Taylor Swift hits back at Princeton Review’s ‘bad grammar’ claim

Taylor Swift: chart-topping musician, Grammy winner, grammarian.
(Evan Agostini/Invision/Associated Press)
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What do you do when you’re grammar-shamed by the Princeton Review in an SAT prep book? If you’re Taylor Swift, you shake it off. Kind of.

The singer-songwriter struck back at the publisher after one of their test prep guides used lyrics from her hit song “Fifteen” as an example of bad grammar by pop singers. Unfortunately, the book got the lyrics wrong, quoting a line from the song as “Somebody tells you they love you, you got to believe ‘em.” The actual line is “Somebody tells you they love you, you’re gonna believe them.”

A Tumblr user photographed the page, and Swift swiftly responded. “Not the right lyrics at all,” she wrote. “You had one job, test people. One job.” Her post was accompanied with the tag “#ACCUSE ME OF ANYTHING BUT DO NOT ATTACK MY GRAMMAR.”


The publisher’s objection likely has to do with Swift’s use of “them” as the object of the second clause. Grammar traditionalists would argue that the plural “them” doesn’t agree with “somebody,” which is singular. But not so fast: As Eugene Volokh points out in the Washington Post: “Now the ‘you can’t use “they” with a singular term such as “somebody”’ objection is, I think, overstated. As I’ve noted ... leading writers have used ‘they’ as a singular pronoun for centuries; you can see it in Jane Austen, W.H. Auden, William Makepeace Thackeray, and William Shakespeare, among others.”

The grammarians at the Oxford Dictionaries website agree, noting that using “they” as a singular pronoun is “increasingly common in current English and is now widely accepted both in speech and in writing.”

The Princeton Review sheepishly acknowledged misquoting Swift’s lyric, perhaps hoping to avoid being the subject of a sequel to “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” The company’s senior vice president/publisher Rob Franek told MTV News: “I want to make sure that folks know that we’re big Taylor Swift fans and that we apologize for the misrepresentation in the lyric.” The publishing company also offered to buy concert tickets for two grammar nerds/Swift fans.

But they’re not backing down from their claim, with Franek saying, “I appreciate her response, but the question on the grammar still holds true.” Refusing to admit defeat to one of the most popular musicians in the world? That’s fearless.