Location: St. Vincent & Grenadines

You were driving home in the dark on one glass-slippered heel, window sliced open and bathing in the snowliquor of the night air. We heard you singing, and couldn't bear to wake you.

15 June 2005

This ever-changing world in which we live in.

When I teach subject-verb agreement to my students next year, I will not be able to use the following two examples to illustrate my point, because they (my students) will be thirteen and will have no idea who these people are.

"My Favorite Things" are playing again and again, but it's by Julie Andrews and not by John Coltrane.
-- Elvis Costello, "This Is Hell", from the album Brutal Youth

The word "things" is plural, and normally requires a plural verb -- such as "are" -- as a companion. In this case, however, the verb is inappropriate because "My Favorite Things" is the title of a song, and thus is singular. The error is all the more apparent considering Mr. Costello's correct use of "it's" to refer to the singular antecedent.

Nobody owns the pleasure of tones that belongs to the guy with no ear.
--Frank Black, "Freedom Rock", from the album Teenager Of The Year

In this case, the verb "belongs" is appropriate because it complements the singular noun "pleasure" rather than the plural noun "tones". Grammatically, either noun may be supported by the verb, but the meaning of the sentence will be different in each case. Here, Mr. Black's point is that a music aficionado who resists the dogma of a particular aesthetic stance retains the freedom to appreciate music at an elemental level; thus, the emphasis is on the pleasure of a given experience (which belongs solely to the open-minded listener) rather than on the tones of a given song (which may be said to belong, in a sense, to the musician who created them).


Blogger Wesley said...

Very instructive. I think you could really do something here with "I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together."

5:58 AM  

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