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Word Crimes

posted: 8.6.14 by Barclay Barrios

“Weird Al” Yankovic has a new video that swept the internet: “Word Crimes” a parody of Robin Thicke’s controversial hit “Blurred Lines.”  It’s a fun song and video with some interesting potential for the writing classroom.  Consider:

  • Using “Word Crimes” to teach grammar.  Not only does the video have a number of grammar lessons (though perhaps not the most pressing ones) but it also serves as a unique model for thinking about grammar.  Consider having students create their own parody song/videos focused on particularly troublesome language and mechanical errors.
  • Thinking about technology and language.  Work with students to identify social media / technology markers in the video (hashtags, iMessages, emoticons) and then use these elements to open up a conversation about correctness and presentation in an age of texting and Twitter.
  • Thinking about pop (and remix) culture.  Ask students to search the video carefully for other pop culture references (The Simpsons and Seinfeld among others).  Ask them to think about remix culture/ pop culture in terms of writing, composition, and content creation.
  • Writing technologies.  One of the other interesting aspects of the video is the number of writing modes and technologies it represents—everything from the printed word to scribbles on cocktail napkins.  Consider using the video to help students see writing as a technology; prompt them too to consider the video itself as a kind of writing and a result of processes of composition.
  • Diagramming sentences!  The video both mentions and demonstrates sentence diagramming, the classic old school methodology.  It could be quite interesting to introduce students to sentence diagramming and them have them practice the skill by working on other lyrics from the song.

There are a couple of puns in Yankovic’s song that are slightly NSFW but Thicke’s video is far more problematic and, in fact, you might also use Yankovic to introduce the concerns and problems around Thicke.  All in all (Al in Al?) it’s nice to see issues of grammar back in mainstream culture, if parodically.

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