Is Bad Grammar Acceptable in Music?

Mignon Fogarty
1-minute read

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 Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show.