The slow, creeping Americanisation of British English has been underway for a century or so. It’s inevitable. We’re a poxy little North Sea island that some of us don’t even want to be part of. They are a cultural behemoth that gave us rock ‘n’ roll, Hollywood movies and celebrity lifestyle*. No wonder we’ve adapted to their speech. That’s why we get all the ‘met withs’ and ‘different thans’ and ‘vacations’. I even heard a BBC 6Music newsreader pronounce depot as ‘dee-poh’.
As a good Linguistics student who was taught in his first lecture that ‘linguistics is descriptive not prescriptive,’ I don’t mind. I like language evolution. I’m chillaxed about it. It’s against my self-enforced rules to get all pedantic and Lynne Truss on your ass (or, should I say, arse). I just let these Americanisms wash over me. I’m OK with ‘impacting’ and ‘mall’ and ‘ballpark figures’. (But not the 6Music announcer. He just sounded like a dick.)
I would like to be permitted to draw one line in the sand, though. As someone who reads and writes about music a lot, I want this one thing to be kept sacred.
BANDS ARE PLURAL.
Think about it. The Beatles are countable. There were four. Now there are two. George Martin (or Brian Epstein or Neil Aspinall or Stu Sutcliffe or Pete Best depending who you speak to) was the fifth Beatle. They are plural, like a herd of animals or a cluster of stars. Treat them as singular and you sound like Claude Greengrass. “The cows is in the top field.” “Oooh, the stars is looking nice tonight.” In the same way, if I wanna talk all proper an’ that, The Beatles isn’t my favourite band, they are my favourite band.
By extension, even if the names aren’t obviously countable, the band members still are. Blur are getting back together, The Who are doing a farewell tour, Snow Patrol are a dribbling crock of piss-weak turd-water.
You may say that making a band singular emphasises that they are a unit, all in it together against the world. I would have some sympathy with that view, except there is one song that proves irrefutably that I am right.
That song is this:
Daft Punk Is Playing At My House by LCD Soundsystem. When I first heard it, in my mind’s eye I had Mr Soundsystem spinning a few discs round his gaff, one of which was by the above named space-helmet wearing French dance duo. But, alas, examination of the video and a closer reading of the lyrics reveals that LCD (you don’t mind if I call you LCD, do you?) actually had Bangalter and whatever the other fella’s called in person doing a live performance at his condo (erm, sir, I think you’ll find it’s a ‘flat’). “Daft Punk is playing at my house, my house / I waited for 7 years and 15 days / There’s every kid for miles at my house, my house / And the neighbors can’t…call the police” Blimey. No wonder there’s a freakout brewing at his house, his house.
Here we have, in a nutshell, why we need to keep our bands plural. No longer is this pure pedantry. It is a meaningful distinction we are in danger of losing at the hands of our American cousins. Plural refers to the band themselves, singular refers to the music.
(Pointing at the turntable) What’s playing? Daft Punk is playing.
(Pointing at band) Who’s playing? Daft Punk are playing.
As another popular non-Brit with a dubious handle on our national language once said, ‘Simples!’
So, please by all means, help yourself to water from the faucet, change your baby’s diaper and go for a stroll down the sidewalk (Word actually auto-corrected this to ‘pavement’ while I was typing it!) but please, people, for pity’s sake, keep our bands plural. No more abominable “Arctic Monkeys is great”.
* I exaggerate for effect. To quote Morrissey, America Is Not The World. Besides, we have our own cultural icons like Shakespeare, Olivier and Sheeran.