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Grammar for Songwriters

Joe Offer 17 May 15 - 10:29 PM
Bert 17 May 15 - 11:40 PM
GUEST,# 17 May 15 - 11:56 PM
Seamus Kennedy 18 May 15 - 12:02 AM
GUEST,# 18 May 15 - 12:56 AM
GUEST 18 May 15 - 12:57 AM
Jim Dixon 18 May 15 - 01:02 AM
meself 18 May 15 - 01:02 AM
meself 18 May 15 - 01:11 AM
GUEST,# 18 May 15 - 01:16 AM
Joe Offer 18 May 15 - 01:44 AM
The Sandman 18 May 15 - 03:11 AM
GUEST,mg 18 May 15 - 03:25 AM
GUEST,Grishka 18 May 15 - 03:31 AM
GUEST 18 May 15 - 03:38 AM
Mr Red 18 May 15 - 03:46 AM
Joe Offer 18 May 15 - 03:53 AM
GUEST,M 18 May 15 - 04:22 AM
The Sandman 18 May 15 - 04:28 AM
Black belt caterpillar wrestler 18 May 15 - 04:30 AM
Steve Gardham 18 May 15 - 04:31 AM
Rusty Dobro 18 May 15 - 04:48 AM
Steve Shaw 18 May 15 - 04:50 AM
Jack Campin 18 May 15 - 05:11 AM
Newport Boy 18 May 15 - 05:45 AM
doc.tom 18 May 15 - 06:19 AM
GUEST, DTM 18 May 15 - 06:58 AM
GUEST 18 May 15 - 07:30 AM
Richard Bridge 18 May 15 - 07:37 AM
GUEST,DTM 18 May 15 - 07:43 AM
GUEST,M 18 May 15 - 08:27 AM
Nigel Parsons 18 May 15 - 10:16 AM
GUEST 18 May 15 - 10:32 AM
GUEST,DaveRo 18 May 15 - 10:59 AM
GUEST 18 May 15 - 11:31 AM
GUEST,leeneia 18 May 15 - 11:51 AM
thnidu 18 May 15 - 11:52 AM
doc.tom 18 May 15 - 12:14 PM
GUEST,DaveRo 18 May 15 - 12:23 PM
GUEST,Richard Bridge on the network 18 May 15 - 12:30 PM
GUEST,Pete from seven stars link 18 May 15 - 12:36 PM
GUEST,Grishka 18 May 15 - 12:44 PM
Uncle_DaveO 18 May 15 - 12:51 PM
Bert 18 May 15 - 12:57 PM
GUEST,DTM 18 May 15 - 01:01 PM
Ebbie 18 May 15 - 01:29 PM
Marje 18 May 15 - 01:42 PM
GUEST,henryp 18 May 15 - 02:20 PM
GUEST,# 18 May 15 - 03:17 PM
Steve Gardham 18 May 15 - 03:37 PM
wysiwyg 18 May 15 - 05:59 PM
Airymouse 18 May 15 - 06:03 PM
meself 18 May 15 - 08:33 PM
GUEST,bbc 18 May 15 - 11:04 PM
Steve Shaw 19 May 15 - 03:10 AM
Mr Red 19 May 15 - 03:49 AM
Leadfingers 19 May 15 - 04:17 AM
Steve Gardham 19 May 15 - 04:38 AM
Hamish 19 May 15 - 05:56 AM
Joe Offer 19 May 15 - 05:58 AM
Joe Offer 19 May 15 - 06:12 AM
GUEST,leeneia 19 May 15 - 09:49 AM
GUEST,Grishka 19 May 15 - 10:42 AM
GUEST,M 19 May 15 - 11:05 AM
GUEST,Uncle_DaveO 19 May 15 - 11:48 AM
Mr Red 19 May 15 - 01:00 PM
Joe Offer 19 May 15 - 02:32 PM
GUEST,Tootler 19 May 15 - 04:51 PM
Airymouse 19 May 15 - 05:18 PM
melodeonboy 19 May 15 - 07:32 PM
GUEST,leeneia 20 May 15 - 09:55 AM
Achy Pete 20 May 15 - 10:43 AM
GUEST,mg 20 May 15 - 02:58 PM
The Sandman 20 May 15 - 04:29 PM
GUEST,Aussie Guest 20 May 15 - 09:22 PM
GUEST,# 20 May 15 - 09:45 PM
GUEST 21 May 15 - 08:15 AM
GUEST,henryp 21 May 15 - 08:43 AM
GUEST 21 May 15 - 12:20 PM
Tattie Bogle 22 May 15 - 04:23 AM
Steve Gardham 22 May 15 - 08:03 AM
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Subject: Grammar for Songwriters
From: Joe Offer
Date: 17 May 15 - 10:29 PM

I'm in the process of editing the upcoming Rise Again Songbook. I'm the one who researched every one of the 1200 songs in the book. Some of the songs are traditional, but most of them are from known authors, including a good number of songs from people known as "Singer-Songwriters."

