Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Bully Pulpit

"Word Crimes" by Al Yankovic https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Gv0H-vPoDc

I imagine that most English teachers, descriptivists and prescriptivists alike, would love this song and video. (They must make sure not to neglect watching the latter, though, lest they miss too much of the cleverness.) I used to be an English teacher myself, and then I retired and realized I no longer had to pretend that I understood English or teaching, a minor revelation compared to the one that told me how easy it was to admit to my longstanding cluelessness. Pensions are wonderful financial products. Every old person deserves a good one.


What I don't get is why Al Yankovic is "weird." True, he has very long, very curly hair, but so do many (well, some) other men. But he also has a wonderful talent for satire, oafish comedy, verbal ingenuity, and music, four things I happen to love. And although he also understands how stupid some sectors of the zeitgeist are, he is never cruel or demeaning. My very intelligent youngest daughter doesn't care for him, but that's only because she's young (she'll come around). In other words, Mr. Yankovic is a complete, not weird adult -- not nohow, not no way. And in this song, his smarts and his singing talent are on full, giddy, unweird display. If there's a song video richer in jokes (both visual and verbal, and wonderfully nonstop), can someone please direct me to it? I enjoyed this beautiful thing several times before I remembered it was a parody, after which I had to find out which song it was parodying. I had no idea what that song might be (because I'm no longer young and my brain has a thicker filter between itself and its surroundings). After some routine Internet research, I was not surprised, then, that I had never heard of (or heard) that song -- something called "Blurred Lines" by someone named Robin Thicke, whom I had heard of, but only in the way you hear of famous people getting married or divorced or arrested for drunk driving or murder or sexual assault. My online self then discovered that "Blurred Lines" had been the subject of some controversy about its being "rapey," which it definitely was (if my understanding of the adjective is accurate). What a waste, because it was also so musically clever and addictively danceable.
But holy shit (man, thy name is misogyny), Robin Thicke and all your dopey pals: that video is really rapey. But now, thanks to unweird Al Yankovic, I never have to hear or watch it again because I get to hear its deep, lovely grooves and riffs serving an ingenious hilarity about English grammar and usage instead of some ugly sexual vibe. When I was a teacher of English grammar and usage, I could've used it -- it might have helped me decide to retire from my counterfeit career earlier. (I was a fraud, true enough, but long ago, before I knew it, I had children to support, and I didn't know how to do anything else.)

For its just-under-four-minutes, the song is unrelentingly funny and ass-bouncing, which is usually good enough for me, but when you consider that unweird Al Yankovic is making fun of one kind of stupidity (hating women) by ignoring it and then making fun of another kind of stupidity (linguistic elitism), you get to laugh at two kinds of bullies, two kinds of dopes, two kinds of assholes.


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