I consider myself a “lyric” man. By that I mean, I like to listen to lyrics. As much as I love music, and enjoy listening to music, for music sake, without singing, if a piece has lyrics to it, I’m listening to the lyrics. Consequently, I usually pick up the lyrics and start singing along rather quickly. I suppose this has something to do with the fact that I am a singer, and subsequently, do sing lyrics, I have written poetry, and I do like languages.
Along with liking languages comes the study of languages, which I haven’t taken much time for anymore in my life, but I did learn a thing or two about our own language, English. Sadly, this is not something I picked up in school, since it wasn’t taught to the extent that my Father, an immigrant to this Country, taught me. Yes, sadly, he knew OUR language, better than most of us, and would correct mistakes I made on homework, that my teachers didn’t catch. There’s a whole blog post, at least, there, but moving on.
In fact, maybe that is the point? Is grammar always right? And doesn’t, and shouldn’t grammar change as the language changes, just like as words evolve and are added? I learned today that the word that the Sicilian word for orange blossom that I grew up with, “zagara,” actually comes from an Arabic word, zahra, meaning flower. Sicilians wouldn’t pronounce an “h” in the middle of the word like that, so it follows that they would have put in a letter, like a “g” to give them something to pronounce instead of just blow, or something like that. Were the Sicilians wrong, or did they just adapt a word for their benefit and made it fit?
Besides learning that about zagara, I also have been listening to a song that is very popular today, “Who Run The World,” sung by Beyonce. Since I am a lyric man, it has always bothered me when people have written incorrect grammar into their song lyrics. “If I was king,” is a line, for example, that is used a lot and is always incorrect. Very few people in this world can actually say that they “was,” king, since very few people ever were. The problem here is that WE weren’t taught the use of the “subjunctive” in our schools, or if we were, we didn’t learn how to actually use it.
But it does beg the question, do we really need it? And is it possibly going away because we don’t need it, or we don’t want it or because of plain ignorance or laziness? So, to explain, one can’t say, “It I WAS king,” if one never was. If someone was actually a king and then got dethroned, then that person could say, “if I was king, again,” for example, because he actually WAS at one point. But if someone never WAS, then it is referring to a wish, or desire or something that would “require” the use of a subjunctive. In this case, the “correct” word to use is “were.” The phrase would then be, “if I were king.”
It’s funny though that there have been songs that use that same phrase and grammatically correctly use the word “were,” and it sounds funny now, to some of us. Is it because we are used to it the other/wrong way, or is it better? Which brings me to “Who Run The World.” It’s funny how that phrase is correct since the answer, according to the song, is the plural, “Girls.” But that phrase sounds funny to ME. It feels like the phrase “should” be, “Who Runs The World.” But then the answer, “Girls” would be incorrect.
So here is a case, where I am torn. As a stand alone phrase, I think the song lyrics should be, “Who Runs The World,” but that would indicate a singular person running the world, though it sounds better to me and works better for the song. I wonder if there is anybody out there who has thought this through like this?
So, where does this all leave me/us? Well, first of all, thankfully, no one died and left me king of grammar, cause if I “were” king… 🙂 I think the fact that I find it funny that “Who Run The World,” sounds funny to me, of all people, is interesting and shows me that I am changing too. And better yet, I think that I am no longer able to, or willing to, see grammar, or the world for that matter in terms of right and wrong anymore. How do I view the world then? Well, that is changing too, which begs the question, “Who Run The World?” Maybe the answer is WE do!