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Friday, March 4, 2011

Can't Get Any Satisfaction: A Tour of the Most Grammatically Misguided Songs in Pop

Posted By on Fri, Mar 4, 2011 at 12:20 PM


Today is National Grammar Day, which means until midnight you're legally obligated to put up with the prescriptivist fulminations of that one buy or girl in your office whose knickers get all bunched when you say "15 items or less" or "the reason is because." (Lucky for everyone in the world I work from home.) Let's take a look at some of the foundational grammatical malfeasances of our musical heritage, shall we?

The Rolling Stones, "Satisfaction"
Let's start with a softball: you're supposed to stop using double negatives by the time you stop staying "pasghetti." In the Stones' defense, "I can't get any satisfaction" lacks a certain transgressive oomph, but if anyone could find and flaunt the sexiness inherent in proper grammatical usage, one likes to think it's these London lads.

Marilyn Monroe, "I Wanna Be Loved By You"
The passive voice is another boop-boop-be-don't for most grammarians: why make the agent of the action, namely the lover, into the object of the sentence? Why not say "I Want You To Love Me"? Imagine if Cheap Trick had tried to pass off "I Want To Be Wanted By You" on the unsuspecting masses. Riots would have ensued.

Eric Carmen, "Hungry Eyes"
On the contrary, Mr. Carmen, you feel the magic "between you and me." Between is a preposition, and prepositions always precede objects, not subjects: you wouldn't say "that guy on the MUNI was making weird faces at I," so why should the compound object change anything? Changing the song to, say, "Hungry Fleas" would solve all kinds of problems, really.

Radiohead, "Creep"
This one's tricky: assuming, as the song does, that Thom Yorke isn't actually special, or if Cee-Lo isn't actually rich enough to be with the gold-digging skank he loves, or if that that little kid isn't actually an Oscar Meyer wiener, etc., this assertion is a counterfactual proposition that takes the past subjunctive were regardless of the speaker. 

Bob Dylan, "Lay Lady Lay"
Unless Bob is addressing a chicken, he means lie. Lay is a transitive verb, meaning it needs a direct object: you lay something down -- your weapons, the law, a thick soulful groove -- but if you mean splaying yourself out on the floor, or Bob's big brass bed, you lie down. 

George Thorogood, "Who Do You Love"

Jesus, George. Whom. Bad to the bone at grammar, huh? (I would have expected better from the Joe Dirt soundtrack.)

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