Word Crimes

“Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Word Crimes” is a parody of “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke. “Blurred Lines” came out in 2013 and became a hit. It was a perfect candidate for a parody.

“It was the big song of the summer of 2013 and I felt if I put out my album and didn’t have a “Blurred Lines” parody, it would be a glaring omission. Like, Why didn’t you do “Blurred Lines?!,” Weird Al tells Vulture in an interview.

Weird Al released “Word Crimes” in 2014, as a part of the album Mandatory Fun. It quickly became a hit and was 39th on the Billboard Hot 100, making it one of the top 40 songs at the time.

This parody differs from other “Blurred line” parodies Weird Al explains.

“I’ve done satires on a small handful of occasions — with Nirvana and Billy Ray Cyrus and Lady Gaga. But for this one, that ground had been well-trod. In the YouTube world we live in, a week after Robin Thicke had his hit, there were 10,000 parodies of it. Most of them were takes on him being misogynistic and a little rape-y. I knew that, whatever I did, I couldn’t go down that path.”

Weird Al changed the song from borderline rape-y to a satire about both ‘grammar nazis’ and those that infuriates them. He continued to explain that it was “a sweet thing for me to be able to take that song, which is pretty sexually charged, and turn it into a song about proper grammar usage.”

People can argue that grammar and writing conventions aren’t important, but they really are to convey the proper meaning. It’s one thing to just talk, it’s another to be understood.

Weird Al tells The Enquirer that grammar is important to him, “Maybe it’s a little OCD of me to always want things to be correct. I let people slide more if it’s casual conversation or even social media, but when I get a press release from a record label or see an article in print with a glaring grammatical mistake, the hairs on the back of my neck go up. I don’t know why. It just feels like people should know better.”

The song “Word Crimes” highlights the common grammatical errors that people tend to make. Here’s the music video that also provides visualization for the errors. As well, it adds some of its own such as the misspelling of the word moron by replacing the last O with an A.

There are quite a few grammatical issues that the song brings up as well as some potentially not well-known definitions. Let’s go through them all in the order they appear in the song so you can listen along.

Conjugate Definition

  1. Grammar – Give the different forms of (a verb in an inflected language such as Latin) as they vary according to voice, mood, tense, number, and person.
    ‘Conjugating allows a sentence to vary. Like the moon or politicians’

Nomenclature Definition

  1. The devising or choosing of names for things, especially in a science or other discipline.
    ‘The scientific nomenclature for a narwhale is Monodon monoceros. The Tumblr nomenclature of a narwhale is a sea unicorn’

Noun Definition 

  1. A word (other than a pronoun) used to identify any of a class of people, places, or things (common noun), or to name a particular one of these (proper noun).
    ‘Weird Al, Dylanna Fisher, Keyboard, “Blurred Lines”, Doodle and Teddy bear are all nouns

Preposition Definition

  1. A word governing, and usually preceding, a noun or pronoun and expressing a relation to another word or element in the clause, as in ‘the man on the platform’, ‘she arrived after dinner’, ‘what did you do it for?’.
    Examples include on, in after, during.

When It’s Less or It’s Fewer

Less and fewer both mean that something isn’t as much as another thing, but they have two different applications. Less refers to singular mass nouns or quantity or a mass of things. These are things that can’t be counted. Fewer refers to specific numbers or specific nouns. These are things that are easily counted. In the video, it compares bottles and the liquid in the bottles. There is less liquid in the bottle but fewer bottles.

You have less money but fewer dollars

She has less morality. She has fewer puppies. (not necessarily related)

I have less trust. I also have fewer cookies. (Also not necessarily related)

I Could Care Less

In a typical conversation, I could care less and I couldn’t care less generally mean the same thing – that someone just doesn’t care.

The literal interpretation, however, sets these two as very different. I couldn’t care less means that you already care the least you possibly can. It’s not possible for you to care less. You just don’t give a fudge.

Though with the literal interpretation of I could care less, it means that you do care at least a little. There is some amount even if it’s just teeny-weeny. This phrase literally means that you care.

The Right Pronoun

This could mean the politically correct use of proper pronouns for those that are transitioning or non-binary. In this case, he may be going for more of the grammatical spin of using the right pronoun for writing a point of view for first person, second person, and third person.

First, Second, and Third Person image

First Person is how we talk when we talk about ourselves, our ideas, our actions. This perspective uses first-person pronouns such as I, me, my, minemyself, we, us, our, and ourselves

“I’m writing this example while listening to Weird Al”

Second-Person Point of View is where someone is talking about someone else. It uses second-person pronouns of you, your, yours, yourself, yourselves.

“You are an amazing writer; writing all the things.”

Third-Person Point of View takes it a step away from the second person and uses third person pronouns such as he, him, his, himself, she, her, hers, herself, it, its, itself, they, them, their, theirs, and themselves. It’s typically seen as the disembodied narrator in novels.

