Answer Me a Question
How well did you do on the 2004 Broadway University Entrance Exam?
- "But every whippoorwill is selling me a bill, and telling me it just ain't so." ("A Cockeyed Optimist," South Pacific): "Ain't" is still considered substandard English. "It just isn't so" is preferable, though it wouldn't scan as well. (We'll see that plenty of these lyrics, if corrected, would have scanning problems.)
- "The vittles we et were good, you bet" ("A Real Nice Clambake," Carousel): "Et" is not the past tense of "eat." "The vittles we ate" is correct. (Just as we'll see that plenty of corrected lyrics will have scanning problems, so too will many of them have rhyming difficulties.)
- "It's a scandal! It's a outrage!" ("It's a Scandal! It's a Outrage!", Oklahoma!): Never use the article "a" before a word with a vowel sound. Always use "an."
- "There are good stones and bad stones and curbstones and Gladstones and touchstones and such stones as them." ("Mr. Goldstone," Gypsy): "Such stones as they" is the preferred usage, for "them" is only used as a direct object.
- "Strut down the street and have your picture took." ("Put on Your Sunday Clothes," Hello, Dolly!): The present perfect tense of "take" is "taken," not "took."
- "So take back your mink to from whence it came." ("Take Back Your Mink," Guys and Dolls): It's wrong to have one preposition immediately follow another, as in "to from." Also, "from whence" is redundant, since "whence" means "from where."
- "Her is a kinda doll what drives a fella bats, isn't her?" ("Her Is," The Pajama Game): "She" should be used in both instances, for "her" is only used for direct objects.
- "God don't answer prayers a lot." ("Now You Know," Merrily We Roll Along): The third person singular takes "doesn't" instead of "don't."
- "Who can I turn to when nobody needs me?" ("Who Can I Turn To?", The Roar of the Greasepaint -- The Smell of the Crowd): Use the infinitive form here, "To whom can I turn when nobody needs me?"
- "After all those years being stuck on a page, did you ever imagine you'd see me onstage?" ("Oh, the Thinks You Can Think," Seussical): The misplaced subordinate clause suggests that "you" is the person who is "stuck on a page." The preferred usage is, "After all those years that I was stuck on a page, did you ever imagine you'd see me onstage?"
- "Everybody's got the right to their dreams." ("Everybody's Got the Right," Assassins): "Everybody" is considered singular, so the sentence should read, "Everybody's got the right to his dreams."
- "And though scary is exciting, nice is different than good." ("I Know Things Now," Into the Woods): "Different than" is substandard English. "Different from" is preferred.
- "Me up all night honking me horn to porn, porn, porn." ("The Internet Is for Porn," Avenue Q): Both uses of "me" are incorrect. "I" should be used as the subject of the sentence and "my" should be used to modify "horn."
- "Always drunk the water from the finger bowl." ("Pass That Football," Wonderful Town): The past tense of "drink" is "drank."
- "And please don't show me no tattoos, no hearts and flowers on your thighs." ("A Li'l Ole Bitty Pissant Country Place," The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas): Double negative. "And please don't show me any tattoos, any hearts and flowers on your thighs" is correct.
- "Scarlet, honey, it's high time you knew that our town was founded by that beloved man a-settin' up there on that horse." ("Jubilation T. Cornpone," L'il Abner): "Settin'" -- "setting," actually -- is used for objects. People sit.
- "That's who she am!" ("Who Is She?", The Apple Tree): "Am" is only correct when used with the first person singular; for third person singular, use "That's who she is."
- "I'm gonna learn ya the lessons that concern ya." ("I'll Learn Ya," Let It Ride): Teachers teach and students learn -- ideally, anyway.
- "You got she! You got we!" ("You Got Me," On the Town): Both pronouns are direct objects, so "You got her" and "You got us" are correct.
- "Up is where to grow; up with which below can't compare with." ("Hurry! It's Lovely up Here," On a Clear Day You Can See Forever): Only one preposition is needed; the "with" is properly positioned before the "which," so another "with" certainly isn't needed at the end of the sentence. In addition, ending a sentence with a preposition is never preferred.
- "One time he said, 'May I suggest you call a lady's chest a chest, instead of her points of interest?' Dainty, ain't he?" ("He Had Refinement," A Tree Grows in Brooklyn): Tense shift. The speaker begins speaking in the past tense and then shifts to the present. "Dainty, wasn't he?" is correct.
- "She's talked about it half a week! What a girl! Quite unique." ("On the Terrace," Aspects of Love): "Unique" takes no adjectives. Something cannot be "quite" unique; it's either unique or it's not.
- "A lady does not discuss her personal affairs with them what ain't intimately involved." ("The Man Nobody Could Love," Legs Diamond): Where do I begin? Let's just say, "A lady does not discuss her personal affairs with those who aren't intimately involved with her."
- "A guy said you weren't fit for pigs down Harry's bar." ("You're My Friend, Aincha?", New Girl in Town): There's a misplaced modifier here. This sentence suggests that there are pigs in Harry's bar. (There may very well be, though probably not of the porcine kind.) What the speaker means is, "A guy in Harry's bar said that you weren't fit for pigs."
- "By rights, she should be taken out and hung for the cold-blooded murder of the English tongue." ("Why Can't the English?", My Fair Lady): When one is referring to the practice of hanging a person as capital punishment, the past tense form "hanged" should be used. So much for Zoltan Karpathy's assessment of Henry Higgins as an expert grammarian -- though, of course, we all understand that Alan Jay Lerner needed the rhyme for "tongue."
[To contact Peter Filichia directly, e-mail him at [email protected]]