Me and Gaga, Cliff and I

Cliff Richard and Lady Gaga aren’t usually discussed in the same sentence. Or even the same conversation. I can’t think why. They’re both highly respected singers, known for their stage presence and enigmatic private lives. Yet they have something else in common that is hardly ever noted: their ungrammatical songs.

Don’t misunderstand me: my toe has been known to tap to Lord C and Lady G’s music. Once or twice, when nobody else was around, I might have hummed a snatch of tune and even, gently, shimmied. But the words. Oh! The words!

Exhibit 1: In the Country (1966)

Hurry, hurry, hurry

For time is slipping by

You don’t need a ticket

It belongs to you and I

To which I invariably shout “It’s ME, dammit! It’s ME!” and mutter under my breath for the rest of the song.

This mistake was being made even 45 years ago but the rule is really very straightforward. If you remove the “you and”, you’re left with “It belongs to I”, which is clearly wrong. Personally, I’d have rewritten the lyrics more along these lines:

Hurry, hurry, hurry,

The countryside is free

You don’t need a ticket

It belongs to you and me

 

Exhibit 2: Bad Romance (2009)

I want your loving

All your love is revenge

You and me could write a bad romance

This song stuck in my head for about a week because of its poor grammar (and, I concede, its catchy tune). Using the same rule, remove the “You and” to leave “Me could write a bad romance” which, even in persona, I’m sure the good Lady would not choose to say.

OK, so this song doesn’t exactly position itself as the pinnacle of songwriting, what with other verses along the lines of “Rah rah ah-ah-ah! Ro mah ro-mah-mah! Gaga Ooh-la-la!”  Do these errors really matter?

Well, yes and no. They’re just songs. I’m not so rigid as to deny a little creative licence, a little flexibility, a little loose interpretation. You’ll see that the tone of my posts is informal and relaxed. It’s all about context. If these errors were in a business report, on a company’s web page or in a health and safety manual, readers may start to wonder about the credibility of the text as a whole. If you can’t get the basic grammar right, how can you get the basic facts right?

Write a bad romance and get a bad response. Ooh-la-la!

   

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