Glamour & Grammar & Ariana Grande

Welcome to the fifth edition of Glamour & Grammar, the blog series in which I address grammatical failures in pop culture.

Quit being so perfect.

Quit being so perfect.

There's only one thing normal girls like me can do when faced with the near perfection that is Ariana Grande: criticize her. (Duh.)

Sure, she looks like a real-life Disney princess, and, yeah, maybe she has dimples for days. And, I mean, I guess her bouffant hair would make even Brigitte Bardot jealous. And, okay, I'll concede that she can sing like Mariah freaking Carey.

(At this moment I am mad that I cannot find a GIF from that scene in The Princess Diaries in which the reporter says, "This is the girl who won the genetic lottery.")

But, y'all, we can criticize Ariana Grande for her grammar, which—as evidenced by her current chart-topper "Problem" (feat. something called an Iggy Azalea)—needs some serious work.

"Head in the clouds, got no weight on my shoulders / I should be wiser and realize that I've got one less problem without you / (I got one less, one less problem)"

Ahem, one fewer. You have one fewer problem, Ariana.

If Ariana Grande had one fewer problem, she might not have any problems at all. Food for thought.

If Ariana Grande had one fewer problem, she might not have any problems at all. Food for thought.

Some grammar rules are rather complicated (see pronoun placement), but less vs. fewer is not one of them.

Here's the whole rule: "Fewer" is used with countable nouns, and "less" is used with uncountable nouns (a.k.a. mass nouns).

What are countable nouns? Glad you asked. THEY'RE NOUNS YOU CAN COUNT. And uncountable nouns? You guessed it—NOUNS YOU CAN'T.

Fewer bobby pins. Less volume. Fewer fans. Less fame. Fewer problems. Less stress.

If you can't identify immediately whether a noun is countable or uncountable, ask yourself whether you would preface that word with "many" (countable) or "much" (uncountable).

How many bobby pins? How much volume? How many fans? How much fame? How many problems? How much stress?

Some words can function as both uncountable and countable nouns. Take, for example, "hair product," which usually refers to specific individual products (countable) but—especially if you are a hairdresser on a makeover TV show—can also refer to the actual hair gunk itself (uncountable).

Could you get that pouffy pony with less hair product...or fewer hair products?
Could you get that pouffy pony with less hair product...or fewer hair products?

Another way to know whether a noun is countable is to try putting a number in front of it. One problem, two problems (red problems, blue problems). If a word works with a number, it's countable and should be paired with "fewer." This is why "one less" is always wrong.

I still love you, Target.

I still love you, Target.

This is also why express lanes get it wrong when they say "10 items or less." I've heard it argued that "or less" is just fine because it's referring to an amount of stuff rather than a number of things, but that's a self-defeating argument because, at least in my opinion, 10 IS A NUMBER.

(Also in my opinion: If you subscribe to the line of thinking that says "10 items or less" is correct, then you're never again allowed to be frustrated when you realize the person before you in the express lane forwent the counting part.)

Before I wrap this thing up, I should point out that there are three main exceptions to the less/fewer rule:

  • Time: "Fewer Less than two weeks until the Ariana Grande concert."
  • Money: "Ariana Grande tickets cost fewer less than $50."
  • Distance: "I'm standing fewer less than 20 feet from Ariana Grande."

If your intention is to express a single amount of time, money, or distance rather than to enumerate the individual units that make up that amount, then "less" is the word you want.

The other exception to this (and every) rule is Iggy Azalea herself, whose grammar I'll refrain from correcting. She can't worry 'bout no haters.

Glamour & Grammar & Miley Cyrus

Welcome to the fourth edition of Glamour & Grammar, the blog series in which I address grammatical failures in pop culture.

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Miley Cyrus is a rebel, and she really really really really wants you to know. In case maybe somehow you still associate her with the Disney Channel, she wants you to stop. Immediately.

Proof Miley Cyrus is a rebel:

  • She has a bleached blond mohawk and a grill.
  • She wears crop tops and mesh almost exclusively these days.
  • She does not do gluten, but she does do lines in the bathroom.
  • She sticks out her tongue a lot.
  • She follows the grammatical conventions of no man. (This is her house; this is her rules.)

