While William Safire’s on vacation, his fill-in, researcher Aaron Britt, is bringing some rock ‘n fucking roll to the NY Times Magazine’s “On Language” column:
Aside from its many cooing, snarling and pleading invitations to the boudoir, pop music has promised nothing more often than the optimistically vague: “Everything’s gonna be alright.” Alright, that state of grace offered far more frequently than the elevating pledge to take us higher, the base desire to get lower or the blithe promise to ferry us away to paradise, is a strange one. Why does alright sound just, well, all right?
According to Wendalyn Nichols, editor of Copy Editor newsletter: “all right is still a two-word locution. We do have a higher tolerance for creative spellings in creative spheres, although ‘The Kids Are alright”‘ ? a 1965 hit for the Who ? “gave everyone permission to spell it wrong.”
Next week: the controversial etymology of “Hey Ya”!
Oh wait, he did that too:
Here is perhaps the most emphatic and focused use of the term in all of pop music. Andre 3000 demands his audience’s attention by repeating the word 14 times in the song’s breakdown. His rapid-fire staccato is a far cry from John Lennon’s plangent repetition that closes the Beatles’ “Revolution” (the B side of “Hey Jude”), but 35 years on and in a different genre altogether, alright is all right.
Someone please take away this dude’s iPod.