Several of those conversations were about how Weird Al's new song might have been a bit out of touch or insensitive by using name calling to demean people who don't speak or write correctly.
There was this piece at Slate on how several of the examples of poor grammar that Weird Al sang about are actually completely acceptable. And there was the Facebook comment that spawned this post, in which a friend suggested that calling people "uneducated" because they use non-standard grammar leads to the kind of argument that systematizes racism in schools and universities.
I understand that point of view, but let me repeat (and bold) the first line of this post: Today and yesterday I have seen conversations about grammar and syntax on every social network in which I participate.
That's kind of crazy.
And I think Weird Al's decision (or tendancy) to be a bit crass and insensitive is part of that.
Demeaning people and calling them names is bound to cause discomfort. It may even offend or disturb.
But I'm still happy Weird Al wrote "Word Crimes," because it's a goof. And people will talk about a goof. People will have a discussion about something presented as lighthearted.
Today, I've seen a few exchanges like this one:
"Oh, come on. Relax. Everyone knows what I mean when I say 'I could care less'"
"Sure, they know, but the words don't mean what you mean. Shouldn't words mean what they mean?"
That's an interesting conversation that normally only happens when I'm around comp/rhet people. It's a conversation that could lead a person to see the ways we construct language socially. But people need to have the conversation.
One way to shut down constructive conversation about sensitive issues is to bring harsh judgement into the mix.
Discussions revolving around race or class equality send people to their respective corners where they shield themselves in the armor of the political and cultural norms held by their communities.
If I tell a person that their emphasis on correctness can be linked to racism (even if that's true), that person is going to end the conversation. That person is going to go tell like-minded people that I think they're all racist.
Comedians poke and prod at sensitive issues and allow people to indirectly examine things that they would normally simply avoid. It's easy to name some who do this: Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Bill Hicks... But even lighthearted Weird Al has songs that push buttons.
If teachers play "Word Crimes" to their students, it should not be treated like the latest incarnation of Strunk and White. The song should start a discussion: What attitudes towards grammar have you experienced at school, online, at home, with your friends...?