Talk:Bad English

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Should Don't Let's Start be in here? What exactly is the grammar behind not let's starting?

"Let's" is short for "let us", so "don't let's start" means "don't let us start". It's grammatically sound.
Don't let's start is indeed an old English phrase. For instance, it appears in books by C.S. Lewis, and it means exactly what the song expresses it as.

I'm pretty sure that line from Experimental Film is supposed to be two different sentences: "It's for this experimental film that nobody knows about and which I'm still figuring out. What's going to go in my experimental film?"

Nah, I'm sure it's one, but even so, it's correct. What's as in "it is for this film which nobody knows about and which I'm still figuring out what is going into my film". It's long, but it's still a sentence. -Ecks

If you look in the liner notes, it says:
So the last line is definitely its own question, while the other three are a declarative sentence. ("It's for this experimental film which nobody knows about and which I'm still figuring out what's going to go in my experimental film?" would not only have no basis for a question because it has a noun-subject followed by a predicate, but also because... "which I'm still figuring out what's going to go in my experimental film" is not a right dependent clause with which describing "this experimental film" since there's an extra object of "figuring out" with nowhere to go. Hurrah for grammar! Magbatz 16:00, 25 Dec 2005 (EST)
I agree--it's two different sentences and therefore perfectly okay. I'll probably remove it unless someone strongly disagrees and gives a good argument. ~Drew
I think a more obvious use of bad English in Experimental Film is the line "I already know how great it's". To my mind, the contraction of "it is" should not appear at the end of a sentence. ~Astralbee

Err... how does Twisting's "There's not a lot of things that she'll take back" qualify as bad grammar? "There is not a lot" has subject/verb agreement, and lot's prepositiony-object, "things that she'll take back," seems fine to me, and I can't think of anything else anyone would think of as wrong. ~ magbatz 16:53, 2 Jul 2006 (MDT)

Someone else with an English major can feel free to correct me if I am wrong, but wouldn't the grammatically correct wording be "There aren't a lot of things..."? --Duke33 17:39, 2 Jul 2006 (MDT)
That's correct, Duke33, it should be "There aren't a lot of things that she'll take back." ~Drew the English major
When my 8th grade English teacher was teaching us "sentence diagraming," she told us that the verb following "There" should agree wih the 'real' subject of the sentence (in this case, "lot"). Of course, she was pretty much a nut, so that may mean nothing. With that in mind, "aren't" should only go with a plural noun, but "lot" is singular. Saying "there aren't a lot" in that way is sort of like saying "there are a family of four;" even if there are four people in the family, or even if the lot is filled with "things", it's still only one lot and should be treated grammatically like that. Yeah, and I just reread this to see if it made any sense, and I don't think it does. Oh well. I think I'll concede to the English major. ~ magbatz
You actually did a very good job of explaining that, and in most cases, you would be exactly correct. You would say, "There is a group of people," or, "There is a team of soccer players," etc. However, for some reason a few words like lot and bunch are treated as so inherently plural when used in the form "a lot/bunch of (something countable and plural)" that plurality is decided by the object of the preposition of. If you take out contractions, this becomes more clear: Most people would never say, for example, "Look! There is a lot of people over there!" or "Look! There is a bunch of people over there!" However, so many people nowadays are so used to contracting there are to there's (since it's easier and faster to say than there're) that it's easy to think that "There's a lot of people" is okay because to so many people it sounds okay.
The phrase "there is a lot/bunch" is correct in other circumstances, however:
  • When there's no "of (something)" after it, as in the sentence "There is (not) a lot that she'll take back."
  • When the object of the preposition of is something that can't be counted, as in the sentences "There is a lot of water" and "There is a bunch of sand," etc. (The object of of, of course, can't be singular, since "There is a lot of pencil" doesn't make sense.")
  • When the word lot means a literal, physical unit that is called a "lot," as in the sentence "There is a lot of used cars" (meaning "There is a used car lot," not "There are many cars").
  • Similarly, when bunch means a literal unit of something that is called a "bunch," as in the sentence "There is a bunch of grapes" (meaning "There is a cluster of connected grapes," not "There are many grapes").
I hope all of that made sense. And sorry if it was way more information than anyone wanted. ~Drew


How does this qualify as a song theme? Everything listed is a feature of the form and not an aspect of the content.

Also, the last time I ever heard of applying prose grammar to the analysis of poetry was in grade school English exercises. In university and even in high school studies, the opposite was encouraged.

Yes, but the rules and structure of English remain the same- there's no such thing as "prose grammar", although, like you said, writers of prose and poetry are encouraged to stray from the path for the sake of authenticity, flavor, impact, etc. -Martorano

In Old English, there are quite a few distinct rules between the two forms of expression.

If you did want poetry to conform to the rules of proper English grammar, nearly every single song ought to be indexed on this page. Most songs are merely strings of phrases that do not form complete sentences. In many, many cases syntactic fragments are left isolated.

