Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Not a word crime

Both the New Zealand Herald and Stuff gleefully reproduced the AAP piece excoriating Al Yankovic's splitting of an infinitive in his excellent Word Crimes video. They write:
Weird Al Yankovic is so busy ripping pop stars apart with his musical parodies that he didn't notice his own mistake in his latest pop send up.
In Word Crimes, Yankovic's parody of Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines, the comedian is so busy preaching about grammatical errors that he, ironically, doesn't notice his own.
Just over three minutes into the song, Yankovic uses a glaring split infinitive when he sings: "Try your best to not drool".
But it didn't take long for the internet to spot it on the very day he released the video.
The Chronicle of Higher Education covered this one back in 2009 in Geoffrey Pullam's "50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice".
Some of the claims about syntax are plainly false despite being respected by the authors [Strunk and White]. For example, Chapter IV, in an unnecessary piece of bossiness, says that the split infinitive "should be avoided unless the writer wishes to place unusual stress on the adverb." The bossiness is unnecessary because the split infinitive has always been grammatical and does not need to be avoided. (The authors actually knew that. Strunk's original version never even mentioned split infinitives. White added both the above remark and the further reference, in Chapter V, admitting that "some infinitives seem to improve on being split.") 
Weird Al wasn't making a grammatical error. He was taking a stand in the battle to boldly split infinitives.

And without further ado, here's Weird Al:


  1. The whole album is great. I can't wait to see the video for "Foil" (a parody of Lorde's "Royal"), and I'm now introducing the 4-year-old to Weird Al.

  2. Oh wow. I'd not seen the track list.

    Our kids have been getting Al for a while. The 4 year old has been demanding Al as bed-time song since she was 3. They especially love Amish Paradise, Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota, The Saga Begins, and Jurassic Park.

  3. He also split the infinitive intentionally as an error. He mentioned the split infinitive in an interview and how it was there to irk folks.