Fun with Pet Shop Boys album titles & grammar

Over the past 24 years, the Pet Shop Boys have released 10 mainline studio albums (i.e., ignoring the two singles compilations, all four remix cds, both live albums, the B-sides compilation, the recordings of their musical and film score, and ‘expanded’ and limited-edition releases of several of the studio albums):

1986 – Please [Best UK chart position: 3]

1987 – Actually [2]

1988 – Introspective [2]

1990 – Behaviour [2]

1993 – Very [1]

1996 – Bilingual [4]

1999 – Nightlife [7]

2002 – Release [7]

2006 – Fundamental [5]

2009 – Yes [4]

(If you’re wondering what happened with the dramatic drop in chart positions from 1996 onwards, by the way, it coincides with Radio 1’s decision not to play-list their singles anymore because they were, allegedly, ‘too old’.)

Anyway, it has dawned on me that these titles can be re-arranged in such a way that they form a(n almost) grammatically correct sentence:

Yes, actually, please release fundamental, very introspective, bilingual nightlife behaviour.

Ok, so it’s not a particularly good sentence, and it doesn’t really make sense. The list of adjectives (and one adverb) – fundamental, very introspective, bilingual – is pretty random, and ‘nightlife behaviour’ is a rather strange name for the collective activities of drinking,

dancing

and pulling,

or, depending on the kind of Saturday night you prefer, drinking,

fighting

and falling over.

I also have literally no idea how one would go about releasing ‘nightlife behaviour’, or any other kind of behaviour, for that matter.  I’ll concede, as well, that in grammatical terms it’s pushing things a bit to treat the phrase ‘nightlife behaviour’ as a compound noun.  It’s certainly not an established compound noun like ‘shirt lifter’ or ‘mating behaviour’…though you perhaps could argue that ‘nightlife behaviour’ is the human form of ‘mating behaviour’, and in my particular case, it has sometimes culminated in shirts being lifted…

Nonetheless, and taking into account all these caveats, the sentence still does just about work, at least at a grammatical level.  I wonder how many other bands’ album titles you can do the same thing with?

(Hat tip.)

(Oh, and please let me know in the comments about any grammatical howlers – I’ve always been rather…uncertain when it comes to grammar.)

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8 Responses to Fun with Pet Shop Boys album titles & grammar

  1. Kapitano says:

    Oh, and please let me know in the comments about any grammatical howlers

    Oh that’s the easy part!

    Yes – Interjection. There’s no strict definition of interjection, except that it doesn’t fit into any other category, and can be a complete sentence all by itself. For more info, look up JL Austin’s notion of ‘Performatives’.
    Please – Interjection or verb, depending on context.
    Actually – Secondary adverb (one derived from an adjective). Primary adverbs don’t have declension and modify verbs or whole sentences – eg. again, often, up, off.
    Release – Noun or Verb.
    Fundamental – Adjective, or noun derived from it.
    Very – Intensifier. A broadly defined but small category comprising adverbials (as opposed to adverbs) which modify verbs and adverbs.
    Introspective – Adjective
    Bilingual – Adjective, very occasionally a noun.
    Nightlife – Compound noun.
    Behavior – Noun.

    As for making a sentence…

    Introspective bilingual, nightlife release (actually very fundamental behavior) – yes please!

  2. Adair says:

    Essential alternative discography: in-depth pop-art party.

  3. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Thanks for the comments.

    Kapitano – Thank you for the impressively detailed and knowledgeable information in your, frankly, professorial contribution. :o) Thank you, as well, for the opportunity it gives me to indulge my inner pedant. ;o)

    When I asked for howlers, I was using that word in the sense of ‘a laughably stupid blunder‘. While it’s certainly true to say that I didn’t identify and label every word in my sentence, and while it’s also true that each one of these could be accurately classed as an error of omission, they don’t, I think, meet the standard for an error of comission, which is what the word blunder connotes. (The word is now used figuratively (and as a noun rather than a verb), but originally it meant ‘to move blindly or clumsily‘ – move, hence implying wrongful action, not wrongful inaction.) I may be rather uncertain about grammar, but when it comes to semantics I can split hairs with the best of them… ;o)

    As for the one potential correction regarding the word very – you’re right, it is an intensifier. However, intensifier is not one of the eight recognised parts of speech, and neither is adverbial. If we look up adverbial we find that it can be ‘an adverb, adverbial phrase or adverbial clause‘. In other words, very is both an intensifier and an adverbial, but it remains, fundamentally, an adverb, which is what I called it in my post.

    As for your sentence, I like it a lot, but I’m not sure it’s punctuated correctly – did you perhaps mean ‘Introspective, bilingual nightlife release (actually very fundamental behaviour) – yes please!? Punctuated as you have it above, I think (but I’m not certain – see previous expressions of uncertainty re grammar) it requires ‘introspective’ to do the work of an adverb, rather than an adjective, which would mean, I think, that the word would need to appear in the form ‘introspectively‘, which is, of course, not what the album is called.

