Weird Al Yankovic has a parody of “Blurred Lines” called “Word Crimes,” and it’s about language.
The thing is, I wish I could believe that Weird Al was writing a sendup of people who make ridiculous prescriptive complaints about language with a few bonus grammatical terms. I wish I could believe that disliking hyperbolic “literally” or making a firm distinction between its and it’s was a harmless foible, just like hating the word “moist” or loving the sound of “cellar door.” I wish I could believe that everyone watching this video had progressed to ironic meta-prescriptivism, where we make fun of the people who make these judgements because we are accepting, even excited, about linguistic variation. I mean, it’s a catchy song, and dancing typography is pretty adorable.
But I can’t, because it’s not true.
I’m not going to get into all the problems with prescriptivism here: beyond denying people job opportunities and fair treatment in court, I have six whole pages of posts in my archive that already do that. But let’s take this opportunity to renew our determination to work towards a world in which videos like Word Crimes can be funny: because everyone recognizes that no one actually believes any of this stuff.
(Sidenote: as the person who wrote a grammar of doge, I’m pretty baffled that whoever was making the music video at 0:54 thought that this was an example of doge. Just because it’s a genre that’s associated with Kids These Days doesn’t mean it doesn’t have conventions. Such fail. Wow.)
Me: What are you watching?
Battle: A Weird Al music video. It’s funny.
Me: Is he…making fun of prescriptivists?
No, he’s just BEING prescriptivist. This is just a bunch of prescriptivist poppycock.
Oh god, this is awful. Okay, I have to leave the room.