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Weird Al's "Word Crimes" Video

Never mind, I give up.

By
Mignon Fogarty,
Episode #425

It’s also hard for me to separate my feelings about this video from my feelings about his 2010 grammar videos that reinforce simplistic ideas, such as one in which he goes off about signs that read drive slow being wrong. The problem is that slow can be used as something called a flat adverb. The sign isn’t wrong, but drive slow is one of those things that people who don’t bother looking things up love to rant about. Those videos were extremely popular, so I imagine at least a few people told him that he got it wrong, but his comments from the NPR video suggest to me that he didn’t take the time to listen to those people and figure it out—that he still thinks he was making those signs better. If, as he says, “correcting people’s grammar is kind of a big deal” for him, then with the kind of power he has, I expect him to get things right.

The bottom line is that I don’t believe in word crimes, and I don’t believe in encouraging people to think about language that way. 

You would all like me better if I laughed along with you and said, "Check out this awesome video," but I can't. I just can't do it.

My approach to grammar is two-pronged. I aim to be fun and friendly. If I have to choose between the two, I’ll choose friendly. I’m not going to be the kid on the playground who torments the clumsy kid with a dodgeball because everyone else thinks it’s funny.

When I talk about language errors in songs, like between you and I instead of between you and me, I talk about how we need to give musicians a pass—poetic license— but that teachers must especially hate these songs because they reinforce the opposite of what they are trying to teach. That’s how I feel today. I understand why those of you who don’t deal with language every day the way I do, and don’t see people every day insulting other people about their errors, think this is funny and love the video; but I hope you can understand that for me, it makes my job harder because it makes people think it’s OK to be mean to people about their language errors—to put them down and call them stupid—and that is the opposite of what I try to teach.

Finally, I want to thank all the people on my Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ pages. We’ve been talking about this for a couple of days, and I’ve read all your comments even if I didn’t respond to every one, and it’s been an especially interesting conversation and many of you made me happy that I’m Grammar Girl again.

Dawn Stahl over at copyediting.com also had an interesting post about the video from a copy editor’s perspective. She talked about how even though she laughed and enjoyed it too, the insults made her cringe, and she thinks that copy editors who share the video with comments such as “This!” and “Listen up, mouth breathers!” are just adding to people’s anxiety about writing and interacting with copy editors. 

Apparently, Whoopi Goldberg said on "The View" that Weird Al would be the perfect person to reboot the Schoolhouse Rock videos, and I agree. Weird Al is usually fantastic, and he has a huge audience. He’d be the perfect person to do it—if he loses the insults.

More Related Posts on Other Sites

Hey, Weird Al: Congratulations on Not Having a Language Disorder! (The Seminar Table)
Word Crimes (Language Log)
The Problem with Weird Al's "Word Crimes" (Stan Carey)
Weird Al Interview with Grammarly "People that know me (or have seen the grammar-related videos that I’ve posted on my YouTube channel) don’t doubt my credentials as a grammar nerd, so it was obviously a real joy to be able to vent about some of my pet peeves in a song parody."
 

Source: The "Never mind, I give up" image is a screenshot from the Weird Al video.

Correction: This article original referred to Robin Thicke and Alan Thicke

Note: The text you currently see on the page replaced a shorter, original version of this post.

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