This Post Brought To You By The Letter “s”

It’s easy to sound arch. It’s fun too, but sometimes a little subtlety is required.  When you want to be subtle, try this fun game for songwriters and lovers of wordsmithery.

The old-fashioned term for a song’s words is not “lyrics” but “lyric”.  The lyric was written by Ira Gershwin. Doesn’t that carry with it a certain droll 1930s charm?  Don’t you think?  I do.

“Lyric” implies that the words to a song constitue a single literary identity, that they were crafted with a unified effect in mind.  A singular noun implies an artistic achievement, miniature in size perhaps, but deliberately drafted by someone with taste and care:

Mancini’s melody is nicely complemented by Mercer’s thoughtful lyric.

See?  Luckily the converse also applies. If you think a songwriter has merely placed line after line, with concern only for a momentary effect, and no idea of the cumulative effect of structure, you can rightly call those words by the plural, lyrics.

Kylie helped out with some of the lyrics.  She’s been writing lyrics for years.

I like to play this game with words that were in fact written as a unified piece, but which I think are crap:

Love Changes Everything has lyrics by Don Black.

Try it yourself!  Let the terminal “s” hang in the air. 

Curl your lip a little.


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