    See, I told you I was going to indulge my inner pedant… Apologies. :o)

    Adair – Oh, I like that, it’s very clever! :o) I’ll admit, I hadn’t even heard of Party until I saw it in your comment and looked it up – clearly my knowledge of all things Pet Shop Boys is less encyclopaedic than I thought it was. But your sentence also highlights a class of albums (overseas-released compilation albums – Essential, In-Depth, and now Party) that I did know about, and forgot to include in my list of things I was excluding. So, yes, well done. :o)

  4. Kapitano says:

    When I asked for howlers, I was using that word in the sense of ‘a laughably stupid blunder’

    I wasn’t being serious. There were no actual howlers in the post, and I’d have been very surprised to find one.

    which is what the word blunder connotes.

    That sense of connotation is certainly common, as is another – the sense of “emotional loading”. Some (especially in America) use “association” for the first sense and “connotation” for the second. I prefer to avoid both terms because there’s so much confusion over them.

    intensifier is not one of the eight recognised parts of speech, and neither is adverbial.

    When I was at school there were six. At college there were eight, but a different set. It’s like the ‘seven basic jokes’ or the ‘four basic stories’ – everyone has a different idea what they are.

    But you’re right – my note on ‘very’ was confusingly worded.

    If we look up adverbial we find that it can be ‘an adverb, adverbial phrase or adverbial clause‘. In other words, very is both an intensifier and an adverbial, but it remains, fundamentally, an adverb

    All these terms have been used in different ways at different times by different theorists. In the tradition in which I was educated, Adverbial is the superordinate term, encompassing intensifiers, both types of adverb, and prepositional noun phrases. The term ‘adverbial clause’ at the link you give seems to encompass both noun phrases qualifying verbs and conjunctions co-ordinating sentences.

    I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve read books which claim English has a future tense, used only for talking about the future. One insisted that “I’m going to go” is ungrammatical.

    If you meet someone who claims to be knowledgable about linguistics, ask them whether there really is no such a thing as the full infinitive in english. If they don’t understand the question, they know nothing. If they’re amazed anyone could ask, they’ve learnt the terms but never thought about them.

    If they say they’re honestly not sure, they’re probably worth talking to.

  5. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Hi again, Kapitano, and sorry for the long delay in your comment appearing – unusually i didn’t fire my computer up at all yesterday evening. It also seems rather unfair that i can litter my comments with URLs and they appear straight away, but if anyone else does it the spam filter gets involved. Unfortunately, the only way i can change that would be to increase the number of URLs that can appear in a comment and that would let a LOT of spam through. So anyway, yes, sorry. :o)

    I wasn’t being serious.

    Neither was i – i hope i didn’t give the impression that i was genuinely offended, because i wasn’t, i just enjoy pedantic hair-splitting from time to time. :o)

    There were no actual howlers in the post, and I’d have been very surprised to find one.

    You have greater faith in my abilities than i do, then. ;o)

    I prefer to avoid both terms because there’s so much confusion over them.

    Indeed, it’s a problem. But there is, i think, such a thing as implied meaning, and it is, i also think, distinct from literal meaning, and it is occasionally necessary to refer to the difference. Personally, i’d be inclined to argue that ’emotional loading’ is merely a form of implied meaning, so i’m not sure it’s necessary to split it off from the general sense of ‘connote’ – but, i agree, the split has been made by some people, and therefore the term is confused, and so confusing.

    In the tradition in which I was educated, Adverbial is the superordinate term

    Fair enough. :o) Taking a purely semantic view (i.e., not a grammatical one) it seems odd that a word that is derived from another (as adverbial is derived from adverb) can take precedence over the word from which it derives. But, looking at it another way, i can see that ‘adverbs, and words and phrases that do the same job as adverbs’ (to come up with a bad definition of adverbial on the fly) is the more general term. I can also see that it makes more sense to regard labels based on the function of a particular piece of language as more fundamental than more narrowly defined labels. So, in other words, if i wasn’t in pedantic hair-splitting mode, i’d agree with you. :o)

    I’ve read books which claim English has a future tense, used only for talking about the future.

    Well, English does have several future tenses, doesn’t it? They use the same grammatical forms as other tenses, which can make them hard to spot, but the tenses nonetheless exist, don’t they? Or don’t they?

    One insisted that “I’m going to go” is ungrammatical.

    I have come across the argument that “I’m going to go” is not exactly incorrect, but that alternatives like “I shall go” or “I will go” are more correct. I never found the argument particularly convincing, though.

    If you meet someone who claims to be knowledgable about linguistics, ask them whether there really is no such a thing as the full infinitive in english.

    Ah, now this is one of my favourite linguistic hobby-horses! You see, i am part of that group of people who insist that English has no true infinitives whatsoever, whether full or otherwise. I certainly don’t see how the supposed full infinitive can be a true infinitive (in the way that, in French, etre or aller are true infinitives), since it requires the addition of an extra word – ‘to be’, ‘to go’ etc. And as for the entirely spurious suggestion that there could possibly be such a thing as a ‘split infinitive’ in English (outside the very narrow circumstance of translating from a language that does have true infinitive verb forms, where it might be regarded as bad form) – well, that’s a really ridiculous notion… ;o)

    So, how many howlers this time? I’m sure there are bound to be some… :o)

  6. Kapitano says:

    No worries about late comments or appearing offended.