For the most part, we've collected our lyrics by listening to recordings of the songs we're using. I've wondered why we haven't requested songwriters to send us lyrics when we pay them to license a song, and I've learned the answer to that question. Many songwriters, especially singer-songwriters, have absolutely horrible grammar and spelling. If they send us lyrics and chords, we're more-or-less obliged to publish the lyrics and chords they send us. And some are abominable.

The one phrase songwriters use a lot (not "alot") that really grinds on me is "between you and I" or "for you and I." Songwriters use it because "I" is sometimes easier to rhyme than "me." But it sure irks the hell out of me.

So, the song I encountered that I couldn't change was a lullaby written by Tom Petty, a very pretty song that I like a lot (not alot). It's called Alright for Now. There are a number of other songs in Rise Again where I've changed "alright" to "all right," but I couldn't do it in this case because "Alright" is in the registered title of the song. But it hurt to let it go by. The reference works I've consulted seem to be saying that "alright" is becoming acceptable - but I'm the son of an English teacher, and it's not "alright" with me.

Still, despite having to make some compromises, I'm doing my best to ensure (not insure) that the songs printed in the book are relatively grammatically correct.

So I'm wondering, what usages in songs bother the rest of you, and what recommendations do you have to make about the use of correct grammar in songs? Here's your chance to give songwriters some guidance, so their lyrics aren't quite so grating....

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: Bert
Date: 17 May 15 - 11:40 PM

I use reasonable grammar in speech, but often resort to colloquialisms and common usage in my songs.

Songs should be about people as they are, warts an' all.


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: GUEST,#
Date: 17 May 15 - 11:56 PM

Bad grammar can be used to good effect. The Stones proved that when they couldn't get no satisfaction. But just between you and I, Joe, good luck. LOL

Attach to wall and follow directions.


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 18 May 15 - 12:02 AM

Years ago John Hartford sang a funny, grammar-corrected version of Hound Dog.
"You are nothing but a hound dog, crying all the time (2),
Well, you've never caught a rabbit and you are no friend of mine."


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: GUEST,#
Date: 18 May 15 - 12:56 AM

"Far too many stars have fell on me" from 'Stars' by Dan Fogelberg

"Lay Lady Lay"   Bob Dylan

"Lay Down Sally"   Eric Clapton

"I Feel Good"   James Brown


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: GUEST
Date: 18 May 15 - 12:57 AM

Poetic license, Joe. It was good enough for Shakespeare: "And since in paying it, it is impossible I should live, all debts are clear between you and I." Antonio to Bassanio, in The Merchant of Venice.

Here's a page full of Shakespearean grammatical clangers:
http://www.habitableworlds.com/pages/shakespeare.html

"I cannot go no further." Celia, in As You Like It.

The most unkindest cut of all.

To who, my lord?


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 18 May 15 - 01:02 AM

Regarding that Tom Petty song: I don't see anything wrong with using the spelling "alright" in the title but switching to "all right" in the lyrics. I've done that kind of thing a few times when I transcribe songs to post them in Mudcat.

Whenever you have the choice between two spellings that sound the same, I'd say go with the spelling that your mother would have approved of—or "of which your mother would have approved."


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: meself
Date: 18 May 15 - 01:02 AM

"Here's your chance to give songwriters some guidance, so their lyrics aren't quite so grating...."

Sorry, Joe; there are only two people in the world who find those lyrics grating: you and me. I. Me. Yeah, me. No, I. Okay - us. The two of us .... Anyway - songwriters don't want no guidance.


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: meself
Date: 18 May 15 - 01:11 AM

Having said that ... I never can lower myself to sing the second line of this chorus as given:

         Am                            G7
She said never have I known it when it felt so good
F                           C
Never have I knew it when I knew I could
Am                           G7
Never have I done it when it looked so right
F
Leaving Louisiana in the broad daylight


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: GUEST,#
Date: 18 May 15 - 01:16 AM

Joe, you must have really enjoyed GWB's speeches.

Have a good evening and I'm real glad you got that off your frontal upper torso. Or like maybe it was your upper frontal torso? But then again, it could have been your upper torso frontal or your frontal torso upper.

