Month: July 2014

The Grammar Girl on Weird Al’s “Word Crimes” Video

I wasn’t surprised to discover today that the venerable Mignon Fogarty, a.k.a. the “Grammar Girl,” beat me to the presses by a few days with her take on “Weird Al” Yankovich’s linguistic prescriptivism. “The bottom line is that I don’t believe in word crimes,” she writes, “and I don’t believe in encouraging people to think about language that way.” Co-signed.

At the very least, Fogarty’s critique of Weird Al’s “call to feel superior” should give pause to those of us who teach reading and writing, and more generally to those of us who love language not as an ideal form, but as a dynamic, imperfect, human practice.

Hey, Weird Al: Congratulations on Not Having a Language Disorder!

Oh boy. It’s no fun to be The Guy Who Takes Umbrage at a Novelty Song. So let me start by saying that, all things considered, I couldn’t be happier about “Weird Al” Yankovic’s recent viral resurgence. “Tacky,” his upgrade of Pharrell’s cloying “Happy,” is blue-chip parody pop: lively, goofy, subtly acerbic. (Subtext: you know what’s really tacky? Songs like “Happy.”)

But among my language-wonk friends–i.e., most of my friends–one song has risen to the top of this week’s Weird Al heap. “Word Crimes,” a spoof of “Blurred Lines” that decries common language abuses, has been shared on my Facebook feed, Tweeted at me, praised all over the Internet, and forwarded to me by elderly family members. “You’re an English teacher! You’ll love this!” And I almost did love it. Whoops.

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