    I suppose it depends exactly what you mean by ‘tense’. Strictly speaking, ‘tense’ is a grammatical term – it refers to changes (conjugations) that a verb can undergo. In this sense, English verbs have two tenses – present and past – except for a few that only have a present.

    At the sentence level, there’s also three aspects (progressive, perfect, perfect-progressing and an extremely complex one that’s perversely called ‘simple’), two voices (active and aassive), three major moods (declarative, interrogative and imperative), an indefinitely large number of minor moods that linguists disagree over (hortative, optative and a load of others that I never paid much attention to).

    We form the ‘simple future’ grammatical form by taking the ‘simple present’ form’ and sticking the present form of the auxiliary verb “Will” before the main verb(s). So “I write” becomes “I will write”. And then sometimes stick an abbreviated version of the word as a bound morpheme on the subject noun, of all places.

    The simple future is usually used when referring to intended actions of the near future (eg. “Don’t worry, I’ll get that”), unless there’s a phrase of time used (eg, “I’ll go online tomorrow”)

    For timetabled or long planned events, we use the present simple with a phrase of time – “We leave tomorrow”, “The court case starts in a month”.

    The past form of ‘Will’ is ‘Would’, and we use that for…lots of things. “Would you believe it?”, “Would you be quiet please?”, “Would you just shut up!”, “I would if I could”, “Wouldn’t it be funny if….”. None of which are about the past.

    All of which should show how little the tenses of ‘past’ and ‘present’ have to do with the actual past and present. Personally I prefer the terms ‘proximal’ and ‘distal’.

    As for ‘future tenses’, ‘Will’ can be used with all four aspects of the present tense, giving four ‘future’ sentence shapes, plus there’s verbs like ‘going to’, ‘about to’, ‘intending to’ etc.

    Well, English does have several future tenses, doesn’t it? They use the same grammatical forms as other tenses, which can make them hard to spot, but the tenses nonetheless exist, don’t they? Or don’t they?

    There are lots of different forms which are sometimes used to refer to the future in different ways…and sometimes not.

    You just need to remember that, although grammatical categories and semantic categories often share names, there’s no simple connection between them.

    The present-perfect form in “I have lost my wallet” actually refers to the present result of a completed past action. The past-progressive “We were going to start” refers to a past intended action that did not occur. “I used to believe” is a past habitual action or constant state that ceased a long time ago.

    Notions of ‘more correct’ and ‘less correct’ are just fudges. Some dialects (regional), some sociolects (class based), and indeed idiolects (personal) use constructions like ‘going to go’ a lot, and some not much. Anyone who insists that “I gets up and brushes my teeths” isn’t ‘correct’ English simply doesn’t grasp how language works.

    As for infinitives, I’m with you. I don’t think there’s such a thing in English. Unfortunately, students tend to get understandably confused if I tell them I think every single grammar book they’ve ever read is wrong on such a fundamental issue.

  7. Kapitano says:

    PS. I wrote a bit about ‘ways to talk about the future’ here:
    http://kapitano.blogspot.com/2007/10/day-11.html

  8. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Ok, so about 75% of that went right over my head the first time i read it, but in a good way. :o) I think i get the basic gist of a lot of what you’re saying, though.

    English doesn’t have a future tense, so we use a mish-mash of past and present tense words to talk about the future. That whole approach – muddling through, and then creating a set of hideously complicated ‘rules’ that aren’t actually rules because there are almost as many ‘exceptions’ as there are occasions when the rules are followed – seems very typically English somehow. I mean, just look at Imperial weights and measures… ;o)

    I’ve familliar with the two ‘voices’, but only because MS Word seems to be alergic to the passive one. I’d never even heard of ‘aspects’, although checking with Wikipedia, it seems that ‘i use’ and ‘i am using’ them constantly, for all that. The ‘major moods’ i’m also familliar with, i think: we are going (declarative); are we going? (interrogative); we must go (imperative); and also we might go (indicative).

    You just need to remember that, although grammatical categories and semantic categories often share names, there’s no simple connection between them.

    Of course not. That would be both too logical and too simple… ;o)

    Notions of ‘more correct’ and ‘less correct’ are just fudges. […] Anyone who insists that “I gets up and brushes my teeths” isn’t ‘correct’ English simply doesn’t grasp how language works.

    Precisely. I’m quite interested in grammar and semantics – blame the Saussure module (ok – one lecture, one seminar, and an optional essay i didn’t write) of my English degree – but only in an observational/ analytic way. I always think it’s quite a handy way of identifying people i’m unlikely to get on with – if they start badgering on about the grocers’ apostrophe, or someone saying “so don’t I”, or some other minor infraction that doesn’t make it any harder to understand what they’re writing or saying, then i pretty much know we’re going to have very little in common, because they’re rule-obsessed bullies, and i’m not. No, i’m just a hair-splitting pedant, that’s much better… ;o)

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