Was it his frontal upper torso or upper frontal torso; upper torso frontal or frontal torso upper?

Regardless, say that ten times fast and your cares will vanish without a trace in a trice.


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: Joe Offer
Date: 18 May 15 - 01:44 AM

Well, I can see that many of you are not as impassioned about grammmer grammar as I am. But I sure got a good laugh out of this thread so far.

Cheers!

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: The Sandman
Date: 18 May 15 - 03:11 AM

I am not sure that Americans have   anything constructive to say about the English language, they spend so much time murdering it with abominable spelling, bad grammar, and undecipherable accents,why cant they speak English like the Queen.
J Offer, you are a cad and a bounder sir.


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 18 May 15 - 03:25 AM

i think absolutely you should not touch the grammar. why would it even be considered? it is part of the intact song..it is what came out of the person's brain, culture, level of education, limits of the song structure. people can change the grammar when they sing it although i would rather they did not. it is like saying mona lisa would really look better in a pink dress.


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 18 May 15 - 03:31 AM

Since I have been called a pedant by you before, Joe, I am not going to play the teacher here. All the more since English is not my native language, and in fact there is no language of which I am sufficiently fluent to pose as a professional lyricist.

But I feel entitled to some general remarks about aesthetics. First of all, lyrics intended to be colloquial must by all means stick to their style; "Hound Dog" mentioned above is a good example. (As discussed in many other Mudcat threads, singers who come from a different background may not always want to imitate the original diction.)

I do not know whether "between you and I" is a true colloquialism. It may well be "hypercorrect" usage by people who have been told that "you and me" is usually incorrect grammar. Writers would not like to be caught with such a blunder.

Secondly, nonstandard language deserves licence according to its creative value and formal brilliance. This notably includes "crazy" rhymes in the most funny American tradition - "under the hide of me". Unfortunately, many popular lyricists fall short of that category by far, and would so even if their grammar and spelling were flawless.

Nonstandard spellings that reflect a particular pronunciation or emphasis are absolutely all right, even in literature. "His spelling was not all right, but that's alright with me."

Even the best writers and other artists are not always perfect. Not even me.


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: GUEST
Date: 18 May 15 - 03:38 AM

I agree with you, Joe, but any discussion of grammar in songs inevitably reminds me of 'Elderly Man River."


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: Mr Red
Date: 18 May 15 - 03:46 AM

re-spelling, and re-grammaticizing is what listeners do to the song anyway. Their experience is personal. The problem with bowdlerising, is that it ain't wot the author had in his mind at the time. Now the listening experience is second hand.

I remember sending Knittershanty to a knitting magazine who requested the lyrics. Being a humorous (sic) song it is spelled phonetically to emphasize the jokes, of which there might be 4 on one line, given the meaning/juxtapostion of the words. The magazine re-spelled things as they thought correctly. Jokes were lost in the process.
OK, OK, the listener may only get half the jokes, but then it is still funny when heard again and new jokes reveal themselves. That was the intention and I have been told by listeners. My collaborator, even, didn't see the 4th meaning in the line I was proudest of. And he suggested some of the jokes.

eg "I mus leave for Cardigan" has two meanings as written and sung.
"I must leave for Cardigan" is a longer stretch for the double meaning (the basis for all jokes).

And I found long ago, clever is rewarding to you, banana skin is rewarding to the listener. en masse.


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: Joe Offer
Date: 18 May 15 - 03:53 AM

Now, there's bad grammar....and then there's bad grammar. I certainly wouldn't think of changing Oscar Hammerstein's "Ol' Man River"....even though Paul Robeson changed it every damn time he recorded it. Robeson never could find the proper balance between authenticity and Political Correctness.

But there are times when breaking the rules of grammar is the right thing to do, and other times when it's just stupid.

If a songwriter were to use the phrase, "for all intensive purposes," I think I'd be right to change it when I put it in print. Same with "alright" and "noone."

And although Dick Miles may disagree with me, I don't think it's right for an American songwriter to use British spelling. To my mind, it's authentic for a Brit to write like a Brit, but pretentious for an American to write that way.

A cad and a bounder? Come now, Dick! [tee-hee]

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: GUEST,M
Date: 18 May 15 - 04:22 AM

"songwriters don't want no guidance"

Surely that should be "ain't no songwriter don't want no guidance"...


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: The Sandman
Date: 18 May 15 - 04:28 AM

"And although Dick Miles may disagree with me, I don't think it's right for an American songwriter to use British spelling. To my mind, it's authentic for a Brit to write like a Brit, but pretentious for an American to write that way."
MacColl might have something to say on that one, lets turn the lights off and hold hands and have a seance.


