Weird Al’s “Word Crimes” and Prescriptive Grammar

A still from Weird Al's "Word Crimes" video.

Weird Al Yankovic’s latest album, Mandatory Fun, showcases his knowledge of grammar with the song “Word Crimes,” a parody of last summer’s controversial hit “Blurred Lines.” Among his peeves, Weird Al discusses the use of literallywhomcasual text speak, and apostrophes. Linguists view Weird Al’s new song as a teaching moment, though perhaps not of the variety that language enthusiasts might expect.

On Language Log, Ben Zimmer stresses that Weird Al’s song is an example of prescriptivism. Dictionary.com describes prescriptive grammar  as “an approach to grammar that is concerned with establishing norms of correct and incorrect usage and formulating rules based on these norms to be followed by users of the language.” When Weird Al comedically corrects grammar and spelling, he, like your favorite middle school English teacher, is practicing prescriptivism.

Descriptive grammar, on the other hand, is defined as “an approach to grammar concerned with reporting the usage of language speakers without reference to proposed norms of correctness or advocacy of rules based on such norms.” Most of the people who write dictionary definitions and study linguistics these days fall into the descriptivist camp, and they tend to be a lot more progressive in terms of language change than people might imagine. They observe how language is actually being used, without trying to enforce any rules. At the same time, dictionary editors often offer guidance as to how words might come across if you use them in the form of labels, usage notes, or other supplementary materials (like this blog). That is to say, Dictionary.com generally takes a descriptive approach with some prescriptive elements.

As linguist Gretchen McCulloch observed on The Toast, ”if kids didn’t talk a bit differently each generation we’d still be speaking Pre-Proto-Indo-European.” With that in mind, next time you hear one of Weird Al’s many language peeves in the wild, sit back and reflect upon the wonder of the ever-evolving English language.

Which of the “word crimes” featured in Weird Al’s song most annoy you? We’d love to hear where you fall on the prescriptivist to descriptivist spectrum.






  1. MARILEE SITES -  May 20, 2016 - 12:14 pm

    Savvy article . I Appreciate the information – Does anyone know if my assistant might locate a blank Bankruptcy B6F document to type on ?

  2. Esoteric Poet -  February 25, 2016 - 4:42 pm

    Literally. “I literally exploded in anger,” a colleague once stated, to which I replied “You meant figuratively.” And she gave me this long stare, to which I explained “Because if your head literally exploded, you are a medical miracle. You are still alive! OMG! I must call Makati Medical Center!”
    I walked away screaming “OMG! OMG! OMG! Grace Calvello is still alive!”
    And people find me weird.

  3. gary rohrscheib -  March 13, 2015 - 10:17 am

    you can easily see that they put a lot of time in to it

  4. WhatWhatintheWhat -  November 12, 2014 - 1:25 pm

    I think Weird Al sings with his mouth but not sure. Need source.

    • GrammarLove -  June 17, 2015 - 9:24 pm

      I heard it was nasal singing. Citation needed.

    • Esoteric Poet -  February 25, 2016 - 4:44 pm

      I think weird Al is awesome. My university upperclassman said she showed this video to her 8th grade class.

  5. Word Crimes. On Language. | Oh look, it's you. -  September 17, 2014 - 11:47 pm

    […] colors or romance. Language is emotion, symbols and thoughts. While watching weird Al Yankovic, “Word Crimes” and Stephen Fry’s, “On Language” one main argument they were pointing out was the misuse […]

  6. Su Doc -  July 22, 2014 - 9:24 am

    A quick correction, didn’t see a readily apparent way to directly contact the author.

    That is to say, *Dicitonary.com* [sic] generally takes a descriptive approach with some prescriptive elements.

  7. Cathal -  July 21, 2014 - 2:29 pm

    So, is this split between descriptivists and prescriptivists definitive or is this post meant to infinitely split these camps definitively?

    If so (‘so’ being whatever you describe it as or whatever you might prescribe that it should be), then, surely (No. I didn’t call you ‘Shirley’.) this is a prescription for grammatical anarchy?

    But, if writers were to toss apostrophes’ into their writing willy nilly and start sentences with their conjunction of choice, and if the Queen of England were to tell us that: “One done this as many times as One has went to London”, then perhaps this lingo (of Her’s) wot we speak will of changed unrecognisably. Innit.

