What does Weird Al know about word crimes?

Reading time: About 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a song about word crimes written by Weird Al Yancovic…

I was charmed when my friend Marcelle sent me a link to a new song by Weird Al Yankovic. The beat is catchy and made me feel like dancing in my seat. (The music comes from Robin Thicke‘s song “Blurred Lines” from his 2013 album of the same name.) The graphics, which offer an inoculation of bliss, are both clever and compelling. And the rhymes? The rhymes are superb. Here are my faves, shown here in rhyming couplets:

You really need a/ full-time proofreader.

Figure out the difference /irony is not coincidence.

It’s quite apparent /your grammar’s errant.

Go back to preschool /Get out of the gene pool.

So, watch the video if you want three minutes of great entertainment. But his message? That doesn’t do so much for me. I fix grammar and spelling when I’m editing, of course, but I don’t like to mock people for making mistakes. In fact, I’ve discovered that the fear of making mistakes is what keeps many people from writing. And I’d rather see them write than not.

Furthermore, language is a living, breathing thing and it changes all the time. New words are invented (crowd funding), and rendered obsolete (aerodrome) every year. Even punctuation rules change. For example, co-operate is now almost always cooperate, without the hyphen.

So, irritated as I may become by the grocery store sign reading “This line reserved for 12 items or less,” or people who say literally when they clearly mean figuratively, I take a deep breath and remind myself there are far more important things to worry about.

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