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Question on Grammar and Art


capmaster
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This is surely a quite uncommon sort of topic, but I hope to get some helpful replies from the native speakers here.

 

I hereby declare that the lyrics quoted and the recorded work linked below are owned and copyrighted by Joan Wasser.

 

Since the earliest English lessons I attended at school in 1971, I have remembered the rule that in subclauses starting with "if" must not follow "would." The exact same rule exists in German, too, and so I can completely relate to that.

 

Art can be a different thing though. In lyrical use even rules carved in stone are broken here and there. The lines I refer to in this topic were written by Joan Wasser, one of my most revered artists ever. The lyrics of the Joan As Police Woman song "Get Direct" from her 2014 album "The Classic" start as follows:

 

If you would be mine

we could be happy

If you wouldn't mind

we could be happy

 

These lines are repeated later in the song.

 

To my feel Joan used this "mistake" to fortify the following line "Now I know nobody owns nobody" which she finally repeated until shortly before and as reverb only during fadeout. To be honest, I can't imagine that an adept like her did this all by accident.

 

Here is a link to the song followed by the entire lyrics.

 

 

GET DIRECT

 

If you would be mine

we could be happy

If you wouldn't mind

we could be happy

So how about it?

It'd be so easy to do

Start with you and I just feeling out

the love we have for living

throwing out the old bath water

 

It's elementary

The corner of my eye

Well it's got some business with you

 

I'd like to spread your fingers wider

quit the lights and take you higher

find the place that we've forgotten

 

 

It's elementary

Don't take the tangle for my past

I left that ruin long ago

and I moved out to deep end

braced myself in case a piece like you

would walk on, walk on by

 

Oh baby please

Now I know nobody owns nobody

What I'm trying to say

I wanna get spitting distance to you

up close and personal

 

Let's get personal

Let's get direct

Let's get direct

Let's get experimental

 

You and me

imagine us happy

Yes happy

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I'm not a native speaker, and I had my last English lesson back in ´96. With that in mind, I'll give it a go anyway.

 

If you would be mine we could be happy.

 

Using would after if is correct because it is a hypothesis. The conditional is possible, but it is currently not real. The following verb, could, is in the past tense which is also correct.

 

This looks fine to me.

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You'd have to ask her personally Cap, no other way to know....

 

...but... if I had a spare pfennig or two to wager against it, I'd be betting that she paid no regard whatsoever to the if/would grammatical question, and would not have perceived that it might even be questioned, more likely a matter of choice based on cadence and rhythm.

 

...and thus I'd therefore be wagering that it had nowt to do with any fortifying of the "Now I know..." line which appears to simply be in the BVE style utilised broadly in pop/rock since the days of "Ain't nothing but a hound dog" (and well before) and recognised as commonly acceptable in such genres.

 

...but, again, you'd have to ask her. [smile]

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When writing lyrics to music,

unlike literature,

there are no rules

 

Not trying to be a jerk or anything.

Poetry is the same way

 

I write grammatically wrong lyrics constantly!!

And grammatically wrong sentences!!!!!

Edited by brad1
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...in subclauses starting with "if" must not follow "would."...

No. "If" simply raises a question. The answer does not have to be a foregone conclusion but it might be. For example;

 

"If a painter mixes yellow paint with red paint on their palette the hue of the resulting mixture would be orange."

 

Pip.

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No. "If" simply raises a question. The answer does not have to be a foregone conclusion but it might be. For example;

 

"If a painter mixes yellow paint with red paint on their palette the hue of the resulting mixture would be orange."

 

Pip.

"... the hue of the resulting mixture would be orange" is the main clause. Perhaps my expression was unclear - what I wanted to say was that the verb of the subclause must not be "would." That is, it can be "mixes" or "mixed" but not "would mix" in the given case. At least that's what they taught me at school then :-k

 

But anyway, the first person "shall," second and third person "will" thing in future tense I learned then seems obsolete meanwhile, so one can never know ;)

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IMO, the double negative "nobody owns nobody" sounds worse. Unless she's trying to imply that everyone owns someone. eusa_think.gif

This is a funny thing for me because in the Old Bavarian dialect we speak here the double negative also means a stronger negation, in contrary to High German where it is treated logically like in maths. The Ancient Greek used it like we do here, although they had some of the greatest mathematicians of these old times. We had lots of fun at school when translating Greek philosophy to Old Bavarian dialect.

 

I often encountered double negations in English lyrics. For instance, I think that "I won't do you no harm" is not a threat but an expression of kindness and good intentions. And the literal translation works in Old Bavaria in a good sense, too [biggrin]

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take a look at "Blinded by the Light" by Manfred Man sometime.

 

 

There are words in that song that don't make a lick of sense what so ever,, and it's STILL on the radio....

 

 

I think....

it

doesn't

matter...

Edited by kidblast
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Ah. I picked you up wrongly.

 

As I was taught (bearing in mind that this was in Scotland and not England) the use of "would" in the OP context would be perfectly correct because there is an element of the poetically aspirational in the matter.

"Would you be mine?" is subtly different from "Will you be mine?".

 

But I was always told that all languages - including syntax and grammatical 'rules' - are organic things therefore change is constant.

And I was always told it was incorrect to start a sentence with 'But'. And, for that matter, 'And'...

 

One of the most famous responses to someone imposing grammatical rules on them was Winston Churchill. On having had some of his speeches modified in the House of Commons publication Hansard, for having spoken sentences which ended with a preposition, he wrote to the editor;

 

"This is the type of errant pedantry up with which I will not put."...