‘Sarah was still looking for that pineapple when the sun came up’

People do talk about themselves in the second or third person which can get kind of weird in normal conversation. However, it’s used for comedic effect or impressions or emphasis. Here’s an example from Ellen DeGeneres.

It’s Versus Its

Its is possessive which means that whatever the subject is, is in possession or ownership of something else. It doesn’t have an apostrophe.

“The cat ate its dinner loudly”

“The monkey freaked everyone out by escaping from its cage”

It’s is a contraction for it is or it has. For this one, you use an apostrophe.

“It’s an amazing keyboard you have there”

“It’s been great having you here with me. Awkward but great. 

Contraction Definition

  1. The process of becoming smaller.
    ‘The girl seemed to contract into herself at the mention of an oral presentation ’
  2. A word or group of words resulting from shortening an original form.
    ‘Would’ve is a contraction of would and have’

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The word contraction means to push or crush things together. In grammatical terms, it means to squeeze two words together to make it shorter by taking away letters and replacing them with an apostrophe. Such as It’s in the previous paragraph. Other examples of contractions include Haven’t (have not), Shouldn’t (should not), Goodbye (God be with ye), and ’tisn’t (it is not). The last one is rather old and not used much but it just sounds cool.

Syntax Definition

  1. The arrangement of words and phrases to create well-formed sentences in a language.
    ‘The syntax of English is rather complicated making it beautiful in a confusing way’

Words That Don’t Have X in Them

This is a kind of commonly misspelled words; words that sound like they should have an X, but they don’t. Neither espresso nor ecstasy has an X in it. Some other commonly misspelled words include schedule, weather, tomorrow, dilemma, and necessary.

Dangling Participles

When a participle dangles, it means that the subjects aren’t connected to the action in a way that makes sense.

“Walking to the kitchen, the garbage can tripped me” is a dangling participle. It seems like the garbage is walking to the kitchen as it’s tripping me. A correct version of the sentence that fixes the dangling participle is “Walking to the kitchen, I trip over the garbage can”. There are other ways to fix a grammatically incorrect sentence including completely rewriting the sentence to not include a participle. “I walked into the kitchen and tripped on the garbage can” or “In the kitchen, I tripped on the garbage can” or “The garbage can is possessed and it tripped me”. There are options.

Oxford Comma Definition

  1. A comma used after the penultimate item in a list of three or more items, before ‘and’ or ‘or’. Also, it’s called the serial comma
    “In your tea, would you like honey, sugar, cane sugar, brown sugar, demerara Sugar, stevia, or agave sugar?”

This is an optional comma, according to the Oxford Dictionary.

“It’s known as the Oxford comma because it was traditionally used by printers, readers, and editors at Oxford University Press.  Not all writers and publishers use it, but it can clarify the meaning of a sentence when the items in a list are not single words”

As long as you are consistent throughout your document and are complying with the style guide put out by the publisher or company or style that you’re writing for, you can choose to have it or not.

Using Letters For Words

This is a kind of text speak as it’s easier to type a single letter rather than a whole word. Using letters for words is really common while texting or on social media. In formal writing such as academics, professional, and romantic letters, it’s best to use the full words.

Use A Spell Checker

The quickest way to check for small errors is to use a spell checker. In Microsoft Word documents you can edit the settings of the spell checker to check for a range of things or to ignore certain mistakes.

If you’re on the internet you can add extensions to your browser to add a spell checker or a grammar checker such as Grammarly or Languagetool. These will automatically check for any errors in your typing.

There are also online grammar checkers that you simply copy and paste your writing into and it’ll check for more than just spelling. Some of them check for passive language, informal terms, hidden verbs, capitalization errors and so on.

However, it never hurts to check your writing one last time through proofreading.

Write Words Using Numbers

This is similar to other kinds of text speech. It’s easier to replace a string of letters with one number. Gr8 instead of Great or 4 instead of for are examples.

Weird Al references Prince in this section as he has several albums that use numbers for words in their titles such as 20Ten (2010), Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic (1999), The Vault… Old Friends 4 Sale (1999), and Girl 6 (1996).

He isn’t the only artist that does this but Weird Al added it in as a bit of a “nudge”. He tells Vulture that there’s another reason for referencing Prince. “Well, you know, it’s a direct reference to the fact of his song titles that use the numbers and the letters and things like that. But also, it’s a little nudge. At the time, Prince was still with us and for decades, he’s sort of been my scapegoat because he was always the one guy that has historically and famously never let me do any parodies. So, any time I could give him a little nudge.”

Proofreaders

Proofreading is one of the best ways to edit work. Whether you do it or someone else does, it’s a great way to catch any errors that computers just can’t catch. These are things like flow, rhythm, meaning, context, and semantics. There are a lot of resources that can help including CP style guide, Canadian Writer’s Reference, and Purdue Online Writing Lab to name a very limited few.

