The Grammar Shaming of Weird Al’s Word Crimes

Weird Al’s Word Crimes15-weird-al-word-crimes

 

“Hey!” I thought when I first heard Weird Al’s new song Word Crimes, “finally I can dance to a Marvin Gaye ripoff that isn’t a rape anthem!” Unfortunately, what I found is that both songs offer microagressions for me as a woman with a Learning Disability, but have a good beat that I can feel oppressed dancing to. I have respected and liked Weird Al since I was in middle school when Like a Sergeon came out, so I always look at his songs with a feeling of comfort. This is why I feel uneasy bring this up, but as a Stuttering Dyslexic who’s blog openly discloses, “I am choosing to let the little green and red lines dictate my editing. I am not having someone look at this before I publish it. I am just going to write. I am smart, most likely smarter than most good spellers and grammerers (ya, that’s a neologism–live with it). Obviously I am defensive because this is a difficult process for me and I want the reader to beware of any disjointed-ness and PLEASE don’t correct my spelling or grammar–just like you shouldn’t complete my sentences [when I stutter].” I felt it my duty to comment on Word Crimes.

 

First of all, Weird Al appologized for the lyrics “Saw your blog post. It’s fantastic. That was sarcastic (oh psych!). ‘Cause you write like a spastic.” People with Disabilities took offense because spastic is durogatory, especially to people with cerebral palsy and he totally owned up to it. Personally, I think this was the tip of the abelist iceberg regarding this song, from a dyslexic perspective. I don’t think the abelism comes with malice or that he really thinks that someoone with grammar difficulties should “get out the gene pool” (direct quote from his song). I see the song as a difference in worldviews. For him, apparently grammar and spelling is important and a prerequisite to express yourself. There is a reason I started to do stand up comedy. I can’t express myself as good in written words and I get sentiments like the ones that Weird Al sings about because people see writing in a standard way. I turned to comedy so that I could express myself more easily, even with a stutter. I feel the song is grammar shaming in the song Word Crimes. I am sure that it was not directed at dyslexics, but we do make up 10% of the population so it is hard (ya, I said hard instead of difficult) to not personalize the message. Also, as a comedian I don’t think he should appologize or not write this. But as an artist/activist I feel that it is important to look at his song from my perspective and perhaps educate others about a perspective that may not be seen in the mainstream.

 

There is so much I could say about the topic of Learning Disabiltiies and what the issues of this community are. Like the inequalties of education for people with Learning Disabilties and the failure of the school system to create a pipeline to college and careers instead of to prison is something that people need to know about but those are the kinds of things that make me so mad that I am just going to site them here: http://www.nyclu.org/schooltoprison. Needless to say, grammar is the least of our problems but we don’t necessarily have the forum to discuss these things, nor do we write in a way that will let us be heard.

 

One of the sentiments in the song is that you have to learn how to spell and use grammar correctly before you can express yourself. Fuck that! You express yourself no matter what. Misspellings, grammar, punctuation, speech impairment, can’t sing a tune, move differently than everyone else, fuck it! You say what you want to say. Fight elitism by not letting other people censor you for not doing what you want to do in a standarized boring way. Write, speak, dance, or whatever no matter who is critiziing you. In the meantime I will be looking for a Marvin Gaye ripoff that I don’t have to talk about in therapy.

 

Some of the lyrics that make me sad (i.e. make me experience mild PTSD flashbacks from 7.5 years of pre-Americans with Disablities Act Catholic School Education–sounds like a joke but kinda not):

If you can’t write in the proper way

If you don’t know how to conjugate

Maybe you flunked that class

And maybe now you find

That people mock you online

Don’t be a moron

 

You’d better slow down

And use the right pronoun

Show the world you’re no clown

I hate these word crimes

 

You really need a Full time proofreader

You dumb mouth-breather

I read your e-mail It’s quite apparent

Your grammar’s errant

You’re incoherent

 

 

Saw your blog post It’s really fantastic

That was sarcastic (Oh, psych!)

‘Cause you write like a spastic

 

I hate these Word Crimes

Your prose is dopey

Think you should only Write in emoji

Oh, you’re a lost cause

Go back to pre-scho
ol

Get out of the gene pool

Try your best to not drool

 

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15 thoughts on “The Grammar Shaming of Weird Al’s Word Crimes”

  1. As a grammar nerd “elitist” I find the Weird Al song to be in considerable poor taste, and yes, grammar shaming. When I saw it on the Today Show last week (?) it turned my stomach.

