Just a bit of fun this week…
Last month, satirical musician “Weird Al” Yankovic shook up the usually sedate writing community with his song “Word Crimes.” Some writers and editors felt the song promoted grammar shaming, while others accepted it as parody—not as a legitimate teaching tool. In fact, a few of the issues “Weird Al” criminalized aren’t really grammar offenses at all, and his own apostrophe use is frequently incorrect throughout the video. Still, I applaud the song for igniting debate in both creative and business circles.
In honor of the often tenuous relationship between grammar and music, here are a few of my favorite classic rock song titles that commit two common misdemeanors: using lay instead of lie and double negatives.
Lay versus Lie
In the present tense, lay means the subject of the clause places something or someone in a horizontal position, and lie means the subject places himself or herself in a horizontal position. So, Eric Clapton’s song “Lay Down Sally” should actually be “Lie Down Sally” because Sally is the subject of the clause and she must lie down herself.
Bob Dylan also stumbled over lay versus lie in his song “Lay Lady Lay,” which should be “Lie Lady Lie,” because (like Sally) Lady must lie down herself. (However, I’m not going to be the copyeditor that tells Mr. Dylan that he has stumbled over anything.)
A double negative occurs when two negatives (e.g., no, can’t, don’t) appear in the same clause. Double negatives are grammatically incorrect because they unintentionally turn negative statements into positives. But we all know that the Rolling Stones weren’t actually achieving that elusive satisfaction when Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” The venerable rockers could have avoided the double negative by writing “(I Can’t Get Any) Satisfaction.” (But rock fans everywhere are glad they didn’t because that extra syllable would have thrown off the rhythm of the song, not to mention the grit.)
Other famous double negative songs include “Don’t Ask Me No Questions” by Lynyrd Skynyrd and “Don’t Come Around Here No More” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
Please stay tuned for an upcoming country version of “Gloriously Grammatically Incorrect Song Titles.” In the meantime, here are a few music-related posts you may have missed: