Incorrect English in songs but not an error

Many singers use incorrect English in their lyrics but it is often not in error. Sometimes it is used to sound like natural communication – because in conversation people don’t always use correct English, and certain patterns are common. One of the most common examples is the double negative, as in “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones and “Another Brick In The Wall” by Pink Floyd.

In the case of the Stones – well it fits the rhythm better to say “I can’t get no… satisfaction,” than to say correctly “I can’t get any… satisfaction.” Mick Jagger felt that four notes (“I can’t get no”) was better than five (“I can’t get any”). Also, that’s probably how Jagger would speak in conversation, as it matches his London dialect.

The rhythm is also probably true of Pink Floyd’s song, but also Roger Waters felt that as the story of the song was London school children rebelling against the school system, it would be totally natural to say “We don’t need no education”, and in fact the correct “We don’t need any education,” would sound completely unnatural for London kids – nobody would say “any” in a real conversation in that area. Some websites comment that Roger Waters made a basic grammatical error, but actually those commenters made a basic analytical error. They forgot that this is art, and “art reflects life” is the rule.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.