Perhaps this page should be altered to Good English, and the songs which fully conform can be listed.

The point of the theme pages is to categorize a group of TMBG songs under a unifying element, content-wise or otherwise. We're fully aware that the definition of theme and how we use theme are two different things, but that's how it's always been here. As for songs containing improper English overall, like poor sentence structure, the Bad English 'theme' is used to show improper grammar on a line-per-line basis. -CapitalQtalk ♪ 08:15, 19 Mar 2006 (CST)

On the subject of the song Michigan, I always thought fishes was acceptable as a plural of fish, just less proper than fish. Hmm... that wasn't really a question. Isn't fishes an acceptable plural?

'Fishes' is used to indicate several (or more than one) species of fish. I think therefore 'Michingan' should be taken off the list.--Tassie Jess 04:33, 29 August 2009 (UTC)


antennas is perfectly aceptable - see

In fact, antennas are the stuff you may have standing on your TV. The ones Flans is talking about are an ant's antennae. It's perfect Bad English. - Whirrrlwind (Woosh!) 08:56, 9 Jun 2006 (MDT)
I agree--antennae and antennas are distinct plurals for distinct meanings of the word antenna (the first meaning being for the antennae of insects, etc., the second for things resembling the antennae of insects, etc.). However, this--like many other plurals based on Latin and Greek plural endings--is no longer extremely common knowledge, and it's probably not in common usage outside of the scientific community, so you really can't fault the Johns--or users on here--for not being aware of it. I guess it's arguably "unfortunate" that this usage ended up on an educational CD/DVD for children, but hey--usage is changing, and I'm not one to mourn the death of a Latinate word ending or two.
This "unfortunate, questionable usage" of antennas is similar to the usage of disinterested instead of uninterested in E Eats Everything, which is traditionally considered incorrect. This usage, however, has an interesting history, as explained here on (quoting from the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language):
Usage Note: In traditional usage, disinterested can only mean "having no stake in an outcome," as in Since the judge stands to profit from the sale of the company, she cannot be considered a disinterested party in the dispute. But despite critical disapproval, disinterested has come to be widely used by many educated writers to mean "uninterested" or "having lost interest," as in Since she discovered skiing, she is disinterested in her schoolwork. Oddly enough, "not interested" is the oldest sense of the word, going back to the 17th century. This sense became outmoded in the 18th century but underwent a revival in the first quarter of the early 20th. Despite its resuscitation, this usage is widely considered an error. In a 1988 survey, 89 percent of the Usage Panel rejected the sentence His unwillingness to give five minutes of his time proves that he is disinterested in finding a solution to the problem. This is not a significantly different proportion from the 93 percent who disapproved of the same usage in 1980.
(Yes, I know--I didn't put the quotation in quotation marks. But it's a block quote, and block quotes don't go in quotation marks.) ~Drew

Ending Sentences with Prepositions[edit]

I removed Dear Old Plants from the list, because there's absolutely nothing wrong with ending a sentence with a preposition. It's a myth perpetuated by teachers--and others--who don't know what they're talking about. (The lyrics quoted were, "Now that we've got these critters taken care of / There's yet another thing to be aware of." If there's something else "wrong" here that I missed, let me know.) ~Drew

I'm glad this is being acknowledged. If you think about it, most substitutes for sentences ending in prepositions are ridiculously old sounding (e.g. What time is it at? vs. At what time is it?)


I'm just curious, but do we really want to include spelling issues here? Because thru in Call Connected Thru The NSA and alright in Someone Keeps Moving My Chair (and Your Mom's Alright, though it's not listed) are really just nonstandard spellings--there's no "bad English" in the songs themselves as they're sung. So the titles Call Connected Thru The NSA and Your Mom's Alright arguably contain "bad English," but the only "bad English" in Someone Keeps Moving My Chair is in the way the lyrics are printed out in the CD booklet, and that's assuming that all right is really spelled alright there (I haven't checked)--not to mention assuming that the Johns are even the ones who spelled it that way if it is spelled that way. And it we do decide to include spelling errors, there's still the tricky question of whether we should stop at only listing "intentional" spelling errors (like thru and alright here, which aren't typos) or whether people are going to start going over CD booklets with a fine-toothed comb looking for typos in the lyrics . . . ~Drew

I'd say this theme best fits English errors that would be found in an accurate transcription of how the song is sung, ignoring any printed typos. As for "thru" and "alright," I agree with you, those songs should be yanked. -CapitalQtalk ♪ 16:23, 9 Jun 2006 (MDT)
I've gotten in so many fights about "alright". Yes, I know it's technically wrong (or at least nonstandard) but I use it anyway. To me there is a distinction between "alright" and "all right", but maybe that's just me. Plus, "already" is okay but "alright" isn't? Pshaw! --Martorano 19:06, 10 Jun 2006 (MDT)
Well, there are definitive differences between the meanings of already and all ready and between altogether and all together. But alright and all right have the exact same meaning: "okay." Feel free to disagree, though, and tell me what you feel the difference is. I'd be interested to get a different view. Oh, and I'm going to go ahead and remove the spelling examples from this page, since CapitalQ agrees with me and no one else has objected. ~Drew
You're absolutely right, except "all right" could also mean "all [100% of something] is right" as in "you are all right" (to a group of people).--Martorano 22:11, 10 Jun 2006 (MDT)