    • Bob -  July 29, 2014 - 3:07 pm

      Descriptivism and Prescriptivism are not opposite ends of a spectrum. All modern linguistics and scholarly study of language is descriptive, and all prescription is based on description. There is nothing to stop someone studying language descriptively one day, and teaching it prescriptively the next. But in common usage, and in some articles, the P/D terms are used very strangely.

    • Bob -  July 29, 2014 - 3:14 pm

      The English language has changed unrecognizingly over the years and will continue to change because that is the way language works. How do you think we got from Old English to Modern English?

      • Bob -  July 31, 2014 - 4:24 am


        • Yo -  October 10, 2014 - 6:10 pm

          Cathal’s spelling of ‘unrecognisably’ is as the Good Queen’s herself, Guv’nah Bob…

          (aka Brit spelling…’z’ becomes ‘s’, ‘o’ in some cases becomes ‘ou’, etc.)

      • Miguel -  July 24, 2016 - 6:15 pm

        The Normans invaded and brought in Middle French. Not to mention the, I believe, two infusions of Latin by this point due to Roman Catholic influence. In addition, it had already been altered by Old Norse, and Old Irish. Have you any other questions?

  8. Tanya -  July 21, 2014 - 11:46 am

    I call BS on this whole “descriptive” approach. As someone who had to learn English as their second language, if I went by descriptive dictionaries, I’d still be sitting around trying to figure out why “literally” means one thing sometimes and other times a totally opposite.
    I’m all for retiring words that are just not needed anymore and introducing new ones, but the words and phrases that already exist and have their definitions should not be subject to random shifts, just because “that’s the way people are using it”. You know why “people” are using it? Because not enough people correct them, and those who do get criticized for being grammar nazis (because, well, obviously, correcting someone’s grammar is the same as attempting to eradicate a huge chunk of humanity, but that’s a pet peeve of mine that is not related to the subject at hand).

    One of my art professors taught me – you need to know the rules first in order to break them. I LOVE the way certain authors play with language, using it to convey certain moods and establishing voices. But when I see stupid bad mistakes that are bourne out of laziness and ignorance, I feel like that’s not something to be just shrugged at and accepted.

    Having said that, Weird Al is of course just trolling around, as he tends to do.

    • Joanne -  July 22, 2014 - 8:52 am

      There is no need for me to comment, Tanya, as you have said it all! Bravo! I just had a cathartic rant after reading this article, then went on to read the comments. There was my rant. Excellent! Thank you!

    • Mitchell -  July 22, 2014 - 11:02 am

      This is exactly what I wanted to say. Thank you.

      • Yo -  October 10, 2014 - 6:12 pm

        Another signing up for Tanya’s camp here…

    • Micah -  July 23, 2014 - 12:04 am

      There are so many dialects in the English language, and an infinite amount of sentence constructions. Good luck saving it all.

    • Reuben -  July 23, 2014 - 6:44 am

      So Tanya, what you are saying is you’re not a fan of Weird Al?

    • PensalUndPuper -  July 23, 2014 - 5:01 pm

      Correcting grammar is stupid.. Only stupid people with large egos correct a person grammar. If you simply cannot understand the words that are coming out of a persons mouth and then throw them together to make a interpretation then you are simply a moron.. Plus unless you are pushing a essay in front of me about nuclear physics who really cares ? Unless you are a concervative yahooo that looks out your window all day calling the police on anyone that looks suspicious or whoever step on your lawn.. Take your grammar and shove it..

      • SMH -  July 24, 2014 - 10:03 am

        Pensal, I can’t tell whether your post is intentionally abysmal to prove a point or if you’ve taken the side of the prescriptives by accident. I’m assuming the former because it looks too contrived to be real.
        If not–I’m curious about what linguistic license you took at your last job interview? There are norms by which, whether you feel it to be correct or not, we are judged. One must know the rules, as Tanya so eloquently pointed out, before effectively breaking them.

      • You -  April 13, 2015 - 10:14 am

        Think people me understand saying you, to have have of some it.

    • Bob -  July 29, 2014 - 2:59 pm

      “but the words and phrases that already exist and have their definitions should not be subject to random shifts, just because “that’s the way people are using it”.

      Perhaps they shouldn’t be, but they are. That is the way language works.

