Worst Grammar Offenses in Pop Culture

I was perusing the discussion boards on the “Good Grammar Is Hot” group on Facebook, and I came across a discussion of the worst grammar offenses in pop culture.

Here are some of them:

John G:

Okay, mine is from Justin Timberlake’s song “what goes around.” He actually
says, “my heart BLEEDED, girl”

Well, there aren’t too many words that rhyme with cheated. Did I mention that I swore up and down that I thought I saw him driving through Powderhouse Circle the other night when he was in town?

Joaquina G:

How about the song “the way I are”

Alexa already brought that up! Timbaland doesn’t even sing that line anywhere in the song! It’s just the title!

Caleb T:

“How you doing?” ……………..stupid Joey


Marc Z:

That rap tune that goes “is you is or is you ain’t” is pretty bad. Also, The Doors song, Touch Me, features the lyric:
“I’m gonna love you
Till the stars fall from the sky
For you and I”
Which has always bothered me.

I cannot STAND it when people use I instead of me. The people who do this tend to emphasize the I, and many probably think that they’re being intelligent, speaking better than anyone. Well, all of you know that they’re wrong.

Ellen A:

Does anyone else hate Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry?”
“I’m not gonna miss you, like a child misses their blanket.”
It grates, and I have to change the station until the song is over.

I completely agree. This line of the song bugs me SO much! It ruins the song for me, and the song isn’t even that great. (I think Fergie should stick to the crazy/strange dance numbers.)

Abigail B:

backstreet boys “all i have to give”
“does his friends get all your time?” and “does his gifts come from the heart?”
gee, i DOESN’T know… DOES THEY??

This is for the Brood, my best friends from home. We used to make music videos to this song and “I Want It That Way.”

Yoni B:

In a rap song (the rapper’s name eludes me at the moment):’Do your chain hang low? Do it wobble to the floor(read “flo”)? Do it shine in the light? Is it platinum, is it gold?’He’s managed to rhyme ‘low’ with ‘floor’ and ‘gold.’ Quite the feat.

I detest this song.

Kandi R:

John Cougar Mellencamp, “Small Town”. I’m a Hoosier from a small town myself, and I love the song, and I love the Coug, but one of the lines is: “and I cannot forget from where it is that I come from”.

Oh, God. Beyond redundant.

I’m not going to comment on the specific writing of these Facebook posters.

Why not?

I’m here to talk about grammar errors made by companies, businesses, groups and institutions with the financial means to afford an editor. I don’t go after individuals unless the errors are jaw-droppingly egregious, and I don’t turn up my nose at every email I receive. (So many of you write to tell me that you’re afraid of what I’ll say about your writing — relax!!)

That being said, however, I am a bit surprised that some of the people in a group called “Good Grammar Is Hot” have no qualms about posting a sentence full of errors.

That is all.

It’s late and I have to be at work in just over nine hours….I only got home from work an hour ago. OH, NO!! I just realized that I missed Barack Obama on The Daily Show!!

I have some plans for tomorrow night — I’m going out to Union with my friend Lisa, as they still have their Restaurant Week menu (for more on Restaurant Week, visit Kate’s Adventures) — and then we may try to visit the Beehive or just do our usual Hong Kong thing. Either way, I won’t be posting tomorrow night.

Have a great few days!


16 responses to “Worst Grammar Offenses in Pop Culture

  1. OMG, the Justin Timberlake lyric has been annoying me in the WORST WAY!

    But I forgive him, ‘cos of the rhyming, and ‘cos he is hott…

  2. Was the comment on the “chain hang low” song about grammar? It seems as if the poster had no qualms with the grammar, but with the rhyme scheme, and such a concern is unfounded, since the rapper is using slant rhyme. Some people may not like it, but slant rhyme is here to stay!

    Plus, given the context of Hip Hop music, which relies on AAVE, I wouldn’t dare criticize a rapper’s grammar, for fear that a Hip Hop grammarian would lay the smackdown on my honkey ass.

  3. Kate, you are completely wrong about the Timbaland song. I didn’t even know the title until I looked it up, I just heard on the radio some girl singing about how “I like you just the way you are” and Timbaland comes back with “can you handle me the way I are?”


  4. the secret knitter

    Can’t say I’ve heard the rap tune with “is you is or is you ain’t”. I’ll bet it’s referencing Louis Jordan’s “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby?” from 1944, not that it justifies the grammar.

  5. Don’t you have to cut songs (and poetry) some slack for being a different form of language than formal written and spoken English? I mean technically even Shakespeare was grammatically incorrect when he wrote Ophelia’s line “Woe is me”, but that sounds a whole heck of a lot better than “woe is I”. The Justin Timberlake song wouldn’t flow correctly with the music if he didn’t rhyme the words and said bled (which has fewer syllables than bleeded).

  6. I agree with the previous anonymous writer. Kate herself said, “[M]y admonitions are directed towards businesses and other organizations that release professional writing to the public. These are people who can clearly afford to hire an editor to give their ads a quick once-over.” She contradicts herself, or perhaps she needs to define “professional writing” because artists can write professionally with an artistic license, giving freedom to neologistical and unconventional methods.

  7. As far as “professional writing” goes, on one of the responses to a blog entry,the Grammar Vandal clarified,”English-speaking companies who can afford to hire an editor,” so that does not include individual artists. Thus, she sounds like a cultural bigot when she criticizes art.