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: Black belt caterpillar wrestler
Date: 18 May 15 - 04:30 AM

I think that it all comes down to what you feel comfortable with.
I don't feel happy singing lowland Scottish words in an English accent.
Some people don't like singing songs written from the point of view of the other gender.
I don't like some factual inaccuracies and correct them, such as changing "The Black Seam" line to "300 million years have packed it down".
It's all the folk process at work as far as I can see.
If your audience doesn't like it you will find out!


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 18 May 15 - 04:31 AM

Joe, from an English teacher of some 40 years or so, have you never heard of poetic licence? Correct grammar in artistic items is not required or sought by anyone other than the pedantic. If it communicates the desired meaning to whoever will be listening then no harm done!

Next week sees the publication of The Wanton Seed (at last). Whilst the grammar used in the introduction and notes should be perfect, the book was passed back and forth between various editors over the last 3 years and when it came back to us to proof read someone had taken out almost all but the very basic minimum requirement of the punctuation from the song texts. It would have taken far too long and meant further delays to replace it all, and then I decided I quite liked it like that. Very uncluttered, and no meaning is obscured by having it like this. So when you get your brand new copy please be kind about the lack of punctuation. I like it.


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: Rusty Dobro
Date: 18 May 15 - 04:48 AM

Between you and I, I've never come to terms with 'One Less Set Of Footsteps'.


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 18 May 15 - 04:50 AM

I'm rather fond of American English in general. It's often more logical in its spellings than the British version. Also, some "American" spellings predate the British ones. As for "alright", we pedants lost that one a long time ago. Once a word is used more in its alleged degraded version than the original, the game's up. It still isn't all right with me, though.


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: Jack Campin
Date: 18 May 15 - 05:11 AM

omeone had taken out almost all but the very basic minimum requirement of the punctuation from the song texts. [...] Very uncluttered, and no meaning is obscured by having it like this.

James Reeves's edition of the poems of John Clare goes back to the way Clare punctuated them, which was almost not at all. It makes a huge difference; compared with older editions, it's like looking at an Old Master painting with the browned varnish off.


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: Newport Boy
Date: 18 May 15 - 05:45 AM

Very uncluttered, and no meaning is obscured by having it like this.

Many years ago I was told by a lawyer that when writing specifications I should use no punctuation other than full stops. The discipline this imposes would ensure that my meaning would be absolutely clear.

It's a practice that I don't follow in other fields, as my normal postings show.

Phil


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: doc.tom
Date: 18 May 15 - 06:19 AM

I'm with Joe on this one! BB (Mrs.doc.tom) and me (!) both agree. Artistic license is, of course, allowable - but that doesn't mean it's (not 'its' on this occasion)right. Aberrant apostrophes are easier to correct than misuse of the personal pronoun when transcribing text. And as for the American/English question, always remember that rolling fag is the difference between.....


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: GUEST, DTM
Date: 18 May 15 - 06:58 AM

FWIW, I'm never not gonna change no lyrics of mine just to suit no pendantic crytic - no never.

That said, I a do have a fascination for double negatives. :-)


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: GUEST
Date: 18 May 15 - 07:30 AM

What about punctuation? Why are song lyrics nearly always written without the punctuation that the same words would have if they weren't part of a song?
Everyone seems to think, there should be
Either a comma or no punctuation, at the end
Of each line regardless of where, that point
Falls in the sentence, and a capital letter
At the beginning of each line even if, it's a
Continuation of a sentence in the previous line
And a comma any time, a note held is longer


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 18 May 15 - 07:37 AM

I agree with you Joe.

"We don't need no education" is wrong on SO many levels.


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: GUEST,DTM
Date: 18 May 15 - 07:43 AM

Re. Guest post above.
I never use punctuation in my lyrics (except possessive apostrophes). Mainly to keep the sheet uncluttered and easy to read. I always use Arial Narrow font and the same font height (although the height as gone from 12 to 14 to 16 to suit my deteriorating eyesight through the years).


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: GUEST,M
Date: 18 May 15 - 08:27 AM

Hey Richard leave that lyric alone!


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 18 May 15 - 10:16 AM

It may be fading memory, but I'm sure I was always taught to spell it 'alright', not 'allright'. 'All right' was a completely different concept, although the former appears to be a contraction of the latter.
When I say/write "all right" I intend it to mean "100% correct".
When I say/write 'alright' I intend it to mean "acceptable"

When spoken, I tend to pronounce the 'l' in all right, but alright comes out as 'or-rite'.

But maybe all of this is just me.