    • Bob -  July 29, 2014 - 3:21 pm

      But, Tany, all dictionaries are descriptive. A prescriptive dictionary would give you no idea of what native speakers mean when they use a word. If you don’t accept change based on usage (which means established practice, and not just anyone’s use) then you must define “nice” as “dimwitted”, and “silly” as “holy”. All dictionaries take usage into account and all the dictionaries you have used have been descriptive.

    • Betti -  August 13, 2014 - 9:12 pm

      Oh yes. When the natives break the rules, by accident or on purpose, they are “creative”. When we non-natives do, we are just plain ignorant and should go back to our grammar books and dictionaries.

    • venqax -  November 2, 2015 - 2:10 pm

      You go, Tanya!! “Descriptivism” is just a fancy word for laziness and celebration of ignorance. With all the info readily at hand
      today, there is no excuse for not speaking or writing properly. The rules are equally available to everyone.

  9. Jeanne-Marie -  July 21, 2014 - 10:01 am

    I’m not sure which camp this puts me in, but my feeling is that any word or construction can be fine if it accomplishes its purpose. When you write, you are trying to bring about some effect, and the words and grammatical constructions you choose either accomplish that or fail to. A

    Good writing is writing that grafts a theme and a purpose to choices about words, syntax, organization, etc. in a way that feels natural, is interesting and gets the job done. And sometimes that means starting a sentence with a conjunction. Sometimes it means you have to boldly split an infinitive. Sometimes it means taht ending a sentence with a preposition is where it’s at.

    • Samm -  July 22, 2014 - 12:35 pm

      There you have it: the key–”if it accomplishes its purpose.” I wanted to be descriptivist, but with time and practice and about 70,000 papers read, I find I am more prescriptivist (which, by the way, apparently isn’t a word says the great God of spelling, the spell checker) because much of the new usage does not accomplish its purpose, unless of course the purpose is to confuse the hell out of readers.

      Standards are based on the notion that communication should be taking place and agreement on grammar and mechanics facilitates communication. If one person uses one construction and another uses another, the result is havoc, miscommunication, misunderstanding, and general frustration. To those mutilating the English language I say, “Raise your standards. We don’t know what you’re saying!”

      • twotonkatrucks -  August 9, 2014 - 5:18 am

        “I wanted to be descriptivist, but with time and practice and about 70,000 papers read, I find I am more prescriptivist (which, by the way, apparently isn’t a word says the great God of spelling, the spell checker) because much of the new usage does not accomplish its purpose, unless of course the purpose is to confuse the hell out of readers.”

        It’s not so clear cut. It’s context dependent. Sometimes the purpose IS to confuse, except to those in the know/that are part of the same (sub)culture.

  10. Belfry -  July 20, 2014 - 1:55 pm

    What do you mean there’s no F in phone?
    –Cheech Martin

    • jimmy -  July 21, 2014 - 9:42 pm


  11. Lisa DeClue -  July 20, 2014 - 1:13 pm

    Your, you’re; who, whom; hung, hanged; then, than.

    I dislike hanging participles. Winston Churchill’s great point: “that is something up with which I shall not put!”

    Prescriptive, descriptive… Just write your SCRIPT right! ;)

  12. Scyphi -  July 20, 2014 - 9:31 am

    I feel it’s worth pointing out that Weird Al is probably only semi-serious about his “word crimes” in this song, exaggerating them for comedic effect, and is probably more teasing of hardcore grammar nazis than supporting them. So for anyone who might think to make this song your grammar-correctness creed and anthem for “improving” grammar, do keep that in mind, especially seeing that the others who are more “descriptive” (as the article puts it) probably won’t be taking you too seriously if you wave this song as your flag.

    As for my grammar-error pet peeves, I’m usually pretty lax about them, depending on the situation. Some times I make myself a bit of a grammar nazi around my mother and her spelling, but I do it more to tease than anything. Typically, I’ll point out an error only to be constructive, to help assist the person to become a greater writer, and this is usually only on the story-writing front. Blog comments like this are usually spared such treatment by the likes of me, because its more of a casual sort of writing where it shouldn’t matter so much so long as you can still make your point.

    However, I find I do take issue sometimes with amateurish prose–you know, the sort of writing where it doesn’t matter if it’s grammatically correct or not, you can tell it was written by a beginner who’s very inexperienced?–especially when the writer of said prose acts like its the best thing ever written and they don’t know or won’t know that its not.