  8. Kate, Even though I am supposed to be a grammar expert, I was stumped by this question from a fan of my site, Grammarbook.com: The technician and/or the coordinator (meet, meets) with the manager.
    I couldn’t find the answer anywhere but I believe that “and” in first position makes the subject plural so requires the plural verb “meet.” Do you agree?
    Author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

  9. Wow. A cultural bigot? Contradictions? Did you anons really think about those comments before you posted them? I mean, did you read the part where Kate said, “I don’t go after individuals unless the errors are jaw-droppingly egregious,” which, based on standard English grammar rules, these errors are?

    Far from spouting contradictions, Kate has been consistent all along. You might think artists should get a pass for being artists, but some people, like myself, would respectfully disagree with you. And far from criticizing these examples, she is simply stating her disgust for the errors found in each example.

    To put it simply, get over yourselves. You all can state that you disagree with her, but do not go spouting petty libel about how she is inconsistent.

  10. I agree that some of the errors mentioned are egregious, but the very rules of English grammar state that the verb “to be” is a weak verb. Using the phrases “is you is or is you ain’t” and “I are” empower that weakling. That lack of subject-verb agreement may be inappropriate for formal writing–or even formal oral interactions–but don’t wreck oral innovations that improve our language in artistic ways.

  11. Well, as of now I have officially been called a bigot. Are you kidding me?

    I stand by what I’ve said here. If you read the entry, you can see that I chose to post the most interesting entries posted by other people on Facebook. If I have a problem with the grammatical error, I say so immediately beneath the line (like “like a child misses their blanket.”) If I don’t, I don’t.

    By the way, I consider musicians of major record labels to be professionals. I’m sure they consider themselves to be, too.

  12. Oooh. Lovely blog!

    Here’s one which isn’t an error in grammar, but maths: I cannot hear the song by Travis without correcting their topological error:

    “There is no wrong,
    There is no right,
    The moebius strip
    only has one side”.

    Circles only have one edge. They have two sides. Moebius strips on the other hand have only one edge and one side, which makes them interesting to knit, but that’s another matter.

    I suppose one can’t complain, but still I do.

    Very enjoyable blog, and a new find for me.


    *disappears back into cyberspace muttering “right and side don’t rhyme either”

  13. Since many have written against those of us who are anonymous, I think I’ll let Don Harrán speak for me. His book In Defense of Music has the following words:
    “Music cannot be forced into the mould of speech, for ‘its numbers and measures are, for the most part different from words.’ Music, moreover, has its own syntactical logic, often at odds with the logic of grammatical syntax.”

  14. Everyone who has provided the argument that “art is immune from following correct grammar,” just stop for a second and consider the old adage that art imitates life. Yes, sometimes art has certain allowances, but for Christ’s sake, it’s getting ridiculous. People are becoming very stupid in the modern age. The movie, “How She Move” is a prime example, as are many of the songs listed above. Grammar is a lost art, and basically people are just becoming lazy and are more inclined to text messaging their sorority/fraternity sister, playing video games excessively, watching The Hills, etc. I work as a substitute-teacher in some ‘urban’ schools in NY, and I can tell you first hand that these kids are exceedingly dumb. Being dumb is not that bad because you can educate yourself or be educated , but that is frowned upon. I am constantly being ridiculed for ridiculing others, so apparently “Good Grammar is not hot.” People say that I am ‘dictionary-dot-comming’ them.

    Just a quick gripe, why do people constantly add extra past tense, such as “that hurted me.” WHY!!!! It’s already past tense.

    My concluding point is that occasional diversions from correct grammar is fine, but when it is looked so highly upon and directly influences so many impressionable dumbasses out there, we have a problem.

    Unfortunately, life imitates art as much as art imitates life.

  15. I concur with a lot of what you say, but there was one comment that left a bad taste in my mouth: “Grammar is a lost art, and basically people are just becoming lazy and are more inclined to text messaging their sorority/fraternity sister, playing video games excessively, watching The Hills, etc.”

    Text messaging may have some influence on someone’s grammar, but I doubt they’d use “OMG” on a serious school paper.

    Unfortunately, not everyone can be good at English, and while I get irked when people don’t capitalize the first word of a sentence or use commas and periods, I can accept that some people just aren’t good spellers. I am pleased when people simply show an effort to use proper grammar.

    More notably, as an avid gamer and game design student I resisted the urge to roll my eyes when you pushed the blame on video games (and, to a lesser extent, television). Variety is the spice of life, and no one should spend all of his or her time doing one thing all day, but to attribute poor grammar to video games and TV is a low blow (especially considering that today’s games have a lot of text and complex menus to navigate and read through). I’m guessing that not many teachers play video games, thinking that they’re “destroying today’s youth” or whatever, but if anything video games (and some TV shows) are more thought-provoking than ever before. While video games may not be a substitute for formal English education, they aren’t a main cause for carelessness.

    Aside from that, I agree that bad grammar is not an “art.” I simply cannot accept it as that. I just think that people cannot comprehend why it’s so important to use proper grammar. Maybe we need to explain that more in schools.

  16. *Oops! I just realized that another poster was the one to say the anti-texting/TV/video games remark. Sorry about that, original author. 😦

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