Rock’n’roll, pop music, whatever you want to call it, has gone through a lot of changes in the 50+ years that it’s been with us. But here’s something a little different to think about.

Have you ever considered the etymology of the vinyl record? The way songs from differing ages use different spellings and punctuation? It’s a minor detail, small beans: but I bet (and hope!) that someone, somewhere is planning a dissertation on it.

Sometime in the 1950s, it seems, the fledgling teenagers got very excited about the word ‘yeah’. What rebels! But for a short period, this was oddly spelled ‘yeh’. Georgie Fame’s hit used both spellings – search through some car boot sales and you might find a copy of ‘Yeh, Yeh’ and another of ‘Yeah, Yeah’ (they’re both worth the same amount of money – so don’t get too excited.

Mama, Weer All Crazee Now..

Up to the mid sixties, or so, question marks seemed out of the question. ‘Baby, Where Did Our Love Go’ has no query at the end. And don’t even think about writing US. It’s U.S. right? Those dots need to be in there.

1980s metal gave us lots of ‘K’ and ‘Z’ for ‘C’ and ‘S’. And ‘Y’ for ‘I’. Cirkus, Tygertailz, etc. This carried on through New Wave and Punk, of course. Fingerprintz anyone?

Prince gave us the ‘U’ for ‘You’ shortcut, and ‘4’ for ‘For’. And there are more, of course. Many more.

What can we conclude from this? Not a lot. It’s just another little thing to think about along the incredible journey through the present and past that pop, rock, whatever, allows us to embark upon.

But sometimes I wonder what future cultural historians will make of us 70s kids when they get hold of some Slade singles… Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me indeed.

Andy Barding

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  1. I think the biggest change music has wrought to the English language is introducing the word ‘nevermind’ as an imperative verb.

    Before Nirvana came along, it was two words: never mind – as in Never Mind The Bollocks. Post-Nirvana, everybody writes it as one word.

    According to this dictionary entry: httpss:// ‘nevermind’ has existed as a noun since the 1930s in colloqual American English, as a slang synonym for attention.

    So if you were writing a Dukes Of Hazzard script, you might have Uncle Jesse say: ‘Now you listen up, Roscoe P. Coltrane – don’t you go payin’ no nevermind to what Bo an’ Luke might be doin’ up at the still.’ But you wouldn’t use the word in any other context.

    I assume that’s the context in which Nirvana used the word: old-school American slang. ‘Nevermind’ as a noun has never existed in British English – and it was never a verb in any version of English until, now, people seem intent on making it so.

    I think Nirvana started that. Until their album came out, most British people had probably never seen the word ‘nevermind’ before, and certainly didn’t recognise it as an American English slang noun. They gave it the only meaning they knew: the standard verb form.

    ‘Never mind’ – the two-word imperative verb – has a completely different meaning: httpss://

    These days you’ll hardly ever see the verb form used correctly. Everyone writes ‘nevermind’. Or, at least, they seem to so so in the UK. It would be interesting to know if the same blurring of meaning occurs in the USA, where – presumably – some people at least would’ve been familiar with ‘nevermind’ as a slang noun before Nirvana came along.

    There is, I think, a general trend to run separate words together these days – it’s routine, now, to see ‘log in’ rendered as ‘login’ and ‘set up’ as ‘setup’. Geek-speak has a lot to answer for! But how many times have you seen ‘a lot’ written as ‘alot’ or ‘in fact’ written as ‘infact’? One person whose blogs I read now and then habitually types ‘aswell’ for ‘as well’, and it drives me potty.

    These errors have propagated so widely, so quickly, that it must be an internet-driven phenomenon. It’s reached some sort of critical mass point, where so many people are writing run-together words that it has become more usual on the web to see the incorrect forms than the correct ones. Thus people think that the incorrect is correct, they start using those forms themselves, and the whole thing rolls forward.

    But I reckon it all started with Nirvana.

    Don’t give in, kids. Correct English usage is still a cause worth fighting for. Let this be our rallying cry: We are British, and we do it like the Sex Pistols!

  2. Quran (4:104) – “And be not weak hearted in pursuit of the enemy; if you suffer pain, then surely they (too) suffer pain as you suffer pain…”

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