Word Crimes

When I listened to Weird Al’s Word Crimes song a few weeks ago I was on the edge of typing an extremely ranty post so I decided to let it sit for a few weeks. If you haven’t heard it yet, Word Crimes is a parody of Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines about non-standard grammar and spelling and takes a hardline prescriptive approach.

I couldn’t dislike it as much as I disliked Blurred Lines (that would be difficult!) but spelling and grammar policing is one of my biggest peeves.

Along with championing prescriptive language and mocking those who use it, it also uses ableist slurs (e.g. moron and spastic) to refer to non-standard grammar and spelling users. My university research about people’s use of terms relating to people with disabilities made me even more acutely aware of the problems caused by the casual use of these derogatory, ableist terms so I found this incredibly off-putting.

After a few weeks since listening to it, I think my initial dislike of it has waned a bit, so you won’t be subjected to the rant I was going to write when I first saw it. I don’t mean that I find the language any less offensive or that I’ve come around to prescriptivism, but that my dislike has just been muted somewhat. Part of my initial dislike was seeing the same complaints made by prescriptive grammarians all in one place. For whatever reason this didn’t bother me as much at the second listen and I am even prepared to entertain the idea (although not accept it) that the song might in fact be mocking the prescriptionists. It’s got a catchy tune and I could evem maybe, perhaps, enjoy some of the humour.

I will admit (in a very small whisper) that despite disliking linguistic prescriptivism I still find some of these so-called errors amusing. For example, the use of quotation marks used for emphasis on a menu I saw on holiday for Vegetarian “nut” roast made me laugh. The figuratively mug below also makes me smile. If I didn’t have a billion mugs I might even want it! However criticising people for their non-standard spelling and grammar isn’t something I can laugh at.

Literally – Grammar Grumble Mug No 5.

Siddling off topic, the song’s mention of emojis reminded me of an article I read recently about the use of emoticons on Twitter reflecting the personality of the user. You can read the original study by Tyler Schoebelen here.
Apparently noseless emoticons : ) are associated with a Tweeter who is more likely to use abbreviations and has younger interests. The nosed emoticon : – ) is associated with a more traditional style of writing such as the lack of abbreviations. Everyone I know uses noseless emoticons and a fairly standard texting and social media style so I can’t see if this fits into my own social circle.

You’ll be glad to know that in the few weeks since hearing Word Crimes my initial ‘I hate this!’ emotion has faded…a bit *noseless smiling emoticon*. I’ll concede that Word Crimes is catchy and covers most of the grammar police’s niggles even if the pro-prescriptivism and ablist language is off-putting. If you must listen to it you can see the video here.


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