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Grammar Quirks: Mary Gauthier Discusses Songwriting

Mary Gauthier is both an author and a songwriter, which gives her a special perspective on grammar and writing. 

By
Mary Gauthier, Writing for
2-minute read

Mary Gauther, author of "Saved by a Song" and the artist behind numerous albums, discusses the grammar she encounters while songwriting. 

Grammar Girl: What’s your favorite word and why?

Mary Gauthier: I love the word "boulevard" because of the way it sings; it has melody built into its DNA. I sing it a variety of different ways and can make it sound happy, sad, lonely, romantic, etc. It holds up every time. I use it in a lot of my songs. I might be in danger of loving it TOO much.

GG: What’s a word you dislike (either because it’s overused or misused) and why?

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MG: I am not fond of the common usage of the word “whatever” when directed at me. It feels dismissive. I am unsure how to respond.  “It is what it is," when directed at me, also falls into that category. Both are conversation stoppers for me.

GG: What word will you always misspell?

MG: "Rhyme," "rhymer," "rhyme," "rhyming." The silent H destroys me.

Why Does the English Language Have Words With Silent Letters? Grammar Girl explains. 

GG: What word (or semblance of a word) would you like to see added to the dictionary? Why?

MG: I was once on a board of directors that got a new word added to the Webster's dictionary: "Americana"—a genre of American music having roots in early folk and country music. It took years, but the addition is there now, and wow, it’s a beautiful sight!

Check out Grammar Girl's article about "How Dictionary Definitions Change Over Time"

GG: Any grammar pet peeves we should know about?

MG: Well, I would like to turn this on myself and say that my partner Jaimee corrects me constantly when I say things like “expresso” or “I could care less.” I am probably the guilty party. I have no room to talk here. Sorry ‘bout that, Grammar Girl.

GG: Do you have a favorite quotation or passage from an author you’d like to share?

MG: “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” James Baldwin

GG: What grammar, wording, or punctuation problem did you struggle with this week?

MG: I make up my own songwriting rules, and this can be tricky when it comes to grammar, wording, and punctuation. I am one to stay true to emotional truth, and I believe that truth and vulnerability takes precedence over proper grammar in music and song. Keeping it conversational keeps it real. That said, I wrote this line yesterday, “It’s been a heartbreak year,” and it’s eating at me.

I might have to change it.