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June 30, 2023

English Errors of Metal

Although Europeans dominate metal music, the lingua franca of the genre is still English. And not only is it English, but many subgenres of metal rely on specific vocabulary (fantastical and Tolkien-esque, or macabre and deathly). This leads to a lot of interesting little quirks of pronunciation and grammar. I've already documented some examples in the non-metal pop band, ABBA. I don't want to make fun of these singers or lyricists, as writing songs in a different language is difficult, and these mistakes are harmless - I just find them interesting and want to share. Here are some I've noticed from a handful of bands:

Nightwish, a symphonic metal band from Finland: their earliest records, understandably, had more L2 errors than later ones.

  • "And the [p]ath under my bare feet... the [e]lven [p]ath" - Pronouncing the 'p' sound without aspiration makes it sound like the "elven bath." Finnish does not have aspirated consonants, so it sounds like singer Tarja is transerring Finnish rules to English.
  • "Songs as a SED-uction of sirens" - Writer Tuomas appear to have thought that 'seduction' has the stress on the first syllable, and Tarja sings it with an unexpected 'eh' vowel.
  • "The unc[e]rven path" - A spelling pronunciation from Tarja, perhaps by analogy with words like 'care' [ker].
  • "It's the honest of his words, ruled by magic and mighty s[we]rds" - Tuomas thought that 'words' and 'swords' rhyme, but they do not in modern English. Tarja also pronounces the 'w' in 'sword.' Journalist Robert Menner claims Americans still pronounced 'sword' with a 'w' sound in the first half of the 1800s, so Tarja may have fit in a little better then. The vowel still would have been [o], not [e].
  • "The moonwitch took me TO a ride on a broomstick" - The expression in English is either "took me on a ride" or "took me for a ride." There is no expression "take to a ride."
  • "You stand a[k]used of robbery" - A lack of aspiration and no 'y' sound here (a spelling pronunciation?) makes this sound like "You stand a goose of robbery."
  • Burning Witches, a power metal band from Switzerland:

  • "Just stories on tape-stries" - a spelling pronunciation dividing 'tapestry' up not as 'ta - pes - try' but as 'tape - stry.'
  • Sonata Arctica, a power metal band from Finland, has relatively good pronunciation, but the writer struggles with stylistically appropriate English.

  • "Find a barn which to sleep in, but can he hide anymore?" - The use of 'anymore' without a negative sounds odd to me, especially in a question, but some people do use the word like this. If you're a 'positive anymore' user, does this sound grammatical to you? The 'barn which to sleep in' is clumsy. Stylistically you would prefer either 'Find a barn to sleep in' (no linking word necessary).
  • "Knock on the door and scream that is soon ending" - lack of article on both 'knock' and 'scream'.
  • Share your favorite moments of L2 errors in metal or other genres in the comments!