Grammar Pop Gets It Wrong |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Pop Gets It Wrong

Misinformation spreads like bedbugs. For centuries, humans have clung to articles of faith gleaned from parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters, authority figures, community leaders, and other notoriously unreliable sources.

These rumors, superstitions, misinterpretations, urban legends, and baseless theories are often nothing more than quaint, harmless nonsense. Then again, try telling that to those who believe them.

The pop culture, fueled by blogs, YouTube, and Twitter, should never be confused with anything serious or responsible. So just for the fun of it, see if you’re wise to these pop-culture fallacies.

Jack Daniels  This is neither the man nor the booze. The man’s name was Jack Daniel, whose Jack Daniel Distillery was licensed in 1866. Thus, his fine Tennessee whiskey is Jack Daniel’s, with an apostrophe.

Louis Armstrong  Jazz aficionados are not amused when they hear his first name pronounced “loo-ee.” In his vocal on the 1964 hit song “Hello, Dolly!” Armstrong pointedly articulates “loo-iss” when he says, “This is Louis, Dolly.”

St. Patty’s Day  Everyone knows this refers to March 17, St. Patrick’s Day—or does it? How you celebrate it is your business, but how you spell it is St. Paddy’s Day.

Santa’s reindeer  Good for you if you can name them all, but let’s just talk about “Donner” (of “Donner and Blitzen” fame). Turns out Donner is an infamous pass in the northern Sierra Nevada. Santa’s reindeer is Donder, with a second d.

Daylight Savings Time  Few would think twice about the phrase as written here, but it’s supposed to be “daylight saving time”—no capitals, no second s in “saving.”

“I’m laughing all the way to the bank”  This defiant proclamation has become a cliché. It implies that the speaker is so rich that nothing bothers him. It misquotes a celebrated pianist named Liberace, whose flamboyance some considered bad form in the strait-laced 1950s. After one scathing review, Liberace wrote a letter to the critic, wryly informing him, “I cried all the way to the bank.”

“Take Me Out to the Ballgame”  Everyone sings baseball’s anthem wrong. The second line, which everyone thinks is, “Take me out to the crowd,” is really “Take me out with the crowd.” The fifth line, which everyone thinks is, “For it’s root, root, root for the home team,” is actually, “Let me root, root, root for the home team.”

Let’s give the last word on this to former major-leaguer Larry Anderson, who pitched for a few teams in the 1970s: “In the seventh inning, fans all get up and sing ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’—and they’re already there.”

If the article or the existing discussions do not address a thought or question you have on the subject, please use the "Comment" box at the bottom of this page.

13 responses to “Pop Gets It Wrong”

  1. Daniel Fleagle says:

    You can add “John Hopkins” to your list. As a graduate, it sets my teeth on edge every time I hear someone say this instead of the correct “Johns Hopkins.”

  2. Schneider says:

    I am German so for me Donner and Blitzen, two of the Rendeer names, made totally sense to me. I was shocked to read in your “POP gets it wrong” article that this is not the right name. I googled and found that the name was changed more than once. I think you should have pointed out that Donder is also just one possibility, and that it was originally Dunder. Please check out this website that states the several changes that this name went through until the final Donner which is thunder in German (same with Blitzen).

  3. Sam says:

    I’m not saying you’re wrong about Donner the reindeer but it seems to be a striking coincidence that Donner and Blitzen who are mentioned together sounds very much like ‘donnert und blitzt’, German for ‘thunder and lightning’. Thunder and lightning would be suitable names for fleet footed beasts, don’t you think?

  4. Jim Brown says:

    I have a question about the “Pop Gets It Wrong” newsletter issue’s reference to Santa’s reindeer “Donner and Blitzen” entry. I thought that Donner was named after the German word for thunder and Blitzen was named for a form of the German word for lightening. I noticed, too, that the name, as it appears in the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas / Twas the Night Before Christmas” is also spelled DonNer. I understood, too, that the concept of Santa with a sleigh and eight reindeer was not considered prior to that poem. Please advise.
    Thank you.

  5. Oliver M. says:

    Love them all… and yes, I’m as guilty as anyone…

    • Francisca R. says:

      Will tell, so far none of all the grammar learning, offered me such a guilty pleasure like the one receiving weekly with newsletter – hearty, tasty and constantly masterful edited :– ) thx and looking forward to next treat >

  6. Carl Idoko. says:

    I’d like to ask a question if you don’t mind. What’s the difference between DECEIT and DECEPTION? Are these two words used interchangeably or is there a difference between them?

    Thank you.

  7. Follow-up to “Pop Gets It Wrong”
    The following excerpt appeared in “Pop Gets It Wrong,” from our e-newsletter of October 5, 2016:
    Santa’s reindeer Good for you if you can name them all, but let’s just talk about “Donner” (of “Donner and Blitzen” fame). Turns out Donner is an infamous pass in the northern Sierra Nevada. Santa’s reindeer is Donder, with a second d.
    We heard from a number of readers questioning this assertion. For instance, Sarah D. wrote:
    The original names for the reindeer in the 1823 book “A Visit from St. Nicholas” were Dunder and Blixem (Dutch for “thunder and lightning”) but were changed to the German Donner and Blitzen in the 1949 song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
    I’m not sure if there is a need to correct people for saying either “Donner and Blitzen” or “Dunder and Blixem.” It certainly makes more sense to me than the non-word “Donder.”

    Our research shows that a good case could be made for “Dunder” (see Unfortunately, this was the final article that appeared in our newsletter prior to the death of Tom Stern, who authored the piece. We wish we could ask him about it.
    Thanks to all of you who wrote in about this.

  8. Maria Carbone says:

    Here’s one my family can’t agree on. In an email salutation such as “Good Morning/Afternoon”, should the letter “m” or “a” be capitalized?

    • Traditional guidance for letters is to capitalize the nouns in salutations (but capitalize only the first word in closings). In general, we are not in favor of relaxing grammar and punctuation rules and guidance for emails.

  9. Jill W. says:

    I somehow missed reading this issue when it first hit my email box but I’m catching up today. I definitely want to start this email by telling you I love, love, love your newsletters and rarely take issue with anything I read. However, I’m a teeny bit annoyed by your use of “everyone” in the “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” paragraph in this particular issue. My grandfather taught me to sing this song correctly when I was very young, so the declaration that “everyone” sings those two lines incorrectly is actually incorrect! My Grandpa sang it correctly until he died, and I honor him by singing it correctly each and every time. Thanks!

    • Tom Stern, the author of the article, was using hyperbole here to get people’s attention. He certainly didn’t sing it wrong, and good for you that you don’t either. Kudos to your grandfather for teaching you the right lyrics.

      Thank you for your kind words.

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