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Friday, July 3, 2015

Now, About All These Word Crimes

I attended "Weird Al" Yankovic's concert in Wichita earlier this week and had a good time. What was interesting was that one of his songs may actually speak to writers.

Yankovic shares a similarity to writers in that he dislikes improper grammar. He created a parody of Robin Thicke's song "Blurred Lines" called "Word Crimes," in which Yankovic gets into his criticisms of those who don't use proper grammar; specifically, website commenters who use words incorrectly, don't follow punctuation rules and use shorthand for a word, rather than a phrase.

It's funny that the song has been described by The A.V. Club as a modern-day "Conjunction Junction." I can remember the days of Schoolhouse Rock and how it influenced me. I sometimes wonder if our addiction to technology has diminished our writing skills. Going back to how people use shorthand for phrases (ICYMI, YMMV, IMO, etc.), I wonder if that's part of what's affected writing these days. We'd never get away with shorthand in most books, of course (exception: if we are writing a scene in which somebody is swapping text messages). But what if younger people become so used to shorthand, they start carrying it over to more than texting and commenting?

There are, of course, grammar complaints Yankovic has which have nothing to do with technology. The misusage of "it's" and "its" seems to have been a problem since the day I was born. Yes, "fewer" and "less" are often used incorrectly, but I suspect a lot of people aren't aware of the differnce between those words. And, yes, those who use "literally" before a phrase that nobody would consider figurative drives me nuts.

I wonder, though, if Yankovic understood what many writers debate about the usage of the Oxford comma, given his reference to it in the song.

I'll leave you with the music video for "Word Crimes." Enjoy your Fourth of July, everyone.

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