Thank you to listener Richard from MA for correcting us!

Today’s opening question, about grammatical “mistakes” in popular songs, was the worst I’ve ever heard on the program. It propagated the false idea that the normative or prescriptive approach to English grammar provides a guide to speaking correctly. I’m sure other linguists will chime in on this issue, but I could not let one panelist’s remark get by without a comment. The panelist (I didn’t catch her name) said that sentences like “It’s me” would be impossible in other European languages. In fact it’s been several centuries since speakers of French would say “Ce suis je” or “C’est il” instead of the long-since normal “C’est moi” or “C’est lui.” English thus followed the natural development from “It is I” to “It’s me,” despite the best efforts of prescriptivists who believed that English should be guided by the rules of Latin grammar with its predicate nominatives, etc. And unless you don’t believe in poetic language, speaking of “lonely nights” is perfectly good English.


Thank you to listener T.O. for tickling our fancies with these grammatical A&Q’s:

In my opinion, all six of the song lyrics quoted in “Grammar Goes to the Grammies” are perfectly grammatical. You just have to realize that the singer is responding to a question we never hear. (Picture a man in a turban, holding an envelope to his forehead):

ANSWER: “I must be sure from the very start that you would love me more than her.”
QUESTION: “I suppose I could love you almost as much as I love my mother, but — hey, why are you pouting?”

ANSWER: “Is it me?”
QUESTION: “I’m stuck on 6 Across: ‘Two-letter word meaning “myself.”‘ Any ideas?”

ANSWER: “I can’t get no satisfaction.”
QUESTION: “Sometimes, if I try, I find that I’m able to get no satisfaction whatsoever out of life. How about you?”

ANSWER: “You know she’s uncommonly rare, very unique.”
QUESTION: “I forget: in the collected writings of Mgogg the Caveman, is the word ‘she’ considered unique, while ‘very’ is only uncommonly rare, or is it the other way around?”

ANSWER: “No more lonely nights.”
QUESTION: “Whatever happened to that loser husband of yours — the one we all called ‘Mr. Lonely Nights’?”

ANSWER: “Lay, lady, lay.”
PRECEDING: “Jerry Lewis, what does a hen do to make more hens?”


Listener Jeffrey gave us this delightful tidbit on musical palindromes:
Since I am a musician and music teacher, “Father Charles Goes Down And Ends Battle” was easy for me. But did you know that the sentence works backwards as well? “Battle Ends And Down Goes Charles’ Father.” First way is for the order of key signatures using #’s – the second for the order of keys using flats.