A song for the grammar police

Grammar fans, we have our song.

Attention grammar-philes: Every now and again, pop culture delivers something of value to those who toil in the trenches of the business world. Celebrity culture is usually far removed from marketing meetings and mission statements, but this summer a bit of fun and inspiration has come from an unlikely source: Weird Al Yankovic. Stay with me.

grammarYankovic has been known for decades for creating parodies of popular pop songs, ranging from “Eat It” (a parody of Michael Jackson’s early ‘80s hit “Beat It”) to “Amish Paradise,” a spoof on “Gangsta’s Paradise” by rapper Coolio. Yankovic released his fourteenth album on July 15, Mandatory Fun, which contains a spoof of the catchy but controversial Robin Thicke song “Blurred Lines” entitled “Word Crimes.”

Finally, a Weird Al song for the grammar police.

“Word Crimes” keeps “Blurred Lines’” funky beat and sparse instrumentation but converts the questionable lyrics into a rant on bad grammar. It contains references to frequently broken grammar rules and pet peeves of English teachers and newspaper editors, including:

  • The bad grammar and spelling in the comments that follow online news stories and that are found in tweets
  • Whether to use “less” or “fewer”
  • Figures of speech that have the opposite meaning of what’s intended, like “I could care less.”
  • Misspellings in the signs held at political protests that make one question the intelligence of the protester
  • “Its” vs. “it’s” and the definition of a contraction
  • Pronouncing an “x” in “espresso”
  • Dangling participles
  • The Oxford comma
  • Abbreviating “be,” “see” “are” and “you” as b, c, r and u and writing words using numbers
  • Spell checkers, and not using them
  • Homophones
  • Diagramming sentences
  • “Who” vs. “whom”.

Yankovic replaces the dancing girls and chief protagonists of the infamous Thicke video (Thicke, Pharrell Williams and T.I.) with characters such as an exclamation point and a semicolon.

Yankovic, who has a degree in architecture from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and claims he learned to play the accordion listening to Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, is clearly no word criminal, unless you count decades of cringe-worthy parody lyrics to be against the law.

So, grammar fans, we have our song. It’s summer, the time for ear candy, pop tunes and a little fun. Enjoy!

(P.S.–You should also check out Yankovic’s homage to mission statements, set to the music of Crosby, Stills and Nash, here.)

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