Jim A.

Changing the language and usage

35 posts in this topic

Pop lyrics and some poetry rely on changing grammar rules to convey meaning. [...]

Song lyrics (I'm going to leave poetry out of the discussion for now) have entirely different standards from language which has to convey meaning by words alone. Song lyrics are, properly IMO, subordinate to the music. (And when they're not you get some pretty awful songs). And song lyrics are notorious for bad grammar, for being unintelligible, etc. However, if the music is good, that is to be forgiven, because the music is primary. Here's an example of terrible grammar in and excellent song. The Girl from Ipanema:

Every day when she walks to the sea

She looks straight ahead not at he ;)

And I think that may even be a translation from Portuguese, which would be a further excuse. But the reason that the bad grammar are to be forgiven is so that the song can convey its meaning musically. The singer's voice is beautiful, the music is meltingly lovely, the rhythm is beautiful, the meter is good, the various timbres of the voice and instruments are complimentary, and it all culminates in a beautiful song -- the meaning of which does not depend on words alone.

In prose, when meaning does depend on words alone, the standard for correct grammar and usage is entirely different -- i.e. it is higher.

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Corrections:

Here's an example of terrible grammar in an excellent song.

But the reason that the bad grammar is to be forgiven is so that the song can convey its meaning musically.

In prose, when meaning does depend on words alone, the standard for correct grammar and usage is entirely different -- i.e. it is higher.

Too bad I didn't check my own grammar and usage carefully enough.

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Reading la zafada's post reminded me of a grammar question I have: If I want to show possession for one, is it "ones" or "one's?" I was thinking it was the latter, but then I saw someone else write "ones." Somehow I'm aware that it's 'hers,' not 'her's,' and 'its' not 'it's,' even though I occasionally make a mistake with 'its.' But for some reason, I'm not clear on 'one,' maybe because I use it less often than the others. Given the pattern for the other pronouns, I'll guess (now) that it should be 'ones.'

You were right. It is "one's" to express possession. "One's opinion should be well-considered." The rules for plural, possessive, and contractual (or is it "contractional"????) uses of the apostrophe are a pain! "It's" means it is, of course. I have to check myself on that one all the time, if I'm typing.

Good luck. I'm not an expert, but I'm happy to try to be of help anytime. ;-)

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Grammar is a man-made set of rules, and it is only by practicing them that we keep them in existence. There's a great little book called "Twice as Less," that observes that the grammar of some minority groups renders them incapable of working certain math problems, due to their idiosyncratic substitutes for normal grammar, such as "twice as less." That's an extreme example, but it does illustrate the point. It also brings up the consideration that children learn language from us, and the more inconsistent our useage is, the more confusing grammar is to them, and the harder it is for them to warm to, to understand, and to master this important tool.

Like a political system, which must be defended and preserved by right-thinking people, grammar, and thus our language, and thus our ability to think beyond a very limited level, must be preserved if it is to remain the asset it is.

So, I'm against practices that violate needed rules of grammar. It's a question of use-it-or-lose-it. We ought to trouble ourselves to follow valid rules and practices, or those rules may not be there when we need them.

Mindy

I agree that it is wise to maintain the rules simply to help where one gets lost. For example, the common mistake: He gave Jane and I a present. A rule can be found by leaving Jane out of it, and the result is: He gave I a present. This latter sounds more obviously awful, but if we have no consistent rule about when 'me' is required, then the former can't be corrected by that rule.

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Grammar is a man-made set of rules, and it is only by practicing them that we keep them in existence. There's a great little book called "Twice as Less," that observes that the grammar of some minority groups renders them incapable of working certain math problems, due to their idiosyncratic substitutes for normal grammar, such as "twice as less." That's an extreme example, but it does illustrate the point. It also brings up the consideration that children learn language from us, and the more inconsistent our useage is, the more confusing grammar is to them, and the harder it is for them to warm to, to understand, and to master this important tool.

Like a political system, which must be defended and preserved by right-thinking people, grammar, and thus our language, and thus our ability to think beyond a very limited level, must be preserved if it is to remain the asset it is.

So, I'm against practices that violate needed rules of grammar. It's a question of use-it-or-lose-it. We ought to trouble ourselves to follow valid rules and practices, or those rules may not be there when we need them.

Mindy

I agree that it is wise to maintain the rules simply to help where one gets lost. For example, the common mistake: He gave Jane and I a present. A rule can be found by leaving Jane out of it, and the result is: He gave I a present. This latter sounds more obviously awful, but if we have no consistent rule about when 'me' is required, then the former can't be corrected by that rule.

Let's not forget that without the rules, the meaning changes. "He gave I a present" can only be interpreted as incorrect grammar if "I" refers to me. If one interprets "I" as referring to someone else (perhaps a nickname), then there is no grammatical error.

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Let's not forget that without the rules, the meaning changes. "He gave I a present" can only be interpreted as incorrect grammar if "I" refers to me. If one interprets "I" as referring to someone else (perhaps a nickname), then there is no grammatical error.

Who's on first?

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Let's not forget that without the rules, the meaning changes. "He gave I a present" can only be interpreted as incorrect grammar if "I" refers to me. If one interprets "I" as referring to someone else (perhaps a nickname), then there is no grammatical error.

Who's on first?

If "Who's" was a nickname, it would be "Is Who's on first?" Or if "Iswho's" was a nickname it would be "Is Iswho's is on first?" ;)

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Let's not forget that without the rules, the meaning changes. "He gave I a present" can only be interpreted as incorrect grammar if "I" refers to me. If one interprets "I" as referring to someone else (perhaps a nickname), then there is no grammatical error.

Who's on first?

Which brings up the interesting fact that much of humor is based on grammar!

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Let's not forget that without the rules, the meaning changes. "He gave I a present" can only be interpreted as incorrect grammar if "I" refers to me. If one interprets "I" as referring to someone else (perhaps a nickname), then there is no grammatical error.

Who's on first?

Which brings up the interesting fact that much of humor is based on grammar!

A further reason to think respectfully of grammar is that the most fundamental distinctions in metaphysics, a la Aristotle's Categories, are explained in terms of grammar, such as what is a subject and what can be predicated of what.

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