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: GUEST
Date: 18 May 15 - 10:32 AM

You and I - this was the topic on Saturday for the weekly column of OLiver Kamm, The Pedant, in The Times.

He considers that 'you and I' is a coordinate phrase and argues that the choice between 'between you and me' and 'between you and I' is one of style and register alone.

"Henry Sweet, a great philologist of the early 20th century, concluded that 'you and I' is so common a phrase that English speakers treat it as having an invariant last element. Noam Chomsky, the famed American linguist, argues in 'Barriers' (1986) that the compound phrase is a barrier to assigning grammatical case."

Unfortunately, The Times' archive is only available by subscription.


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: GUEST,DaveRo
Date: 18 May 15 - 10:59 AM

...considers that 'you and I' is a coordinate phrase...
The same point is made in this_piece.


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: GUEST
Date: 18 May 15 - 11:31 AM

I'd disagree...

When I see "You and I", I ask myself if it would be grammatical without "you and".

For example - "that bus seems to be heading for you and I" vs "that bus seems to be heading for you and me". I'd suggest that the second case reads fine without "you and", but the first doesn't.


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 18 May 15 - 11:51 AM

In the OP, Joe asked what grammatical errors get on our nerves. For me, it's this, from "I Wonder as I Wander":

...how Jesus, our savior, was born for to die
for poor ornery people like you and like I....

To tell you the truth, it's just one of several things I dislike about this pretentious, waffling, would-be-weltschmerzlich song.

I find it helps to change it a little:

for poor ornery people like you - (two notes for 'you') and I....

This way, 'like' is separated from 'I' a little bit and the error isn't so glaring.   
==============
Please note that ornery should probably be pronounced on'ry. At least, that's how a lot fo country people say it. It's more singable that way, too.


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: thnidu
Date: 18 May 15 - 11:52 AM

Hey, Nigel Parsons, are you sure you're not confusing "al(l )right" with "already" vs. "all ready"?

Awright awready, I'll shut up fer now.


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: doc.tom
Date: 18 May 15 - 12:14 PM

There is a very simple test for whether to use 'you and me' as opposed to 'you and I' - leave the 'you and'out of the sentence and see what happens.


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: GUEST,DaveRo
Date: 18 May 15 - 12:23 PM

GUEST wrote: I'd disagree...
Everything you said is true. And I wouldn't use 'you and I' as an object either. Apart from the grammar, it just sounds wrong - to me.

But the point he's making in that piece is that 'you and I' has become a invariant phrase, a unit, not divisible two pronouns and a conjunction.

Not proposing, just explaining.


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: GUEST,Richard Bridge on the network
Date: 18 May 15 - 12:30 PM

You cant educate pork


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: GUEST,Pete from seven stars link
Date: 18 May 15 - 12:36 PM

One thing I have,nt noticed mentioned yet, is whether certain "wrong" words or phrases are used, are for the flow of the song tune, or for some other effect. My grammar is far from perfect but when I confined myself to poetry, I tried to be correct. Now that I write songs I go with whatever seems to flow best. As long as I am reasonably sure that I am communicating what I want to convey, I could care less about the grammar. Sorry joe !.


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 18 May 15 - 12:44 PM

Poetry cannot be correct or incorrect, it can just be good or bad, by various criteria. Critics who insist on some formal correctness are called pedants.

"We don't need no education" is perfect poetry, because it says exactly what it is meant to say. "Jesus, our savior, was born for to die for poor ornery people like you and like I" is horrible, no matter whether or not "like I" is a valid colloquialism in the targeted community: while Jesus descended, the author condescended - "ornery" people are not likely to feel respected.


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 18 May 15 - 12:51 PM

GUEST,# evidently disapproved of the song
title,
   "I Feel Good"   James Brown

Those three title words, #, may possibly mean a few
different things, i.e.
   I feel virtuous,
         or
   My sensory or emotional state is pleasant.

       But if the speaker says "I feel well", then
       that will probably mean
   I feel healthy
       or
   I don't feel ill.
         or
   I have an effective sense of touch   
         or
   I make effective use of my sense of touch.


I don't know the particular James Brown song, but I assume
that the title means the speaker is pleased with himself
or his situation. "Well" is not really called for. So
"I Feel Good" is just fine.

   Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: Bert
Date: 18 May 15 - 12:57 PM

Another way to suss out the me or I problem is to combine them and see whether they change to we or us. we goes with I, us goes with me.

Another song that grated when I first heard it was Sing It Pretty Sue, But having lived in The States for so long even I have used an adjective as an adverb; if only in song.

