Grammarville

Coverville is a regular podcast by Brian Ibbott (also available on KYCY in San Francisco, 1550 AM) that features cover versions of songs, usually in a thematic set. Program 576, back in May, was “Grammarville”, with songs whose titles seemed to Ibbott to offend the rules of English grammar.

(Hat tip to Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky.)

Here’s the playlist:

You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere
Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of
Baby I’m — A Want You
I Got You
Lay Down, Sally
I Want You Bad
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
We Gotta Get Out Of This Place

There were, of course, lots of possibilities, and there might well be another show on this theme. Ibbott remarked that he’d considered “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard”, but those titles aren’t in sentences, so you can’t tell whether they’re grammatical.

In the song, me and Bobby McGee is in fact the object of a preposition, so the accusative me is unremarkable: “Good enough for me and Bobby McGee”. Me and Julio is another matter, since this song is famously hard to interpret. In any case, the relevant part is

Goodbye to Rosie, the Queen of Corona
See you, me and Julio down by the schoolyard

See you could be a fixed expression (as in “so long — see you”), or see could be a verb with three coordinated objects. There’s no point in asking Paul Simon; he’ll just say he doesn’t know what he had in mind.

By the way, Ibbott recommends Mignon Fogarty’s Grammar Girl podcasts.

In case you were wondering about “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of”, the problem is supposed to be the stranded preposition — though this is a case in which the presumable “fix”, “Stuck in a Moment Out Of Which You Can’t Get”, is hilariously worse than the actual title.

From the comments on the “Grammarville” program, a reference to

the traditional rule that you shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition–a rule to which most grammarians no longer adhere

Now, Dryden’s Rule (No Stranded Prepositions) is a “superstition” (Bryan Garner’s term; Fowler in 1926 called this one a “cherished superstition”) about grammar. Stranded prepositions have always been acceptable in some contexts in standard English, but some commenters have disapproved of them (see the tangled history in MWDEU), and this has led many people to think that they used to be unacceptable, but that grammarians (in our unprincipled, permissive fashion) have now loosened the strictures, abandoning the “traditional rule” and so allowing the language to decline. (This is a familiar story for grammatical superstitions.)

One Response to “Grammarville”

  1. Chris Waigl Says:

    I think there should be a song called “Up with which I will not put”.

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