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Is Bad Grammar Acceptable in Music?

By
Mignon Fogarty

bad lyrics

Mar, a regular contributor to the Grammar Girl Facebook page, posted a video today of Stan Freberg and Daws Butler doing a comedy routine about what Butler considers incorrect language in the song "Old Man River." It's hilarious, and it also raises the question of how upset we should get about song lyrics. Sure, we need to think of the "tiny tots" as Butler says, but his constant corrections are also ridiculous:


[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLlTlYfqQV4]

I love using songs as examples when I'm explaining a concept because it makes the lesson more fun and memorable:

Does the Olympic Theme Song Have a Grammar Error? (I versus Me)
Jessica Simpson's Grammar Error (Between You and I)
What Do "Lay, Lady, Lay" and "Lay Down, Sally" Have in Common? (Lay versus Lie)
"I Heard It Through the Grapevine" (Active Voice versus Passive Voice)

What Is Poetic License?

What do you think? Do you get outraged by songs such as "Buy You a Drank" and "Imma Be," or do you figure nonstandard language is part of the creative license we grant to musicians?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network and creator of Grammar Girl, which has been named one of Writer's Digest's 101 best websites for writers multiple times. The Grammar Girl podcast has also won Best Education Podcast multiple times in the Podcast Awards, and Mignon is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame. Mignon is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing" and six other books on writing. She has appeared as a guest on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and the "Today Show" and has been featured in the New York Times, Business Week, the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN.com, and more. She was previously the chair of media entrepreneurship in the Reynolds School of Journalism in Reno, NV. She hates the phrase "grammar nazi" and loves the word "kerfuffle." She has a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle and an M.S. in biology from Stanford University. Mignon believes that learning is fun, and the vast rules of grammar are wonderful fodder for lifelong study. 

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