10 Song Lyrics That Only Bother Grammar Nerds

Notes 2 Border
Based on the overwhelming response to my last post about grammar, I think it’s time to try it again–but this time with music. Both writing and music are popular forms of artistry and expression, so the two have many similarities. We consider ourselves creative and articulate, and we love telling stories through our art form. We understand how passion can drive a hobby into a career–even if we struggle at times during the transition. One difference between the two, though, is that usually the writer tends to be a bit pickier about the grammatical accuracy of words than the musician. To prove it (and perhaps ignite some OCD feelings for those of you who are the most particular about grammar), here are 10 song lyrics that bug us English nerds.

1) “Play Me” by Neil Diamond: “Song she sang to me/Song she brang to me”

Some errors are more obvious than others, and it doesn’t take a grammar nerd to realize that “brang” is not a word. I understand artists can take some creative liberty to make their songs rhyme, but this one is just tough to hear. Sorry, Neil.

2) “Fergalicious” by Fergie: “T-A-S-T-E-Y”

As much as I’d like to point out the title, the real issue here is basic spelling. I know people who still spell this word incorrectly because they’ve heard it butchered time after time. Not that anyone should be getting their English lessons from a song, but Fergie and will.i.am apparently aren’t quite teacher material anyway.

3) “I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5: “I know he’d better be good to you/’Cause if he doesn’t

Ever since I first heard this song the “doesn’t” annoyed me (even though I adore this song), and I was always curious as to why it wasn’t changed to “isn’t” because it’s not holding a rhyme together. After probably ten years of wondering I finally heard a demo version of this song and the lyrics are “Just be sure he treats you true/’Cause if he doesn’t…” Apparently the writers switched out the one line but didn’t bother to rewrite the other. But the word “true” bothers me too, so really neither version can win the grammar game.

4)”Lay Down Sally” by Eric Clapton: Lay down Sally”

It’s such a catchy tune it’s hard to pass it up just because of the lay vs. lie issue. I’ll admit, this was one of the hardest grammar rules for me to understand (and to be honest I still struggle with it sometimes). So I’ll give Eric a break this time.

5) “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2: “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

This is another grammar issue that’s not too major, but still technically incorrect. It’s become common for people to end sentences in prepositions, so the way U2 sings it probably sounds less awkward than “I still haven’t found for what I’m looking.” I guess sometimes it’s better to be wrong.

6) “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye: “Somebody that I used to know”

I know this is a breakup song, but referring to an ex as a “that” is pretty cruel. But it’s not glaringly wrong like some of these other mistakes, so I can see past it most of the time.

7) “Run to You” by Bryan Adams: “That would change if she ever found out about you and I

Another common error that was probably only written this way so it would rhyme. This song is so musically amazing, though, so that sort of makes up for the mistake in my eyes. Quick trivia time! When I first heard this song I thought the lyric was “That would change if she ever found out about you and died.” So even though the correct words are still wrong, I suppose it’s better than death.

8) “Rich Girl” by Gwen Stefani: “If I was a rich girl”

There’s not much I actually like about this song, so it’s easier for me to critique the grammar. But there really is no excuse about rhyming or awkward phrasing for this mistake, so it’s pretty clear that it was unintentional.

9) “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones: “I can’t get no satisfaction”

Like U2’s song, this is another that would just sound strange as “I can’t get any satisfaction,” especially coming from a rock band. But it’s one of the biggest songs in the music industry, so apparently most people aren’t bothered by the grammar.

10) The Beatles

Learning to spell the name of the Volkswagen car or the insect was much more difficult than necessary for me, and I blame the Beatles. It was many years before I realized that the spellings were different, and I learned my lesson in the third grade when I attempted to tell the teacher that there was a spelling mistake in our textbook (already a budding English nerd). Luckily she was kind enough to let me down easy and explain that the band changed the spelling. Needless to say, my trust in the grammatical accuracy of the music industry was shattered.

These are only a handful of all the grammar and spelling errors in the world of pop culture, and surely there are countless more I’ve left out. So fellow grammar nerds, which songs have questionable lyrics that make you cringe? Ready…GO!

 

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3 comments

  1. I can’t stand to listen to Rixon’s “Me and My Broken Heart” or “Here Come That Sunrise” by the Plain White T’s. I understand ‘heart’ rhymes well with the other lyrics, but really, how hard would it have been to tack an ‘s’ onto ‘come’? It drives me crazy!

  2. The lyric that is currently bothering me is “I coulda gave…” in Imagine Dragon’s On Top of the World. I don’t mind “coulda”; I understand and even like lyrics that use an informal, conversational form of speech. But using “gave” where “given” is called for makes me cringe. I’m startled at how often I hear such mistakes in life, but I would think someone would stop a musician somewhere during the song production process to say “Dude, that word’s just wrong and it sounds wrong!”

    1. I hear you, Leah. I just recently noticed that in the Imagine Dragons song, and it’s bugged me too. Especially since I think “given” would have still sounded okay with the music and rhyming, so it wouldn’t have sounded out of place. I think a talk show host or SNL should do a skit like “grammatically correct versions of songs” just to appease my OCD. And teach people a thing or two.

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