    I keep most of my “grammar angst” at seeing imperfect grammar to myself or I share the angst with fellow grammar nerds privately… and rarely. Mostly, I try to improve MY OWN grammar and spelling. If I can’t read something someone wrote, then I pass on it. That’s part of my disabilities (none include Autism although I do have an autistic daughter). Does it mean I lose out on some possibly valuable communication? Sure.But I move on and don’t hold a grammar grudge and do you know why? Because I use imperfect grammar too. I like to use conversational grammar on my blog and Facebook. If I have to write a formal report for work then I use formal language, but otherwise I use what I prefer.

  2. Sorry, but I’m going to deviate the topic a little bit…
    I’m not a native speaker and I make many mistakes when writing in English. Of course I feel annoyed when I see “grammar shamming” because they tend to ignore that learning a new language – or even your own language – is not that easy and we, non-native speakers, are doing our best. But what annoys me the most is grammar shamming inside universities, when they accept international students and want them to be as perfect as an English editor – to write like a native.

    1. Totally agreed! Supports need to be in place for ppl to express their knowledge. Also universal design in education helps everyone learn and express what they know, not only students with disabilities.

  3. I can understand why some would be offended, I’m autistic but have never had language problems (speech or writing) so I appreciated the humor- but I can empathize. I thought it was more directed at people who really knew better but were too lazy to bother trying, rather than people who couldn’t help it. That’s in general how I interpret making fun of “stupidity” not directed towards people who are learning disabled or mentally challenged but more average people who don’t use the intelligence/knowledge/education that they do have.
    (I did not catch use of the word “spastic”- agreed that’s not oK)

  4. The point of Word Crimes was specifically that there are so many people out there who want to just ignore the way language is supposed to be formed, and don’t want to get called on their poor communication.

    I’m sure Al would be the first to say that if you have a real disability, fine, just like if you have no legs, we’ll pardon you for not standing and walking to get your mail out of the mailbox. However, almost all of these people are those who are certainly no worse in intellectual and linguistic potential than the less-educated a century ago, when your high schools taught Greek and Latin. Now colleges have to offer remedial English.

    In George Orwell’s 1984, one of the chief methods employed to control the populace is “Newspeak”, a dumbed-down version of English that makes precise communication difficult. It is insinuated that a complete vocabulary and ability to communicate it is a prime indicator of a mind that is harder to control. It seems we are inventing our own version.

  5. Thank you for writing this. I wanted to like ‘Word Crimes’ but found its wit and sense of fun undermined by the politics and name-calling. I wrote about it yesterday and just updated to include a link to your post.

  6. I, too, wanted to like the song. In fact, I was grooving along until the name calling started. I will admit to being a grammar cop. I believe that it is important to use the English language according to the currently accepted conventions to be most readily understood. That said, I also believe that there is room for informal communication, such as that used in blog posts. I am a teacher and, therefore, feel an obligation to use more formal English in my communications. Can I figure out what someone is trying to communicate in writing that does not conform to accepted conventions? Yes. Do I want my students to write in ways that I have to try to figure out? No. Did I just end a sentence with a preposition? I certainly did. Do I want that construction, which is increasingly considered acceptable, to become standard? Sure. It helps eliminate awkward constructions. Do I believe everyone should follow standard construction conventions? It’s up to the individual. Do I post on Facebook about common errors? Yes, I do. But I don’t call people who make such errors “morons” (or “morans”), “idiots” or mistakes in genetic coding. I firmly believe that accepted conventions should be used in formal communications, such as academic papers. Notice I call what others refer to as “rules” as accepted conventions. There is no grammar constitution. Ours is a crazy, mixed-up, organic language and I love that about it.

  7. Nope, I can’t agree with this. He was not directing the song at those with disabilities or the like.

    It was directed at lazy people currently overtaking the internet. YouTube commentors are almost impossible to understand at the point.

    In the end, he is a parody artist. You “feel the need” to comment on the song, just like he felt the need to write it. It only bothers you if you let it.

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