    And then I guess it isn’t so much the writing that bugs me but rather the attitude of the people who wrote it, which I suppose brings up another important point; there are people that are loose with grammar because that’s their writing style by choice for whatever reason, and then there are people that are loose with grammar because they just don’t care enough to do it right. It’s probably the people that just don’t care that the grammar nazis are always getting so riled up about, and on that point, I guess I can see where they are coming from.

    The issue then is where do you draw the line between discouraging that, and going too far?

    I won’t profess to know, so I’ll let someone more knowledgeable about the subject work that out. Best of luck with that, by the way.

  13. Barbara -  July 20, 2014 - 7:58 am

    I don’t expect people who speak English as their first language to have perfect grammar. I know I don’t. I DO, however, expect people to use the proper word for what they’re meaning. This interchanging of “your/you’re”, “there/they’re/their”, and “its/it’s” is annoying to me and comes across as laziness.

  14. tj1a -  July 19, 2014 - 8:04 pm

    Could of, rather than could’ve is one he missed. Loose and lose, choose and chose are others that I see almost daily.

    • Cody -  July 21, 2014 - 5:54 am

      While I agree that loose versus lose is a common confusion (so is: life versus live among others) I would like to point out that in some cases (Dutchmen come to mind here) it is other factors that add to the confusion, including the other languages (native for instance) of their country.

  15. Hugo -  July 19, 2014 - 7:32 pm

    I can’t stand “descriptive” linguists.

    Languages do change over time, it’s true, but that’s a problem, not something to be embraced. The whole point of having written language is to be able to write something down and have it read and understood years, centuries, or even thousands of years later.

    Already we have reached the point where the language of Shakespeare’s day is difficult to understand for someone who only speaking standard 21st century English. The English of the 18th century or later, however, is easy for the modern reader to understand, possibly because the invention of dictionaries in that era helped to stabilise the language.

    If marginalised communities speak incorrect English then the solution isn’t to embrace incorrect English as correct “alternative” English, but rather to help those marginalised communities learn to speak the mainstream English that has stayed relatively constant since Dr Johnson, so they can overcome their marginalisation and become part of mainstream society.

    • Jennifer -  July 20, 2014 - 12:35 pm

      Your intolerance for language variety is offensive. There is no such thing as incorrect English, there are dialects and variations. You speak and write in one dialect which you choose to see as superior. Standard English, which you choose to be so proud of, is a written form of English, not a language people are raised speaking. Enforcing the rules of Standard English on spoken and informal speech is a way of establishing an elite speech class who looks down on all others. Welcome to the language prejudice. You’ve made it!

      • Mitchell -  July 22, 2014 - 11:11 am

        Am I the only one who laughed out loud at this comment?

        Hugo encouraging society to retain the meaning of words is “offensive?” Are you serious?

        “There is no such thing as incorrect English” – This line speaks for itself. I suppose since you advocate abandoning dictionary definitions “incorrect” could mean something with which I’m not familiar.

        Encouraging the the use of words as defined in the dictionary is creating an “elite speech class”? Are you serious?

      • Maximillian Heth -  July 23, 2014 - 9:26 am

        Contrary to your statement, there IS such a thing as incorrect English, and there IS a standard form of English that is adhered to at several levels in modern society.

        Like it or not, failing to learn a decent amount of standard English won’t really help you when it comes to a) going to college, b) getting a job, c) running a business, or d) traveling to other countries where (you guessed it) some form of standard English is taught.

        Yes, the dialect that is most popular among the masses is the one that we call “standard English”, but guess what? It’s the language the most of mainstream society in the English-speaking world has chosen to speak and write in, so don’t blame Hugo or anyone else for that matter for defending it as the standard that everyone should be able to communicate in at a minimum.

        He’s not expressing intolerance; he’s offering a pragmatic and sensible solution for those who don’t have a choice as to the dialect or language that they grow up speaking as kids.

        Would you rather they remain marginalized and restricted to the communities or neighborhoods that they’re born into or would you prefer to give them a way out so they can take that extra step and move on with their lives? Why deprive them and allow them to remain isolated?

        Try putting your socio-political perspectives aside to catch a glimpse of the bigger picture at hand. Do you think your message would’ve been taken seriously if you wrote it in any other dialect besides standard English? Food for thought!

