The True Target of ‘Word Crimes’

Who knew that one YouTube video could create such a maelstrom in the grammar world? Weird Al Yankovic created a category five hurricane when he released his “Word Crimes” video. (There have been more than 18 million views!)

Most people see grammarians as fussy, picky people. Okay, we are, but we are also very passionate about grammar, sometimes to the point of militancy. We don’t always agree with each other. In fact, we generate a lot of heat disagreeing with each other. “Word Crimes” has generated nuclear heat.

On the one side are those who applaud Weird Al’s efforts to broadcast the common errors people make that drive grammarians to distraction. He does it in his usual hilarious manner.

On the other side are people, like Grammar Girl’s Mignon Fogarty, who find the language in the video harsh and insulting. Weird Al uses words like “moron,” “spastic,” and “mouth breathers” to describe people who make such errors. These insults are counterproductive to encouraging people to clean up their grammar.

So here are my two cents: this is a satire (not a parody as some have said). If we look up the meaning of satire, we find that satire uses things like irony and ridicule to point out folly or stupidity in others. Satire is not a “nice” form of commentary; it is purposefully harsh.

When we examine it very closely, we find Weird Al is satirizing much more than the shortcomings of average writers. As I laughed throughout the video, I realized he is raking over the coals the crazed grammarians who argue about the tiniest violations of grammar rules – and, specifically, their superior attitude.

Folks, Weird Al, through the narrator of “Word Crimes,” has exposed the enemy, and it is us!