Thursday, December 10, 2009

That 70's Superfluous Preposition

I heard Paul McCartney's "Live and Let Die" on the radio today and was instantly transported to my shaggy-haired, lava-lamped youth. But, as always, I was perplexed by one particular line, and I decided to crank up the interwebs to see what people have been saying about the extra "in." Was I hearing it right?

Someone calling himself YogiChrishnaCarma, a commenter on the You Should Have Asked Me blog, writes:

Grammatically "in" makes no sense. Try both of these sentences and see which one works for you.

"In" this ever changing world in which we live in makes you give in and cry.

"If" this ever changing world in which we live in makes you give in and cry...

"If" wins for me. Have a good listen...

But of course that first "in" is not the issue.  Even if we go with "if" there (and really, isn't there a definitive accounting of the actual lyrics by now?) we are still left with the "in which we live in" phrasing, which, by any rational reckoning, has one "in" too many.

I think Andy at nails it:

Not only is the second 'in' redundant, the whole phrase 'in which we live' is unnecessary. Obviously, we live in this world. 'If this ever changing world...makes you give in and cry...' would be the grammatically economic way of expressing his thought.
 Surely we have to give some grammatical leeway to songwriters, who, after all, have to deal with considerations of euphony and meter. I mean, we even let Steve Miller make up words. But in this case, Sir Paul is guilty of an assault on the human ear--an assault almost as egregious as "Silly Love Songs."