        And to be completely honest, we’re fairly mild in comparison to the Germans or the French when it comes to enforcing grammar and standard usage, so do us all a favor and put away the “intolerance” card.
        There is nothing wrong with differences and variation, but standards do exist for many good reasons.

    • Lisa DeClue -  July 20, 2014 - 12:58 pm

      @Hugo, I couldn’t agree more! I was raised by parents who read to me and demanded proper grammar and spelling. I developed a good ear and was told countless times that one’s speech often determines one’s upbringing and potential. I try to share this insight with my kids, but am often rebuked. I must admit, the title of Grammar Police is most welcome! :)

    • Micah -  July 22, 2014 - 11:54 pm

      I like how you think everything fits in a box. There are tons of English dialects throughout the world. I wish you and your disciples luck in trying to save them all from corruption.

    • Bob -  July 31, 2014 - 4:37 am

      Hugo, descriptivism is an attempt to study language scientifically. Descriptivists describe language as it is now, not how it once was, or how they think it ought to be. They catalogue and study how language works and how it changes, they don’t “embrace” anything. And for better or worse all languages change and will keep changing. How do you think we got from Old English to Modern English? That today’s errors often become tomorrows “proper English” is a fact, not something caused by descriptivists. If it were possible to stop the process, then your argument may carry some weight. But the fact of the matter is that the process of change can’t be stopped.

    • venqax -  November 2, 2015 - 3:26 pm

      Hugo, you are a Noble Gentleman. With tody’s democratization of information there is no excuse for bad language– no one is “marginalized” to any extent any longer unless they choose to be. Constantly lowering the bar is not the way to progress toward anything but destitution. The “evolution” of language based on ignorance and laziness should be trait condemned to the pre-literate phase of society in which it is understandable and inevitable. There is no such excuse for it today.

  16. Mike -  July 19, 2014 - 3:09 pm

    Saying that it’s okay to ignore the rules of a language because it’s “alive” and always evolving is a sophism. I mean, the law is always changing as well, right? New laws get passed, old ones get repealed… So should we just ignore laws altogether?

    I don’t know if this attitude is caused by laziness, shortsightedness (which is a nice way of saying stupidity), carelessness or a hypocritical need to appear “progressive”, but it has to stop.

    Language is a code we use to communicate; if you change the code, the system doesn’t work as well as it could be, and eventually not at all.

    I know we can’t stop change completely (and I love a good neologism as much as the next guy) but that is not a reason to encourage mistakes.

    • Lisa DeClue -  July 20, 2014 - 1:02 pm

      Yes, Mike! I, too, understand the role of the vernacular; yet too many people are ignorant of when its use is inappropriate.

    • Tanya -  July 21, 2014 - 11:34 am

      I agree with you, and I feel that the reason for this attitude is the growing resentment of the “elite” in this culture. If one presents oneself as better-educated, all of a sudden there are outcries of elitism and snobbery.
      You can see over the past couple of decades people practically starting to apologize for their knowledge and expertise, in mass media and on internet.
      I’m all for introducing new words to convey new concepts, but when a word is used in way opposite to its meaning, that’s not “descriptive” linguistics, it’s ignorant and confusing.

      • Bob -  July 31, 2014 - 4:49 am

        Words changing their meanings or taking on figurative meanings is a phenomenon that is happening all the time. And what in the blazes is this idea that descriptive linguists are somehow causing or embracing change. They simply describe it and study it. When a word has both a literal and a figurative meaning, that is just the fact of the matter, it is not brought about by descriptivists. Some of these comments are really funny — they are just so muddled, confused, and ignorant in themselves.

    • Steve -  July 21, 2014 - 1:37 pm

      You’re criticisms are very narrow sighted ( which is a nice way of saying incorrect ).

      You touch on intelligent ideas in your reasoning, yet you go on almost immediately afterwards to contradict yourself, how ironic. Your law metaphor is hyperbolic, few ask for all laws to be ignored, but many ask them for to evolve just as the society of which those laws serve evolve over time.

      You carry on with an ad hominem this time… doesn’t really require me to say anything to reveal the lack of thoughtfulness in this.

