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Grammatically Incorrect Songs

Oct 23, 2013
Originally published on March 4, 2015 12:57 pm

Believe it or not, there are songs out there that don't follow the grammar rules of Strunk and White's Elements of Style. In this round, house musician Jonathan Coulton sings well-known tunes whose lyrics take grammatical liberties, and, like your 4th grade Language Arts teacher, corrects them. Contestants must guess--or better yet, sing--the original lyrics.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

Let's welcome our next two contestants, Jess Banks and Paul Reyburn.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Paul, you're an actor and director?

PAUL REYBURN: Yes.

EISENBERG: And you were once in the "Full Monty." Did you go full monty?

REYBURN: We certainly did.

EISENBERG: All right.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: How was it?

REYBURN: Revealing.

EISENBERG: Revealing.

REYBURN: Yes.

EISENBERG: And Jess, interesting job, a game publisher.

JESS BANKS: Yes. I work for a local game publisher called Atlas Games. We make card, board and role playing games.

(APPLAUSE)

BANKS: Most of which with a somewhat bent sense of humor attached.

EISENBERG: That's like game night with the family. That is beautiful.

BANKS: Right.

EISENBERG: Yeah. Just get all-who needs therapy?

BANKS: No, exactly.

EISENBERG: So this game is called Grammatically Incorrect Songs. Wait a second. Are you telling me that there are songs out there that do not follow the fourth edition of Strunk and White's Element of Style?

JONATHAN COULTON: I know. It's hard to believe but sometimes rock n' rollers don't pay a lot of attention to grammar. So what I'm going to do, contestants, is sing some songs with glaring grammatical mistakes in their choruses. You have to ring in and tell me the original grammatically incorrect line. I will correct the line.

BANKS: I've been waiting for you my whole life.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: OK. Here we go.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LAY DOWN, SALLY")

COULTON: (Singing) There is nothing that is wrong with wanting you to stay here with me. I know you've got somewhere to go but don't you make yourself at home and stay with me? Don't you ever leave. Lie down, Sally. Rest you in my arms. Don't you think you want someone to talk to?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Paul.

REYBURN: "Lay Down, Sally."

COULTON: "Lay Down, Sally" is correct.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Sally's all about consensual conjugation. She's not going to do it.

COULTON: Wow.

EISENBERG: Unless they get it right.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AIN'T TOO PROUD TO BEG")

COULTON: (singing) I know you want to leave me, but I refuse to let you go. If I have to beg, plead for your sympathy, I don't mind because you mean that much to me. I'm not too proud to beg, sweet darling. Please don't leave me, girl. Don't you go.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Jess.

BANKS: "Ain't Too Proud to Beg."

COULTON: "Ain't Too Proud to Beg." That's right.

(APPLAUSE)

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IS YOU IS OR IS YOU AIN'T MY BABY")

COULTON: (singing) I got a gal who's always late anytime we have a date. But I love her. Yes, I love her. I'm going to walk right up to her gate and see if I can set her straight because I want her. Going to ask her. Are you or are you not my baby?

(LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Paul.

REYBURN: "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby."

COULTON: You got it.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: This is your last clue.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHAT IF GOD WAS ONE OF US")

COULTON: (singing) If God had a name, what it would be? And would you call it to his face if you were faced with him and all his glory? What would you ask if you had just one question? What if God were one of us? Just a slob like one of us?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Jess.

BANKS: "What if God Was One of Us."

COULTON: That's right.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: Art Chung, what happened in that game?

ART CHUNG: That was a tie.

EISENBERG: All right.

COULTON: Holy beans.

(APPLAUSE)

CHUNG: So we are going to a tiebreaker. What 1984 film's theme song features the grammatically dubious sentence: Who you gonna call?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

CHUNG: Paul.

REYBURN: "Ghostbusters."

CHUNG: Correct.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: All right. That could have been either of your game. Jess, thank you so much. Paul, you'll be moving on to our Ask Me One More final round at the end of the show.

(APPLAUSE) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.