Pronunciation is also a problem with some songs, the rhymes in Oom Pah, Pah sound wrong to Americans but work perfectly well in Lionel Bart's East End of London accent.


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: GUEST,DTM
Date: 18 May 15 - 01:01 PM

James Brown also says he "feels nice" in the second verse, (if you're interested, Mr O).


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: Ebbie
Date: 18 May 15 - 01:29 PM

I don't envy you your job, Joe O, but it would be interesting, for sure.

I know a writer who wrote- and sings - about the "tempetuous" sea. There ain't no such critter; I think he conflated 'impetuous' and 'tempest'.

How would you sing it? I say 'tempestuous'.

One that I do sing in its original for its shock value is the line in 'Don't Neglect the Rose'. The line is "Its beauty now is fastly fading. :)


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: Marje
Date: 18 May 15 - 01:42 PM

"Sing It Pretty Sue " is a good example of why commas do matter. It could be either, "Sing it, pretty Sue!" or "Sing it pretty, Sue". Fortunately, however, punctuation rarely matters in song lyrics, as the music (usually) dictates the phrasing that gives meaning.


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: GUEST,henryp
Date: 18 May 15 - 02:20 PM

There are lots of people here with an interest in grammar, but there aren't many grammarians. The internet gives us all a great opportunity to show off our ignorance!

I guess that most of us are not qualified to write - or even speak - in English, although we still manage to get by.

Songwriters are usually governed by rhythm and rhyme. The desire to satisfy these two difficult masters/mistresses often leads to artifice.

David Crystal, a real grammarian, writing on Paul McCartney's Live and Let Die; In the case of the song, the rhythm of the piece asks for unstressed syllables at both ends - imagine how it would sound if the line ended on live, with an elongated vowel - and that is what we get. Wronger and cuter it certainly is. When music calls, grammar bends.


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: GUEST,#
Date: 18 May 15 - 03:17 PM

When nitrogen bubbles call, diver's bends.


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 18 May 15 - 03:37 PM

Songs are there to be sung not read!


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: wysiwyg
Date: 18 May 15 - 05:59 PM

Joe, you might have missed the author's clever use of language if they wrote 'for all intensive purposes. '

An editor is not a prufereeder, and I've been both. Neither are English teachers. How it works is that a proofreader must faithfully hold a typesetter to the copy as submitted. And an editor's first responsibility is to find and support the voice unique to the author.

In neither case is there room to exercise personal taste. So I'm with mg, and my experience supports her nicely put point.

Now-- we singers just want the damn book. Don't be the bottleneck! When I tell friends you're holding it up they'll have my hide!

After all as pointed out above we'll just Folk Process each song as we like anyhow. You can always add a hidden note in the text to cover any cringe-causing 'mistakes.'

~S~


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: Airymouse
Date: 18 May 15 - 06:03 PM

For poor on'ry people like you and like I...
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.
As you might surmise, I don't like this rhyme. I'm not fussing about "on'ry" though: I don't even know what it means. I'm guessing it is a metathetic transformation of "ornery," with a syllable left out (Hyphaeresis). But why would someone, presumably a devout Christian, call me ornery, when he doesn't even know me?


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: meself
Date: 18 May 15 - 08:33 PM

Our camping trip was intense.

(Hope that helps).


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: GUEST,bbc
Date: 18 May 15 - 11:04 PM

I empathize, Joe. I was an English major. I cringe each time I see sloppy grammar in written form or hear it on TV or radio. As time passes, people lose track of what's correct, when "the authorities" communicate incorrectly.

Barbara


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 19 May 15 - 03:10 AM

Hmm. You could review your comma after "correct" there...


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: Mr Red
Date: 19 May 15 - 03:49 AM

What about punctuation?

IMNSHO (and I have posted such many times):

The rhyming schema is punctuation enough, in many cases.*
Setting in lines/stanzas is punctuation.

We may not call it that, but in spoken/sung mode IT IS. Add music and there we have the full set of punctuation, in all its glory. Surely the notation is written punctuation also.

* hmmm.... en-jammed lyrics pose a question, that I shrink from answering here.

You cant educate pork is congruent with "casting pearls before swine"?


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: Leadfingers
Date: 19 May 15 - 04:17 AM

I am NOT a Songwriter , mainly because I cant sort out where to apply for one of those Poetic Licences !!


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 19 May 15 - 04:38 AM

Leadfingers,
By the powers invested in me I hereby invest you with Poetic Licence. There you go!