      As almost everyone who flounders about arguing incessantly about upholding the laws of language ( almost entirely amongst yourselves ) fail to realize language is not even remotely limited just as a code we use to communicate. It has been argued for centuries by philosophers, and scientists that it reflects the way our brain thinks, and understands. Similar to how the progress of art often reflects societies and cultures as a whole whether it be simply their ideal image of beauty, or the acceptance of new ideas. As we evolve the language has to evolve to become keep relevant, else our ideas would stagnate.

      And again maybe you were just being hyperbolic, but it appears you actually believe the ‘system would eventually not work at all’. If this is true people of foreign languages would be incapable of communicating, or a newborn would be unable to ever master any language at all.

      Your flaws in your argument short of any overzealous remarks is that you see language too linearly when even in it’s earliest days it has been as complex and evolving as the schools of math and physics that have progressed almost immeasurably over the centuries.

    • Bob -  July 31, 2014 - 4:43 am

      Who is encouraging mistakes? The fact is that language changes and linguists catalogue and study that change. Linguists (who are all essentially descriptivists) don’t encourage anything or cause anything: they simply study what happens. For some reason so many people here just don’t understand what descriptivism is.

    • Bob -  July 31, 2014 - 6:14 am

      And who has ever said that it is OK to ignore the rules of a language? Prescriptivists get their rules from what they have been taught or from books, while descriptivists get their rules from the language itself. Of course English has a prestige dialect — Standard English — and it is an advantage to master this, but even although it is socially more important, it isn’t grammatically superior to other dialects, just different. And of course English has rules and rules that no one has ever suggested should be ignored.The attitude you describe, Mike, has nothing to do with linguistic description. There is a huge difference between rubbishing a handful of silly bogus rules and advocating that anyone should ignore them all. If you are suggesting that descriptivists advocate ignoring the rules of language, you simply don’t understand what descriptivism is.

  17. Thomfrances -  July 19, 2014 - 7:07 am

    He was probably jut singing for fun

  18. Sophia chude -  July 18, 2014 - 11:49 pm

    Words that start with p

  19. Micah -  July 18, 2014 - 5:21 pm


  20. Micah McMurray -  July 18, 2014 - 4:31 pm

    What’s ironic is that I posted something of Facebook and Youtube about this exact topic. So thank you so much Jane Solomon for posting this article.It frustrates me to see so many people being considered second class citizens just because they don’t speak the elite dialect in English. I believe one dialect is not better than the other. The goal of language is to communicate, and if a group of people understand one another then the dialect is doing its job.

    However, I would encourage any language speaker to learn or imitate the current prescriptions to increase social and economic status. Many people are completely ignorant of the difference between prescriptive and descriptive linguistics. And that ignorance leads to songs like Weird Al’s. Sacrifices must be made to progress. This issue is only a small part of language. There is so much more to learn about language like Morphology, Phonology, Semantics, Lexicography, etc. It’s sad to see that our schools omit the aforementioned studies. I think if we got away from prescription and truly learned the beauty of language more kids would be interested and then develop the language naturally by reading about it. Rather then getting rules with lofty jargon shoved down their throat.

    I have a quote for the adamant precriptivist from a well-educated man. “When we see men grow old and die at a certain time one after another, from century to century, we laugh at the elixir that promises to prolong life to a thousand years; and with equal justice may the lexicographer be derided, who being able to produce no example of a nation that has preserved their words and phrases from mutability, shall imagine that his dictionary can embalm his language, and secure it from corruption and decay, that it is in his power to change sublunary nature, and clear the world at once from folly, vanity, and affectation.

    With this hope, however, academies have been instituted, to guard the avenues of their languages, to retain fugitives, and repulse intruders; but their vigilance and activity have hitherto been vain; sounds are too volatile and subtile for legal restraints; to enchain syllables, and to lash the wind, are equally the undertakings of pride, unwilling to measure its desires by its strength.”

    -Samuel Johnson

    • Lisa DeClue -  July 20, 2014 - 1:06 pm

      There has to be a balance, while learning the differences.

    • Jai -  July 19, 2014 - 12:45 pm

      Weird Al, as always, is trolling ;)
      There are a plethora of grammar nazis today on the internet who tend to be rather imperious and elitist in regards to precision of usage of the English language, for whatever underlying psychological issues they suffer from. This song is actually aimed at them.

      The irony is that most of these people will overlook the intention of this song as being a direct attack on those grammar nazis rather, as opposed to the erroneous typists which the lyrics focus on.

