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    #1

    He say vs. He says

    I just wonder how an English native speaker appreciates what in an English-learning country would be seen as a blatant mistake. Let’s take Lennon’s Come Together as an example:


    Here come old flattop, he come grooving up slowly
    He got joo-joo eyeball, he one holy roller
    He got hair down to his knee
    Got to be a joker he just do what he please

    He wear no shoeshine, he got toe-jam football
    He got monkey finger, he shoot coca-cola
    He say "I know you, you know me"
    One thing I can tell you is you got to be free
    Come together right now over me

    He bag production, he got walrus gumboot
    He got Ono sideboard, he one spinal cracker
    He got feet down below his knee
    Hold you in his armchair you can feel his disease
    Come together right now over me


    Here come (instead of comes)… he come (the same)… he wear… he say… etc.

    Do you find it just funny and cute? Or do you feel that John is making a mock of English grammar rules? Or is it some kind of stylization?

    Thank you in advance for an honest reply.

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    #2

    Re: He say vs. He says

    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****

    What a fascinating question, Shatiloff.

    I shall keep my opinions to myself, but I felt that you would be interested in the following information that comes from a great grammarian.

    1. "The Midland [area of England] developed in the fifteenth century a peculiarity of its own -- the suppression of the end of the third person singular indicative."

    2. " 'John Dam kno' ... instead of knows."

    3, "Shakespeare has observed this peculiarity of dialect. ... 'The town is beseech'd, and the trumpet call (for calls) us to the breach.' "

    4. "Traces of the east Midland peculiarity are found in our early American documents written by people from this part of England."

    5. "It is still found also in American dialect." [Only my note: You will have noticed that some American singers continue to suppress the "s." For example: "She love me."]

    -- Source: George Oliver Curme, A Grammar of the English Language, Volume I (copyright 1935), page 246.

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    #3

    Re: He say vs. He says

    That info is really helpful. I am used to hear that it is all just because song lyrics are a specific art form and that the rules of grammar frequently don't apply. But now I can see that there is more to it.

    As for you opinion I am not going to push for it, but, guys, native speakers, don't you find the above quote totally non-poetic and just crap? Or is it just me missing the point and he was a genius?

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    #4

    Re: He say vs. He says

    First of all, song lyrics are not the place to look for perfect grammar.
    Secondly, sometimes nonsensical lyrics can be fun just for the way the words and sounds play together
    Lastly, the song has a good beat, a nice guitar riff. It doesn't have to make any sense.

    And one and one and one is three. Can't argue with that.

  1. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: He say vs. He says

    Yes. That's important: The rules of standard English do NOT apply to song lyrics!

    For a lyric to be "correct," it must fit the flow, attitude, timing, and speaker of the song. So those lyrics are perfectly correct.

    To add the Parser's very interesting comments, John Lennon also enjoyed using American slang and phrasing, which is many cases is similar to the regional peculiarities the Parser described.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

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