Mr Red,
I completely agree.
But enjamming (enjambment) very rarely occurs in folk song, well, trad folk song anyway. Where it occurs in the original song it soon gets weeded out by the folk process. Unless of course that is the whole point of the song. One of the marvel songs/rhymes uses this device, 'I saw a ......' something about a comet and a peacock's tail.
I know it's also an exercise in punctuation.


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: Hamish
Date: 19 May 15 - 05:56 AM

Yup, Bert, adjectives used as adverbs because they rhyme irritates me.


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Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
From: Joe Offer
Date: 19 May 15 - 05:58 AM

I'm all for poetic license/licence, but there's a BIG difference between poetic license and stupidity. Within the context of the context of the Pink Floyd song, "We don't need no education" is absolutely perfect. After all, the singer is quoting unlettered kids who don't think they need to be educated.

But as has been said above, the John Jacob Niles lyrics for "I Wonder as I Wander" are wrong on so many levels - most obviously, pretentiousness. I have a strong suspicion that Niles may be a perfect example of pretentious stupidity. His singing strikes me that way, too.

And although he has had moments of brilliance, Neil Diamond may be right up on the top of his list for bombastic pretentious stupidity. As for Tom Petty - I really like the guy and his recordings, but I sometimes wish his lyrics were more literate.

Poetic license is fine, but it takes an intelligent songwriter to use poetic license well. Poetic license is not an adequate excuse for stupid lyrics.

"It Ain't Necessarily So" is a perfect example of proper use of poetic license. Nobody would ever accuse those lyrics of being stupid, but they sure don't follow the rules of grammer or spelling.

Two other things that bug me:
  • Excessive use of in' instead of ing at the end of words (wonderfully parodied in the film, A Mighty Wind) - but this practice is appropriate in moderation

  • Excessive use of me instead of my in print, even though it may be pronounced "me" throughout.


  • If you have a poetic license, use it judiciously. Same as you'd do with a driver's license, and as James Bond was supposed to do with his "licence to kill."

    -Joe-

    And Susan, for all intents and purposes, "for all intensive purposes" is always wrong....


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    Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
    From: Joe Offer
    Date: 19 May 15 - 06:12 AM

    More on use of British spelling - in the songbook, I used this principle: if the songwriter is American, use American spelling. In most other circumstances, use British spelling.

    I tend to use capitalization sparingly, but songbook editor Peter Blood tends to capitalize a lot more. When in doubt, follow the editor.

    As I've said, the excessive use of in' bugs me, so I tried to limit its use without eliminating the practice completely. Sometimes, it makes sense to use in' in printed lyrics, but usually not when it appears several times in a single verse. A singer might legitimately pronounce it in', but that doesn't mean it has to appear that way in the printed lyrics. Same with me used in place of my.

    -Joe-


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    Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
    From: GUEST,leeneia
    Date: 19 May 15 - 09:49 AM

    People like you and me can write all the waffle we want about how "We don't need no education" is all right, but the fact is, a person who talks that way will never get a job that entails answering the phone.

    And when you aren't even allowed to answer the phone, what kind of job can you get? Office cleaner? Ditch digger? Kitchen help?

    We are doing the kids a disservice.

    (There still are ditch diggers. We just hired some for a remodeling job on a retaining wall.)


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    Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
    From: GUEST,Grishka
    Date: 19 May 15 - 10:42 AM

    Leeneia, you may have a point: In Wikipedia, we read:
    There was some controversy when the British press reported that the children had not been paid for their efforts; they were eventually given copies of the album, and the school received a £1,000 donation (£4,000 in contemporary value)
    Had they sung "We are enthusiastic about education, proper grammar and pronunciation, so that we may become entitled to a job as a London gentleman's manservant", they may have earned a little dole.


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    Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
    From: GUEST,M
    Date: 19 May 15 - 11:05 AM

    I think it's interesting that "We don't need no education" was written by the son of two school teachers who met his bandmates at college...


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    Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
    From: GUEST,Uncle_DaveO
    Date: 19 May 15 - 11:48 AM

    Airymouse commented:

    For poor on'ry people like you and like I...
    I wonder as I wander out under the sky.


    As you might surmise, I don't like this rhyme.

    That verse can be "fixed", with a little imagination:
    Here is the song, as I've slightly rewritten it, calling
    it "I Wonder, in Winter Sports in Scotland":

    I wonder as I prepare to go downhill ski
    How Jesus, our Savior, did come for to dee*   
    For pitiable people like you and like me
    I wonder as I prepaaaaare to go downhill ski.

    See how easy that was? I don't have time just now to
    finish it, but now that you see how easy it is, you
    can do it too!