      I am actually a writer, that is my job.
      However, I realize that literature skills, for whatever reason are not other people’s strong points and I do not berate them for it.
      They might suffer from dyslexia or simply never perceived perfect literacy skills as having significant value in their lives.

  21. Melanie Clark -  July 18, 2014 - 10:42 am

    I love Weird Al
    He missed my most recent peeve. That is, folks who write “could of” when they mean “could’ve. ” Did they seep through fifth grade?
    And another thing: edit!

    • Louise -  July 18, 2014 - 6:19 pm

      I know, right? How could people sleep* through fifth grade? Editing is so important.

    • Patrick -  July 19, 2014 - 6:35 pm

      “Seep”? You mean like slowly dribble through?

  22. Scia -  July 18, 2014 - 9:16 am

    I’m somewhere in-between on the spectrum. I figure there should be some standards – if gradually changing – to help maintain communication, and to keep various documents from getting harder to understand as they get older. I think having some standards can also make it somewhat easier on people trying to learn the language. At the same time, I figure there should be some room for language evolution so new concepts can be expressed. I also acknowledge that you don’t need ‘perfect’ grammar in more-casual circumstances.

    I have a tendency to write somewhat formally, partly because I have a proficiency in it. I’ve also been rather prescriptive before. However, I also like conversing with people on the Internet – ‘proper’ writers even – that enjoy using the silly, concise expressiveness of Internet-speak and finding new ways to grammar. (Yes, that was intentional.)

    I do find it interesting that a lot of prescriptivists also enjoy etymology and learning about the evolution of language, not realizing that the two don’t mix in practice. Admittedly, frequenting this site and reading the blog posts has helped me stop and think about the subject.

    • Oddislag -  July 19, 2014 - 4:12 pm

      Okay, you win this one. Very good comment. You’re sort of like me too. But I just enjoy the way your comment is presented.

  23. Andrew -  July 17, 2014 - 8:36 pm

    Weird Al has always been one of my favorite musicians. One of my friends works as a middle school English teacher, and I just had to send this to her.

  24. Kristina Gajita -  July 17, 2014 - 6:28 pm

    I think I’ll be listening to this song later.

  25. Ramashankar jha -  July 17, 2014 - 5:00 pm


  26. Covarr -  July 16, 2014 - 11:25 am

    I love that he ends the song on a split infinitive, without acknowledging split infinitives anywhere throughout the entire song.

    • Dan Chapman -  July 17, 2014 - 5:28 pm

      Apparently he did it intentionally too. He mentioned inserting a split infinitive in the song to irk people.

    • Stacyrp -  July 18, 2014 - 10:51 am

      Are you sure you know what a split infinitive is?

    • Leigh Ann -  July 18, 2014 - 1:56 pm

      Actually, there’s nothing wrong with split infinitives. That’s a myth.

    • Ben -  July 20, 2014 - 7:29 am

      Split infinitives and not ending your sentence with a preposition are two ‘constructed’ rules that I have no time for. There’s no good reason why I should say ‘to go boldly’ as opposed to ‘to boldly go’, and avoiding ending sentences with prepositions ends up with awkward constructions like ‘this is the sort of nonsense up with which I won’t put’.

      Having said that, there IS a good reason to respect the difference between ‘your’ and ‘you’re’: the first is an English possessive; the second is a contraction of ‘you are’.

      • Samm -  July 22, 2014 - 12:44 pm

        Interesting: We can be picky about this, but we will not be picky about that. Who decides? Who decides who will decide?

        As far as Weird Al’s intentions, I just enjoy the intelligence of his music. I also enjoyed the digs he took at other artists, as well as the errors he included. The song is subtle, and that’s so rare these days.

        • Brian -  July 23, 2014 - 1:50 pm

          “Who decides” should be obvious: The dominant sociocultural class sets linguistic rules (as well as just about every other rule).

          Currently, the dominant group of native English speakers – in America at least, but likely worldwide – is composed of educated white men. They (we, I suppose?) do not respect variations on the language that do not adhere to the rules we learned growing up, so – for example – job applications, news articles, essays, interviews, or any other form of communication that may come to pass will be ridiculed and dismissed as lazy, stupid, or in any case unworthy of attention should they not be delivered in “our” concept of “standard English”.


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