Tag Archives: grammar

grammar in lyrics, pt. 2 [punctuation in lyrics]

Our Players:

, . ! “

I guess I overlooked punctuation because most people do. I mean, in lyrics at least. It is a lot easier to hear


LOOK FUTURA, and the artist of "Oxford Comma"

the grammar than the punctuation. What if they just needed a breath/rest there? Who says it has to be a comma/semicolon?

Well, Vampire Weekend doesn’t exactly leave anything to the imagination about grammar in their song “Oxford Comma.” It quite a cute little song, pretty much about anything other than oxford commas. But of course, they are important, unnecessary, and adorable, all at the same time. Maybe that’s what the song is about? The grammar in the song usually changed the meaning more often than the punctuation. Because punctuation is usually a subject rather than technique.

Ezra Koenig said the first line came from his reaction to the group at Columbia University called Students for the Preservation of the Oxford Comma. And he immediately thought “Who gives a fuck about the Oxford comma?”

In a transition, and hint at future blog, Vampire Weekend used the font Futura on their album covers in a tribute to Wes Anderson. And I think that the next song sounds like it could be in a Wes Anderson film during the denouement.

“Triphallus, to Punctuate!” is a innuendo filled song, must like it’s title, possibly referring to what an exclamation mark looks a little like. But, Of Montreal uses both the verb ‘punctuate’ in the title of their song and a punctuation mark. Snaps to them, for double qualifying for this blog post.

Jason Mraz, known for his semi-intellectual, self-deprecating, slightly irreverent lyrics also scores double. In a very silly song about freeing a dolphin, he notes that his cause is “This is serious with a period, not a comma.” Who told you commas can’t be serious, Mr. Mraz? I’m pretty sure he just wrote this so it would rhyme with “drama” in the next line. It is a very silly little ditty.

Again, in Jay-Z’s song “Trouble” he remarks on how the period is the only finite punctuation “fuck that exclamation comma quotations I love drama period.” Is drama the only thing that rhymes with comma? NO. Llama, mama, lama [as in Dalai], pajama.

Leave a comment

Filed under Language

grammar in lyrics

Technically, all lyrics are some sort of poetry. Granted, in order to have some success of sorts, usually poetry must be good. Lyrics could got either away. But in poetry, one of my favorite things is noticing when grammar plays a major role in the meaning or the grammar changes, resulting in new meaning.

Examples: The Lake Isle of Innisfree by William Butler Yeats. The sudden change from future to present suggests that the speaker has arrived at Innisfree over the course of speaking in the poem, implying that Innisfree is not a distant, physical place that one must travel to, but instead an inner place of nostalgia and ideals that comes to oneself at the thought of the past.

Joni Mitchell and Guitar

Joni Mitchell-Zooey Deschanel bangs before Zooey was born

Joni Mitchell, one of my favorite songwriters ever, who wrote one of my favorite songs ever, “Chelsea Morning” is the queen of grammatically significant songs. In “Chelsea Morning,” the lover singing suggests “oh won’t you stay/we’ll put on the day/we’ll talk in present tenses” showing that present tense is less intimidating, at least to lovers living in the present. Why would they plan anything when they already have milk and oranges and honey.

In Tom Petty’s “American Girl,” he recounts a story of a girl who herself is remembering a guy she knew someone once. The chorus emphasizes this by being in the present tense, while the rest of the song is in the past tense. By being in the present tense, it allows for ambiguity concerning who is telling the girl to “make it last all night.” It could be either the man she is remembering or the man who is telling her story, and that could change the meaning of how she took the advice. Did she take it from the remembered man and fail at it or has she yet to fully comprehend/hear it from her story-teller?

Those are my two favorite examples, and I’m sure there are countless others.

EDIT: Thought of another one. “I and Love and You” by the Avett Brothers. That’s totally a perfect example of anaphora used for emphasis. I had to share. It is pretty obvious which one is a grammar dork. Well, probably me, and you for reading this far.

Leave a comment

Filed under Language