme with 'door' - the addition of an 'r' to words like law, saw etc. really grates on Scottish ears!


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