Cunning Linguist

This is a bit of a double entendre for the word cunnilingus. When sung, it sounds like cunnilingus which is the female form of fellatio. Weird Al explains, “I know a lot of kids listen to my music, but that’s one of the kinds of things where hopefully the parents will get a kick out of it and it’ll go over the kid’s head.”

Homophones 

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Homophones are words that sound similar but have different meanings. It’s important to use the right one to keep the meaning of your writing exact and correct.

“They’re, There, and Their”

“To, Two, and Too”

“New and Knew

Homophones are different from synonyms which are words with the same meaning that don’t sound alike.

“Sadness and Misery”

“Anger and Rage”

“Water and H2O”

Diagram A Sentence

Diagramming a sentence is a way of breaking down the sentence and being able to visually see all the different building blocks that make up the sentence. It’s not used a lot but it is helpful for learning how sentences are put together. If you want to know the steps, head over to Wikihow to diagram your own sentences.

 

Who Versus Whom

Who and whom are really similar. Only a letter apart but like son and sun, there is a difference. Who means to ask “what or which person or persons?”. Whom is used instead of who as the object of the verb or preposition, the object is having something done to them.

If you answer the question with he/she/they then it’s who

‘Who is that?’

‘Who is the host of the party?’

If you answer the question with him/her/them then it’s whom

‘He kissed whom?’

‘Whom did you choose?’

Quotation Marks for Emphasis

To be grammatically correct, there are a few ways to use quotation marks and a few ways to not.

Yes. Do use quotation marks.

  • Put them around direct quotes.
    James said, “I love fireworks”
  • Use them to mark the titles of smaller works like articles, songs, poems, chapters. For larger ones, like books, plays, anthologies, and albums, you use italics or underlining.
    “Interviewing Chetreo“, “Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia, “Ten Honest Thoughts on Being Loved by a Skinny Boy” by Rachel Wiley
  • If there’s a term that’s unfamiliar to your audience or is used in a nonstandard way, then use quotations.
    Then the concept of “Otaku” culture is further discussed in the lecture
  • If a nontechnical term is used in a technical sense use quotations.
    The theory examines the way that messages “travel” from the speaker to the audience

No. don’t use quotations marks.

  • Don’t use quotation marks for emphasis, use italics instead.
    I’m for sure, “absolutely” sure. 
  • Don’t put quotation marks around indirect quotes or paraphrasing.
    Yeah, I heard him say that he “wanted to ask her out” 
  • If you’re using cliches or other overused expressions, don’t use quotation marks.
    It’s just “water under the bridge” Janet. 
  • Don’t put quotation marks around yes or no if they’re used alone.
    He said “no”. 
  • If you use the phrase so-called, don’t use quotation marks around the word afterward.
    They’re the so-called “owner” of the restaurant.

Doing Good or Doing Well

These are two often used responses to the question “How are you doing?”

Doing good means that you are actively doing good, or participating in making the world a better place. It’s altruistic but doesn’t really answer the question.

Doing well means that you and your circumstances are good. This is what people mean when they say they’re doing good.

Irony Versus Coincidence 

Irony and coincidence are very often confused with one another.

Irony suggests a binary, an opposite or a contradiction to the outcome. For example, irony would be a fire engine on fire or a vegan chef at a BBQ restaurant.

Coincidence suggests chance or fate or a fluke. Rain on a parade isn’t ironic, it’s just a coincident. Seeing two people on the train that don’t know each other but are wearing the same outfit is an eerie coincident but not ironic.

Figurative Versus Literal

Literal Definition

  1. In a literal manner or sense; exactly.
    ‘She literally punched me’
  2. [informal] Used for emphasis while not being literally true.
    ‘I was laughing so hard, I literally died’

Literally is meant to be used in the exact sense, without exaggeration. It’s what’s actually happening. However, it’s been used more and more in informal settings to be used as an intensifier. It’s becoming synonymous with figurative even to the point of being included in the definition in some dictionaries.

 Figurative Definition
  1. Departing from a literal use of words; metaphorical.
    ‘She was figuratively flying’
  2. Artwork representing forms that are recognizably derived from life
    Their artwork is figurative of something.
    ‘This artwork is figurative of 1920’s romanticism’

Figuratively is meant for the figurative, the metaphorical. It’s about what’s happening in a figurative sense.

Errant Definition 

  1. Straying from the accepted course or standards.
    An errant poet decides to write in full sentences’
  2. Not in the right place; having moved from the correct position or course.
    ‘An errant string hangs from her Bruce Banner sweater’

Writing in Emoji’s

Theawkwardyeti, Dylanna Fisher, Emojis, Switching Styles, Weird Al, Word Crimes

Emojis are fun and cute. In a casual setting, they help to convey meaning in text messaging when there isn’t any tone or body language or facial expressions. However different emojis could mean different things to different people and different situations. They’re great for casual conversations as long as they add to the meaning and don’t muddle it. Also, don’t use them in an academic essay.


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Tell me in the comments, what word crime annoys you the most?

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