Friday, July 22, 2005


Some stuff I've been saving up:

Here's a Minneapolis Star-Tribune story about the grammar mistakes in songs that get readers' goat. A few examples:
  • "In this ever-changing world in which we live in" from WingsÂ? "Live and Let Die"
  • "What if God was one of us" from Joan Osborne's "One of Us"
  • "You keep lyin' when you oughta be truthin'," from Nancy Sinatra's "These Booths Are Made for Walkin'" (Actually, I like that one)
  • "You know he knows just exactly what the facts is," from the Steve Miller Band's "Take the Money and Run"
The letters policy from a paper in Concorde, Mass., is cracking me up. Here's the main reason: "Letters will be edited for legal reasons, clarity, space and sometimes grammar -- double negatives especially will be rooted out."

A story in a university newspaper quotes John Bremner:
Two stories ran side by side Friday on the front page of the Redlands Daily Facts. Both headlines contained the word demolition. We try to avoid this kind of redundancy in newspapers, but not too hard. As the late copy editing teacher John Bremner said, "Never call a banana a yellow elongated fruit."
I hear a lot about the sin of verbing (Googling, Netflixing, etc.). But Stephen Wilbers, who has a column on business writing at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, writes this week about nouning, or nominalizations. That's what turns "She recommended we study this issue" into "She made a recommendation that we undertake a study of this issue." More good stuff here.

Need help brushing up on how to fix dangling modifiers? James Kilpatrick has an exercise.

A Houston Chronicle column discusses the ethics of a print shop not fixing someone's grammatical mistakes.


At 2:23 PM, July 22, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This isn't really a grammatical error as much as a factual one, but every time I hear...

"Sometimes I wish I could turn back time/
Impossible as it may seem"

(some song by the Backstreet Boys)

...I just cringe. It doesn't SEEM impossible; it IS impossible. :-)

At 2:40 PM, July 22, 2005, Blogger Nicole said...

Hey, don't knock the Backstreet Boys. Sure, time travel is impossible in our primitive understanding of the universe. But the band's just leaving their lyrics open to the enjoyment of teens for millennia to come!


At 5:04 PM, July 22, 2005, Blogger Bill said...

Ever the apologist, some time ago I started hearing it as "ever-changing world in which we're living."

Mellencamp's "Small Town" has a similarly circular lyric.

At 5:54 PM, July 22, 2005, Anonymous mark said...

Bill beat me to the McCartney ref, insightfully putting it exactly as I lived it: "I started hearing it as..." I was sure for the longest time it was grammatical butchery suitable for the lesser of the greatest songwriting duo ever, until I had the "D'oh!" moment.

Meanwhile, here's an unexplainable one by the otherwise literate Radney Foster: "Love doesn't come with a contract/You give me this and I give you that/It's scary business/Your heart and soul is on the line..."

Huh? It doesn't even help the meter of the song, or a rhyme, or anything. You're turning me into a pirate, Radney: Are, ARE, ARE!!! I live my life in a state of perplexitude.

At 11:58 PM, July 24, 2005, Anonymous Another Mark said...

That Kilpatrick column on dangling modifiers is a hoot. Here's my favorite:

"Quickly summoning an ambulance, the corpse was carried to the mortuary."

That's one quick-thinking stiff.


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