Word-Song 2: Songs with Bad Grammar

My former bandmate Ruth has always wanted to host a “Songs with Bad Grammar” workshop at a music festival. When we started to brainstorm for repertoire, we realized that most country songs— with their standard use of double negatives—would qualify for the workshop. Notwithstanding, we had fun identifying good candidates. Here are some:


I heard the crash on the highway, but I didn’t hear nobody pray.

From Roy Acuff’s “Wreck on the Highway.” This is the song that spawned the idea. Click here for a listen. 


Love me tender, love me sweet, never let me go.

Made famous by Elvis Presley. The adverbs should be tenderly and sweetly.


Who do you love?

From rock-and-roller Bo Diddley. It should be whom, because the question refers to the object of the sentence (You love whom?).


In the desert, you can remember your name, ‘cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain.

From America’s first successful single, “A Horse with No Name”


Word-Song 1: Palette, Palate, and Pallet

A few weeks ago, a friend and I were at a café, editing some website copy. My friend wrote down the word palette, but had meant to write palate. I pointed out the error and made the correction, but not before my word-song habit kicked in. I started singing a song made famous by Mississippi John Hurt, "Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor." But wait, that’s pallet, a different word. I was surrounded by homophones.

Editors must catch homophones (words that sound alike but differ in meaning) before going to print. It's easy to be lulled into complacency by the similar sounds and miss the misspellings.

Here are some suggestions for remembering palate-related spellings. Mississippi John Hurt’s song refers to a small, hard, or temporary bed, a pallet. Think about the hard bed, and then think of the hard surface of a wooden mallet; except for the first letter, the two words are spelled the same way. Palate refers to a sense of taste or the roof of the mouth separating the mouth from the nasal cavity. Take the first a away and you have plate, which relates to food, and eventually the mouth and taste. A palette is a painter’s tool, a thin board that holds different paint pigments for mixing. Conjure up the French Impressionistic painters for the French-like ette to stick in your mind.

Check out Mississipi John Hurt singing "Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor" here.

Word-Song: Introduction

Does this ever happen to you: you hear a word or phrase, and immediately a song pops into your head that has that word or phrase, or a similar-sounding word or phrase? It happens to me all the time. And then I start singing, sometimes quietly to myself, other times loudly. I thought that everyone did this, but friends and loved ones have told me otherwise. Perhaps this is one way that the musician and editor in me conjoin.

This little habit not only provides entertainment value (for me, at least—I cannot vouch for those around me) but also helps me remember some important usage conventions. I’ll share some of them in future posts.


Welcome to my website and blog. Sincere thanks go to Alison Harbaugh at Sugar Farm Productions for the beautiful photographs presented in this virtual space. She has a keen awareness and an artistic eye. It’s always a pleasure to work with her.

I plan to post every few weeks or so, sharing thoughts about words, writing, editing, grammar, and music.


Yes, music.

Stay tuned.