 

Pip.

Edited by pippy
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This is a funny thing for me because in the Old Bavarian dialect we speak here the double negative also means a stronger negation, in contrary to High German where it is treated logically like in maths. The Ancient Greek used it like we do here, although they had some of the greatest mathematicians of these old times. We had lots of fun at school when translating Greek philosophy to Old Bavarian dialect.

 

I often encountered double negations in English lyrics. For instance, I think that "I won't do you no harm" is not a threat but an expression of kindness and good intentions. And the literal translation works in Old Bavaria in a good sense, too [biggrin]

 

I can't get no satisfaction. cool.gif

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Heard the call for someone with an English degree. The Cowboy Professor holds a BA in English, though it's been a while (nearly 50 years 😨) since that happened. I'd be happier fielding questions in the areas of my post-graduate degrees (literature and communications), but I can say with great conviction - from this side of the pond - that art is dominate over grammatical convention in poetry and song lyrics. Applying 'standard' grammatical rules to Lightnin' Hopkins is one example that might illustrate the futility of being overly concerned....

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I think we need someone with an English degree to give us a ruling.

 

Well, I have a degree in English (and math). First off, song lyrics do not have to, and often do not, follow the rules. Poetic license.

 

Oddly, I have never heard of the rule in question. And I can't find it on the web after a brief search. (Yes, you can begin a sentence with "and.")

After a little thought, though, the rule makes some sense. The leading "if" already makes the thought conditional. "Would" is another conditional. But you've already got a conditional with the "if." So it's a double conditional, or in other words, redundant.

My first thought was, what are you supposed to replace the "would" with? (I think the rule about prepositions at the end of sentences has been relaxed so much, it's no longer really necessary unless it sounds awkward.) The replacement is "will."

In Pippy's example:

 

"If a painter mixes yellow paint with red paint on their palette the hue of the resulting mixture would be orange."

"If" already makes the thought conditional, so you may as well use "will."

 

"If a painter mixes yellow paint with red paint on their palette the hue of the resulting mixture will be orange."

 

Of course, there should be a comma after "palette," Pippy. Tsk, tsk. eusa_doh.gif

But Cap's example put the "would" in the dependent clause (after the "if"), not the independent clause.

If you would be mine, we could be happy.

 

 

The "correct" alternative would be:

If you will be mine, we could be happy.

 

 

After all that, as somewhat of a stickler in English, Joan's version does not "sound" wrong to me. Perhaps common usage has swamped this rule and made it obsolete, I don't know. The following examples sound perfectly fine to me:

 

If you would attend the meeting, we could have a quorum." [Very conditional. So what?]

 

If you would, I would.

 

Perhaps it's more proper to replace the "would" with "will." Still, I don't see using "would" as all that wrong. And as I and others mentioned, in song lyrics, most anything goes.

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I was having a seizure and the EMT comes in and tells my wife "I ain't never seen nothing like this that wasn't drugs."

 

My wife tells the guy "Well, I've never actually heard a quadruple negative." The guy had no idea what she was talking about.

 

Anyway, I minored in English and I have no idea what you guys are talking about either. :unsure:

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...Of course, there should be a comma after "palette," Pippy. Tsk, tsk. eusa_doh.gif

No there shouldn't. What purpose would a comma serve in that sentence?

Furthermore I was also taught that if commas are used they must be used as a pair which box-in the appropriate section of text; a comma should never be used on its own.

In the text quoted where would a second comma be inserted?

 

Of course this disagreement in detail might be because I was taught English-English; perhaps American-English is different?

And whilst I know it's common to start sentences with the word 'And' I was still taught that to do so was, grammatically speaking, shoddy practice...msp_smile.gif

 

Pip.

Edited by pippy
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No there shouldn't. What purpose would a comma serve in that sentence?

Furthermore if commas are used they must be used as a pair which box-in the appropriate section of text; a comma should never be used on its own.

In the text quoted where would a second comma be inserted?

 

Of course this disagreement in detail might be because I was taught English-English and perhaps American-English is different?

 

Pip.

 

In America today the comma is about the only form of punctuation that the me Me ME!!!! generation knows because it is the only one they use on their social media. The only thing that matters is that their continuous diarrhea of thought be interrupted as little as possible and the comma helps form a pause for them as they are already formulating the next thought they just have to get out there.

 

I gave up re-writes a decade ago. Everything we put out now generally has only commas as punctuation. They talk the same as they write, so it is no surprise.

 

The peace, quiet, and solitude of retirement beckons. I will float on the sea of Idon'tgivea**** for many months before actually doing anything. The din of all of this will very quickly become a not visited memory.

 

rct

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In America today the comma is about the only form of punctuation that the me Me ME!!!! generation knows because it is the only one they use on their social media...

The incorrect use of the comma in the English language is worldwide. Allowances must be made for the fact that English is not Cap's first language but even someone whose grasp is as accomplished as his most assuredly is started the topic with...

 

This is surely a quite uncommon sort of topic, but I hope to get some helpful replies from the native speakers here...

The comma after "topic" is redundant. No comma should appear in that sentence.

 

Sometimes when I read through my daughter's letters from school I realise that the teachers of today, themselves, don't have a good understanding of grammar and syntax. As time goes by more and more people will care less and less until we arrive at the point where practically no-one at all remembers how commas 'should' be used.

Let's not even start with the universal abuse of "S-Apostrophe and Apostrophe-S"............

 

Pip.

Edited by pippy
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