Monday, July 19, 2010

The kids are all right, but the sing-a-long's wrong

"Is the use of alright  or allright all right?" asked Whitton Norris in a recent e-mail. Well, it's not all right with me, thanks to my early training, but Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage -- you could Google it, but you really should buy it -- points out that many educated and admired writers have used alright.

And since we have already and altogether and always, all originally spelled with all, it's reasonable to assume that alright will one day be all right. Still, I was pleased to see that the new movie "The Kids Are All Right" had chosen that rendering, rather than directly copying the Who's 1965 "The Kids Are Alright" (widely blamed, in editing circles, for giving alright a huge boost).

That pleasure lasted only a few days, until I noticed that the "Grease: Sing-A-Long" movie has been issued under that moronic title. I can see how all right morphs into alright, but does anyone who can read think the audience for this movie will be singing "a long," or nine longs, or a dozen longs? No, they'll be singing ALONG, all one word.

Like "The 40-Year Old Virgin," with its half-hyphenated compound, this sort of title goof makes editors crazy, since they have to choose between the illiterate version and the inaccurate (but correct) version. So today's Globe story on "Grease: Sing-A-Long" ping-pongs between the correct (generic) sing-along and the incorrect (actual) movie title.

Luckily, the story had language news to distract me from my "sing-a-long" annoyance.  Paramount, it seems, has revised some of the dirty lyrics from the original movie (not to more modern dirty lyrics, as reporter Joe Keohane would like, but to less raunchy terms). I remember how shocked I was to finally realize (after several viewings, some with children, over the years) that in the car number the guys were singing (IIRC) "The chicks'll all cream/ For Greased Lightning." Now I've gotta go see what else has been bowdlerized.

Update: Apparently "Grease" has been worked over many times since its first staging in 1971, and the 1978 movie itself has been called "bowdlerized." So someone with a deeper interest (and an original cast recording, maybe) will have to do the investigative journalism on this one.


Charles Matthews said...

I can understand why "all right" became "alright." But why does "a lot" keep showing up as "alot"?

Molly said...

I think Grease also referred to the car as "a real pussy wagon". I remember hearing that in elementary school and just being confused ...

Big Daddy Malcontent said...

The AP style guide says, "Use all right, not alright." But I noticed a link in my Yahoo search that said, "AP stylebook finally changes "Web site to website."

So maybe they'll come around on "alright," which would be alright with me.

Terry said...

But when that happens, will you shout "All right!" or "Alright!" (or possibly "Awright!")

Anonymous said...

And when have replaced "look up" for "google" as in "-- you could Google it,..."