A prescriptivist’s playlist

I’ve been listening to a lot of pop song compilations recently. With my tongue planted firmly in my cheek:

All shaken up
Another somebody did somebody wrong song
Bobby McGee and I
Doesn’t it make my brown eyes blue?
I can’t get any satisfaction or I can get no satisfaction
I have you, babe or I’ve got you, babe 
Lie, lady, lie
Lo que será, será
Love me tenderly
Mrs Jones and I
There isn’t any mountain high enough or There’s no mountain high enough
Two fewer lonely people in the world
You haven’t seen anything yet or You’ve seen nothing yet

1) One of these definitely doesn’t belong here, because the original is unquestionably correct (or at least is questionable in another way). A free lifetime subscription to this blog to anyone who can point out which.

2) I stuck with titles, being easier to search for. I’m sure there are many more titles and many, many more lyrics. You can search for ‘pop music grammar errors’ to find more examples of ‘errors’, including within song lyrics. Some of these ‘errors’ actually are, but most of the lists fail to take into account that …

3) Informal spoken (or sung) English exists. I can (in some cases only just) accept each of the originals here as common informal spoken (or sung) English. That doesn’t mean that I say or write them, or would accept them without question in an ESL class. I said many times “Many people say X, but ‘correct, exam English’ is Y”.

[PS It’s possible that Two less lonely people in the world is prescriptively correct, too, if it is interpreted as Two + less lonely + people. But it’s hardly romantic to say “Before I met you, I was lonely. Now I am … less lonely.”]


3 thoughts on “A prescriptivist’s playlist

  1. The one that doesn’t belong is “Bobby McGee and I”, because in the context of the song lyrics the original title is correct. As opposed to countless (otherwise faultlessly titled) songs like “Touch Me” that have “for you and I” in the lyrics.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes. Your free subscription is on its way. One website I found under ‘pop music grammar errors’ tut-tutted, seemingly not having got any further than the title. *By itself* the last line of the chorus might questionably be ‘for Bobby McGee and me’, but put together with the second last line, it can hardly be ‘for me … for Bobby McGee and me’. Also, it’s got to fit the rhythm.


      • During my morning walk, I thought of, and have now added for comparison, ‘Mrs Jones and I’ (we have a thing going on or we’ve got a thing going on) (and the ‘we’ is also questionable).


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