    *(that's the Scottish part)

    Dave Oesterreich


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    Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
    From: Mr Red
    Date: 19 May 15 - 01:00 PM

    "for all intensive purposes" without context I can see an unblemished licence being waved in one interpretation. If the "purpose" was executed "intensively" we could see it as an invented word and short hand for the context above. Clever or clunky it would stand if the rest of it supported the meaning.

    Having said that, language is for conveying complex meaning that signs and pictures can't. Poetry is a way of intensifying that. Song ditto (or did I mean moreso?). But it has to speak to the its audience.


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    Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
    From: Joe Offer
    Date: 19 May 15 - 02:32 PM

    But Niles *collected* "I Wander as I Wonder," dontchaknow...

    And since he collected it from a wandering Appalachian, he had to keep it authentic, didn't he?

    -Joe-


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    Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
    From: GUEST,Tootler
    Date: 19 May 15 - 04:51 PM

    There seems to be some uncertainty as to what Niles collected and what he invented


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    Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
    From: Airymouse
    Date: 19 May 15 - 05:18 PM

    Yes Dave has improved it, but perhaps it needs a new title: "The Ski Boot Song."


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    Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
    From: melodeonboy
    Date: 19 May 15 - 07:32 PM

    In her song "No Ships", Sally Ironmonger sings "Don't build no ships no more". A lovely triple negative; but then she is from Chatham! :-)


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    Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
    From: GUEST,leeneia
    Date: 20 May 15 - 09:55 AM

    I think Niles heard it on the radio, and it was written by a local amateur songwriter, probably not an actual hobo. Later, Niles couldn't recall where he collected it, and he maintained a defensive silence about it.

    If you read his writing, you see that every night when he returned to his hotel, the radio in the hotel lobby was on. Radio was a luxury, affordable only to the rich hotelkeepers.


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    Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
    From: Achy Pete
    Date: 20 May 15 - 10:43 AM

    Stan Freberg (RIP, Stan) had a funny take on this issue in a sketch called "Elderly Man River," in which he tried to sing Ol' Man River while a censor kept stopping him to correct his grammar and the politically incorrect lines.

    http://freberg.westnet.com/text/elderly_man.html

    That said, I have worked as a proofreader/editor, and am also an amateur singer/songwriter and performer.

    Songs are an honest expression of feelings written in the moment, not a business or professional treatise. They are also frequently written from the point of view of a character who is not necessarily the writer or singer. They are a form of monologue, or dialogue, which reflect the feelings of person who does not necessarily speak in perfect English. Call it poetic license, if you will.

    I would no sooner change the language or grammar in a song lyric than I would try to correct James Joyce or correct a speech in a play.

    Or, as Tom Lehrer sang, "It sounds more ethnic if it ain't good English, and it don't even gotta rhyme..."


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    Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
    From: GUEST,mg
    Date: 20 May 15 - 02:58 PM

    shouldn't it be like you and i in this case instead of you and me..the implied verb is are..you and i are...


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    Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
    From: The Sandman
    Date: 20 May 15 - 04:29 PM

    it is very possible to write songs that are grammatically correct, but are crap songs.
    Chatham is no excuse, neither, is disgusted, Tunbridge Wells.
    I repeat what would MacColl have said, is Jim Carroll there?


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    Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
    From: GUEST,Aussie Guest
    Date: 20 May 15 - 09:22 PM

    Speech came first ... the rules ("grammar")came later in an attempt
    to codify speech/writing patterns ... it's all arbitrary really ...
    Bill Bryson's The Mother Tongue has a good section on it ...
    i keep asking my wife what she ends sentences with preposition for ...


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    Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
    From: GUEST,#
    Date: 20 May 15 - 09:45 PM

    There's bad 'bad grammar' and good 'bad grammar'. Only people with good grammar will know the difference.


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    Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
    From: GUEST
    Date: 21 May 15 - 08:15 AM

    mg:
    like you and me
    as you and I (are)


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    Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
    From: GUEST,henryp
    Date: 21 May 15 - 08:43 AM

    But, as we found earlier in the thread, it's not the grammarians who object to 'like you and I'.


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    Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
    From: GUEST
    Date: 21 May 15 - 12:20 PM

    Rules of grammar and usage change with the times. As Frank Norman's song says "Fings Ain't Wot They Used T' Be."


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    Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
    From: Tattie Bogle
    Date: 22 May 15 - 04:23 AM

    "Too far from She" - nice song, so we forgive the grammar!


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    Subject: RE: Grammar for Songwriters
    From: Steve Gardham
    Date: 22 May 15 - 08:03 AM

    Grammar has sod all to do with song writing!! Communication, however, has everything.


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