Saturday, September 16, 2006

Chasing grammar

Piggybacking on the last post, about the Snow Patrol "Chasing Cars" video:

Speaking of artistic intent: As noted, the video is filled with shots of the lead singer lying on the ground, the street, the train (yeesh), and as best I can tell, this is all to represent the lyrical content of the aforementioned chorus, wherein he suggests the best way to escape troubles is to assume a prone position.

It is: "If I lay here, if I just lay here, would you lie with me…" (emphasis mine).

However, "lay" is grammatically incorrect in this context (as he's not speaking in the past tense). If he said "Yesterday I lay here…" (which doesn't work with the sentiment being conveyed) or "If I lay myself down here…" then it would be right. There is proper usage when he says "would you lie with me…", so it appears he knows what is correct.

That said, no one gives a crap, because this is pop music, not a term paper; I fully concede that "lay" sounds better when sung in this song.

I suppose, being a former English major (hence the reason I know the proper use of "lie" and "lay"), I worry it's only a matter of time before no one gives a crap when this is done in term papers. (Obviously, it's too late for the internet here. This website, showing the longer, non-L.A., version of the video, doesn't bother with using the correct term in the introduction to the video: "The video features singer Gary Lightbody laying on the ground, overcome with emotion." It's not like it sounds better in this context. It's not being sung.)

It's not so much concern regarding the deterioration of the language (which is flawed in virtually every logical way possible, but I digress); I merely take some (most likely pathetic) validation from having bothered to learn which to use when (and I admit it is not easy to learn when the past tense of one verb is the present tense of another--one of the aforementioned flaws).

Subconsciously, I fear a world where what little knowledge I have is revealed to be completely worthless, thus because I had to learn it, future generations must continue to do so. Or more accurately, future English teachers must continue to pretend it's important to properly use "lie" and "lay" when one is not singing.

(Any term papers provided in audio format will need to have allowances made for use of poetic license in regard to grammar and syntax; those will be graded not only only the argument but on quality of tone and overall entertainment value, and quite possibly will be voted on in a nationally televised reality show. We can cross that proverbial bridge when we proverbially come to it.)

What it boils down to is this: Had nature blessed me with a good singing voice, I wouldn't give a crap about grammar either.

1 comment:

  1. "Subconsciously, I fear a world where what little knowledge I have is revealed to be completely worthless, thus because I had to learn it, future generations must continue to do so."

    You've given an effective breakdown of the misuse of lay/lie, but when you preach about grammatical inaccuracies, you open yourself to criticism: "thus" is a conjunctive adverb, which when used to join two independent clauses must be preceded by a semicolon, not a comma.

    As an English teacher, who is currently blogging instead of grading 25 term papers, I find the rampant misuse of the comma (especially in the form of a comma splice) more irritating than occassional use of lay and/or lie in a term paper.


So, what do you think?