Weird Al Yankovic’s new parody “Word Crimes” is chock-full of grammar advice — but is it good advice?

Or is it just a three-minute-long language peeve session? What should we take from the song, and what should best be left alone?

Linguist Daniel Midgley tells you what you need to know on this episode of Talk the Talk.


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Promo with Rhian Todhunter


Show notes

End of the OED — in print, anyway.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/culturenews/10777079/RIP-for-OED-as-worlds-finest-dictionary-goes-out-of-print.html

Watch Word Crimes by ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic

The lyrics:
http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/weirdalyankovic/wordcrimes.html

Here are 25 questions you can ask yourself about the video.
http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=13521

It all makes John McWhorter want to give up.
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/07/23/the-problem-with-weird-al-s-word-crimes-video.html

Less or fewer?
http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/003775.html

It was all the preference of a single author.
http://motivatedgrammar.wordpress.com/2008/09/30/10-items-or-less-is-just-fine/

And really, people say ‘less [items]’ all the time.
http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=2826

Even so, grammar pedants successfully pressured Tesco on this issue
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/2659948/Tesco-to-ditch-ten-items-or-less-sign-after-good-grammar-campaign.html

Lots of phrases don’t make sense, but we never seem to complain about them because we’re used to them.
http://www.toytowngermany.com/lofi/index.php/t117548.html

Like ‘head over heels’.
http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-hea3.htm

Jefferson used it’s where we would think its.
http://www.monticello.org/site/jefferson/tree-liberty-quotation

You see, its has changed.
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=its

Expresso
https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/saundspel/conversations/topics/64704

The Oxford comma has some use.
http://thewritepractice.com/why-you-need-to-be-using-oxford-commas/

Although even Oxford doesn’t use it in some cases, so maybe we should call it the ‘serial comma’.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/30/oxford-comma_n_887658.html

Homophones have converged.
http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/164527/is-there-a-term-for-the-convergent-evolution-of-homonyms

The etymology of ‘lightning’
https://www.google.com.au/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=lingtning+etymology&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&gfe_rd=cr&ei=dOrRU6GQFqSN8QfDzoD4CQ

Oxt.
http://www.vox.com/2014/7/16/5901883/oxt-new-word-weekend

Let’s do something oxt weekend.
http://oxtweekend.com


Show tunes

‘Sugar Shack’ by Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs
from the album Sugar Shack

‘I Did Crimes for You’ by Deerhoof
from the album Deerhoof vs. Evil