Don't Let's Start / Your Racist Friend[edit]

Look. I think that the real bad English in Don't Let's Start is "No-one in the world ever gets what they want / and that is beautiful". It should be "No-one in the world ever gets what he or she wants / and that is beautiful", but that would be too long. In addition, "I know politics bore you" is grammatically correct, because "bore" is the past tense of "bear", as in "to bear arms" or "to bear young".

Your point about Don't Let's Start is technically correct, but the "I know politics bore you" in Your Racist Friend has absolutely nothing to do with the verb "to bear." ~Drew
Stylistically, 'they' has been used as a third-person singular gender-inspecific pronoun for centuries. Whether it's correct is not really so cut-and-dry, there are plenty who think it is not and plenty who think it is (I feel it is, obviously). -- 23:05, 29 October 2008 (UTC)
As far as Your Racist Friend goes, "politics" is a word that is the same in the singular and the plural, like "glasses" or "moose" and is therefore not grammatically incorrect on that count, as far as I can tell.
I would like to extend the point of, singular "they" has been used since middle English during the 1300s, by the way, that's three centuries before singular "you" started gaining traction outside of addressing superiors in early modern English during the 1600s. Signed, DonutEater (talk) 13:49, 12 April 2021 (EDT)

Someone Keeps Moving My Chair[edit]

The lyric "alright" can also be interpreted as "all right", even though the liner notes say "alright".

Agreement and Counting[edit]

"Ooh La! Ooh La!" has the line "Here comes the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 elevators. Can someone with some authority on grammatical matters say if this is unacceptable or not? I am guessing it's wrong, but the counting throws me off. ~ magbatz 04:53, 28 September 2009 (UTC)

I think it depends on if what they meant was "Here comes the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9." then the word "Elevators" (as a new sentence, possibly including the next line) or if they meant it all together as one sentence. I believe the former is correct, and the latter incorrect. I'm not a grammatical authority, though, so I think you'll want a second opinion. That's just my two cent...ences. Er... sentences.
Or maybe "Here comes the 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Elevators going too slow I'll see you later!"
Though just "Here comes the 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 elevators Going too slow, I'll see you later" is a lot more... ya know... song lyric-y. -- Buzzmusic100 ("Keep your voice down...")

None for what it's worth[edit]

So "not one" is sort of right. Lots of people think "none" is "not any", and I guess that's a fine way to think of it. With "all" and "any", and also "none", the way it works is that the determiner is sorta vague so, if there's a plural number of things there's none or all or any of, it takes on the agreement rules of that amount described by "any" or "none". So, "all dogs go to heaven", "none of the pie is left", "none of them have found a way" and if there's no noun to hint at quantity, anything goes, but usually you want to stay true to the noun you're implying-- "none are alive" or "none is left". By the way this is just what I (think I) learned in like 8th grade so I'm not promising anything. Oh and though "none of them once has found" actually sounds pretty natural, the phrase your mind is most probably thinking of is "nary a dick once has found". ~ magbatz 07:03, 7 April 2011 (UTC)

reptile thing[edit]

Reptiles Eat With The Bones We Hear With - "A preposition / Never end / A sentence with" - This song refers to the proscription of ending a sentence with a preposition, a so-called "rule" that is widely regarded by grammarians as incorrect but is nonetheless commonly referred to as a rule.

I didn't put "Reptiles Eat With The Bones We Hear With" on the page because it is a sentence ending with a preposition, but because by addressing the "rule", the order of the sentence is switched around. Considering it, I'm not actually sure if "A preposition never end a sentence with" is entirely improper, but it's certainly an unconventional sentence. And even if it is just addressing the "rule", it is a line that is not necessarily employing, but rather discussing bad English. I figured that the rule and its falsehood were commonplace enough that explanation would not be required, but I suppose it's good to be clear. Anyway, I would say that this had ought to be in the main list. - Apollo (colloquia!) 14:33, 30 April 2011 (UTC)

Now that I realize that it was a quote from the song, I agree that it should probably be back in the main list. I just didn't want to seem revert happy by continually changing what other people did. So I'll let someone else do it. :P Drew 19:47, 30 April 2011 (UTC)
Yeah I made it an honorable mention because I didn't want to be revert happy either. I'll change it. ~ magbatz 21:43, 30 April 2011 (UTC)

Can't Keep Johnny Down[edit]

The statement saying that "None of them once has found a way" is incorrect is actually erroneous. "None" can be either singular or plural, and either "have" or "has" would be acceptable.