Objective pronouns?

No way. Miley Cyrus uses subjective pronouns wherever she pleases. (Not unlike Gaga.)

Agreement?

AS IF! Miley Cyrus will switch between singular and plural if she wants to switch between singular and plural.

Difference between prepositions and conjunctions?

WHO CARES? Not Miley Cyrus. She interchanges like and as on a whim!

Avoiding double negatives?

Ain't nobody got time for that! Especially Miley.

You win the Most Grammatical Errors in a Single Pop Song Award, Miley! Way to rebel, you little rebel, you.

Glamour & Grammar & Gavin DeGraw

Welcome to the third edition of Glamour & Grammar, the blog series in which I address grammatical failures in pop culture.

Today we'll be talking about Gavin DeGraw and his preposition problems. Gavin's newest CD, Sweetertotally melts my soul. I haven't figured out exactly how it causes this soul melting, but I'm guessing it has something to do with the way Gavin plays the piano and croons like an angel sent from the heavens above. My soul→Play-Doh.

But there's this one song that always irks me. It's called "You Know Where I'm At."

"Oh, it's better up ahead / The worst is over now / Remember what I said / To live you don't have to look back / but if you ever do, you know where I'm at"

Let me preface my critique by saying that I don't abide by the old "Don't end a sentence with a preposition" rule. Prepositions are actually some of my favorite words to end sentences with. If you read some of my old posts, you'd probably find sentence-ending prepositions strewn throughout. They are all over. Sentence-ending prepositions are just something I am a huge fan of. I'll stop now so that we can move . . . on. Bahaha, I crack myself up. (I really am stopping! That "up" wasn't functioning as a preposition!)

Even though I usually don't mind a good new-fashioned preposition at the end of a sentence, the way Gavin has used this preposition drives me crazy. (And not like Britney-Spears-circa-1999 crazy. Like Britney-Spears-circa-2007 crazy.)

It's just so unnecessary. The idea of at-ness is already all wrapped up in the word "where."

It makes just as much more sense to say, "You know where I am."

You can apply this to a few other prepositions as well. "To" and "until" are two oft-abused prepositions that come to mind. If a sentence makes sense without the preposition at the end, leave it off! "Where are we headed to?" becomes "Where are we headed?" "How late does it go until?" becomes "How late does it go?" And just like that, you've saved two more prepositions from going to waste. (Look at you, conserving prepositions like a champ.)

In related news, I have always held that spelling and grammar skills can be mutually exclusive. Check out one Google search I conducted while writing this post: That didn't even merit a "Did you mean...?" They went straight for the "Showing results for..." #harsh #butsodeserved I swear I do know how to spell both "yield" and "symbol." What can I say? Sometimes my fingers are in a hurry.

Glamour & Grammar & the Duchess of Cambridge

Welcome to the second edition of Glamour & Grammar, the blog series in which I address grammatical failures in pop culture.

 Allow me to begin with the thought process I went through before writing this post:

Is it okay to correct the grammar of royalty? Yes, just not to any royal faces.

Is it okay if the grammatical errors in question were made in a letter to a young cancer patient? No, probably not.

But if it were okay, then I'd point out that Kate Middleton's been having some comma trouble lately.

I would let you know that the comma trouble surfaced in a note Kate wrote to a little boy whom she met in a children's cancer unit. I might even post the note on my blog and turn the problem areas purple.

Dear Fabian,

I very much enjoyed meeting you at The Royal Marsden hospital last month. Despite the enormously demanding course of treatment you are undergoing, 

I was so touched by your strength of character, and delighted to hear the news that one of your big sisters will be able to donate bone marrow to you later this year.

I will keep my fingers crossed that your health goes from strength to strength over the months ahead. This must be a troubling time for you, your parents and your sisters, but I know I left The Royal Marsden assured by how incredibly talented, kind and clever the team at the hospital are. Combined with your belief and positive energy, you couldn't be in better hands.

