“When anybody asks, 'What are you writing about now?' if I try to reply, the book-in-the-works sounds so idiotic to me that I think, 'Why am I trying to write that puerile junk?' So now I give up; if I could talk about it, I wouldn't have to write it."
- Madeleine L'Engle, A Circle of Quiet


Rythym vs. Grammar - A Moral Dilemma

Friday, July 01, 2005

Sweet Girl has unwittingly presented me with a moral dilemma. Actually, she is a collaborator with Veggie Tales in this endeavor. Before I explain, you need to know about a couple of my favorite pet-peeves.

Pet Peeve #1 - Lack of rythym
I was raised in a family whose lives centered around music. Hot Rod Mama plays classical cello, piano, and has played other instruments. She graduated college with a degree in music. She taught violin, cello, and piano lessons when I was growing up.

Daddy Warbucks plays drums and is a jazz fanatic. He has played drums in just about any venue you could imagine. He scours garage sales, flea markets, thrift stores, and music store sales for jazz music in any form - CD, cassette tapes, LPs, whatever he can find.

Based on this background, you can see how I would have an underlying obsession with musical things. I also inherited my father's sense of rythym. Yes, I do have a pretty darn good sense of rythym if I do say so myself. In fact, it is a bit of an infatuation. I almost always keep time in my head. I don't necessarily know to what. When music is playing (even if it's not playing on the radio or CD player, it is in my head), I will often drum my fingers in time to the music. Yet, I have never in my life sat down at a drum set - at least, not that I can remember.

The only drawback to my rythym obsession is that when I hear exhibits of imperfect rythym (or lack thereof), it grates on my nerves. It's like one of those bugs that crawls in your ear and eats away at your brain, or like the kid who would scratch his fingernails along the chalkboard at school. I actually do kind of feel bad about this. I realize that not everyone was born with a natural sense of rythym, nor was everyone raised in a musical family. Nonetheless, it makes my skin crawl.

Pet Peeve #2 - Lack of proper grammar
The extreme degradation of the English language disgusts me. I realize that my own grammar is not perfect, but I do remember most of what I learned in school and I try to be conscientious about correct grammar. When I see or hear blatant grammatical errors, it drives me crazy! (And the Geek would say, "Short drive.")

I wish we could all speak like the characters in Jane Austen novels. Yes, languages change over time, but in our case it has not been an improvement. English (especially in America, but not only here) has been devolving for many, many years now. I am convinced that that the peasants of the time of Jane Austen probably spoke better English than many of our most learned scholars today. It's a very sad situation.

Unlike rythymic challenges, I am sometimes able to ignore inferior grammar. It has so permeated our society that those of us who notice these things must tune it out just to get through the day. That or be forever correcting people under our breath, sub-conciously hoping they will notice and take steps to improve their dreadful grammatical skills.

Songwriters happen to be some of the worst offenders in these grammatical matters. We tend to manipulate our lyrics to fit into a rythymic pattern of our choice, which sometimes requires adjusting the grammar into something subpar. I have learned to ignore poor grammar in music pretty consistently. Which brings me to my point.

When I first heard Veggie Tales' song "Oh No" from "Where's God When I'm S-scared", I didn't notice the conspicuously missing word, "are". The first line of the chorus reads as follows:

"Oh no, what we gonna do"

The other day, Sweet Girl was singing the song after having watched it earlier. She kept singing "Oh no, what are we gonna do". Of course, when you add in that extra word, it adds a syllable to the lyric and messes with the rythym. Sweet Girl actually has a pretty good sense of rythym for a 5 year old, but apparently something in her little language learning mind told her that there needed to be an "are" there. So she simply added it.

So now, I have this dilemma. On one hand, the song offends my sense of grammar, now that it has been brought to my attention. On the other hand, singing it with correct grammar offends my sense of rythym. It's a no-win situation and I'm extremely frustrated. I will never listen to that song again without being confronted by this contradiction. I'm not bluffing - never. I don't hold grudges easily, but this kind of thing I don't forget.

Now please don't misunderstand, I do NOT blame Sweet Girl for this! If anyone is to blame, it's Veggie Tales. If they had written the song with proper syntax, I would not be in this pickle. Besides, who do they think they are to teach little kids poor grammar, huh?*

And don't think I didn't notice that they use the word "gonna" in that line, too! Since when was "gonna" a word?

*Tongue in case you didn't catch that.


At 7/01/2005 5:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote:

Hey, I was just out cruising Blogs and dropped by. Just wanted to say I like your Blog. Keep up the great work!

At 7/01/2005 5:12 PM, Blogger Geekwif wrote:

Thanks for visiting! Hope you'll stop by again.

At 7/02/2005 10:33 AM, Anonymous hotrodmama wrote:

About the extra word, any chance you could make the word "what" a grace note? I don't know the song, but I hear this rhythm:

Oh, no, what you
half note, half note, eighth, eighth

gon - na do
eighth, eighth, half

Now, of course, this probably isn't the actual rhythm, but you see how a grace note on "what", adding "are" on the first eighth note, would work.

Well, just a thought.

Oh, and about the drums, you actually did sit down and "play at" them on Daddy Warbucks set when you were about three. (I think I may even have a picture of it.) At any rate, I had just gotten down off his drumset (my first futile attempt) and when you did better than I (though neither of us was any Daddy Warbucks), I vowed never to sit down again. And I have kept that promise for over thirty years.
Ooops! Did I give away your age?

P.S. I'm going to miss your time with Sweet Girl too. I LOVE hearing about her charming antics.

At 7/02/2005 10:56 AM, Anonymous hotrodmama wrote:

Just read my previous comment and it didn't come out the way I typed it. I had each of the words (Oh, no, what you gonna do) written directly over the note value intended for that word. Oh, well, you'll figure it out.

At 7/02/2005 8:48 PM, Blogger Geekwif wrote:

I guess I must have gotten the rythym gene from DWs side of the family, and the music gene from yours.

Don't worry about the age. Take a look at the first item on my July 2nd post.

At 7/05/2005 5:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote:

I thing they should make the "what" into "What're" because the "`re" just kind of drops off... leaving it both rhythmically correct and almost grammatically correct. Little B (who's just proud she can clap on 2/4 and identify 6/8)


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