Keep up the good work with the blog and in the meantime I will keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.

Catherine

I would explain that "and" provides sufficient separation for "touched" and "delighted" in the first highlighted sentence. The comma between those words is unnecessary.I would also explain that a comma is needed in the second highlighted sentence. A measly "and" isn't strong enough to carry an independent clause on each side. Like any coordinating conjunction, "and" needs a sidekick comma if it hopes to balance a compound sentence.

Sidenote: I really wanted to say a "prevenient comma." Thank you, Christian theology class. p.s. I'm not Arminian. p.p.s. I'm not Armenian either. p.p.p.s. Christian theo was my favorite class in college. I wish I could take it again. #thingsineverthoughtiwouldsay

I might close my argument by reposting the sentences with correct punctuation:

"I was so touched by your strength of character and delighted to hear the news...."

"Keep up the good work with the blog, and in the meantime I will keep...."

At this point I would probably feel like a horrible person for critiquing a letter to a cancer patient. I might even decide to give Kate points back for being a classy lady.

kate+2 copy
kate+2 copy

There is, of course, the possibility that someone other than Kate Middleton penned typed this letter. If England is anything like America, someone other than Kate Middleton probably typed this letter.

I have a letter of my own for that person:

Dear That Person,

Clearly you are in need of a public relations practitioner who handles punctuation aptly. Look no further. I have a degree in public relations and 15% of a degree in journalism, and I know how to place a comma. You can reach/hire me via the contact link at the top of this blog.

Grammatically yours,

Kate, Duchess of Commas

Glamour & Grammar & Gaga

Welcome to the first edition of Glamour & Grammar, the new series in which I'll address grammar fails grammatical failures in pop culture.

Today we'll be talking about Lady Gaga and her flagrant misuse of pronouns. In Gaga's newest hit, "You and I," the singer mistakenly follows "about," a preposition, with "I," a subjective pronoun, instead of "me," an objective pronoun.

Using the word "I" when the word "me" is correct is the grammatical equivalent of sticking your pinky out while drinking beer. It's out of place, and it has the potential to look pretentious.

This grammatical mistake pains me more than all others because it's an overcompensation. People don't say "and I" unthinkingly. They say "and I" deliberately because they've been taught that "and me" is wrong.

Sometimes "and me" is wrong. Take, for example, Lady Gaga's 2009 hit "Bad Romance." In it she uses "me," an objective pronoun, as a subject.

In an attempt to avoid this ostensibly more grievous mistake, many people have begun to avoid "and me" and "or me" altogether.

They start saying things like:

"Lady Gaga waved at Alejandro and I." (object of preposition) & "If Gaga wants my bad romance, she better email my agent or I the contract." (indirect object) & "The paparazzi won't stop photographing Gaga and I." (direct object) & (in a slightly different vein) "Lady Gaga and I's poker faces are unreadable." (possessive adjective)

These constructions overestimate the capabilities of "I" and underestimate the capabilities of "me."

Just because "me" makes an unfit subject or predicate nominative doesn't mean it can't make an apt direct object, indirect object or object of a preposition.

And just because "I" makes a first-rate subject or predicate nominative doesn't mean it can function as a direct object, indirect object, object of a preposition or possessive adjective. Read: "I's" is never a word.

[In fact, I think the widespread acceptance of "I's" as a newfangled possessive adjective indicates just how far the "and I" epidemic has spread among English speakers. We already have "my," which is fully capable of both standing on its own and being paired with another possessive word (e.g. Lady Gaga's and my poker faces).]

So next time you're trying to pick between "me" and "I," ask yourself, "WWLGD?" And then do the opposite.

Just kidding. But, seriously, I hope this blog undoes a bit of the damage done by Gaga's grammar and makes the future of pronouns a little bit brighter for you and me.

p.s. Yes, I am aware of the fact that "you and me" doesn't rhyme with "cool Nebraska guy," but I'd be willing to bet she came up with the "you and I" line before the "Nebraska guy" line.

p.p.s. What types of grammatical errors pain you most?