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  • If we consider McCartney’s lyric writing to be pretty much accentual verse, then “live in” works better, giving the line four heavily stressed syllables (ever, world, live, in).

  • Mark: Whatever about dropping the first in, which is conceivable but less rhythmically satisfying (to my ears anyway), dropping the second in is definitely not an option. Despite the line’s formal wrongness I’m quite happy to give it a pass; it’s even almost endearing.

  • When I first heard “Live and Let Die,” it sounded as if there were an extra “in” at the end there. Then I though, nah, can’t be…must be “livin’.” Now that I see that The Man himself isn’t sure (though I really don’t understand how he can’t know what he SINGS, never mind what the actual words are), who am I to make assumptions! When I sing along, I say “livin’.”
    IIRC, altho I can’t just now think of which song it is, there may be a John (Cougar) Mellencamp song with similar issue.

  • Bluebird: The interview with McCartney is illuminating even as it leaves the question unresolved. I guess it’s a form of can’t see the wood for the trees – when you’re that close to something, it can be difficult to know it the way a third-party observer can. Much as we’re not the best judges of our own language usage, so singers might not be the most accurate assessors of what they sing.

  • Hi Stan, I think this sort of thing happens in relative clauses quite frequently. I had a look in a big corpus via Skylight and found lots of hits, eg ‘Every Security Specialist is carefully selected for the environment in which they will be working in’. and ‘Council tax should have nothing to do with what people are prepared to pay for the house in which they are living in.’
    The same happens with other prepositions like ‘to’ and ‘for’, eg ‘The Home Office have changed the forms and the address to which all applications are sent to.’ and ‘If you choose to decline this offer, we shall be happy to refund the cost of the unobtainable items for which you have paid for.’ Note that these are written contexts, so it’s not a case of changing course mid-utterance as David Crystal says happens in speech.
    Relative clauses are problematic in English in different ways, for example the ‘redundant’ pronoun, eg ‘he was using this weird oscillating thing which you can vaguely hear it…’ As I’m sure you must have written about, maybe on this blog.

  • McCartney doesn’t much care about the exact content of lyrics: he is all about singability, period, as in the notorious case of “Yesterday”, which began life as “Scrambled eggs / Oh my baby how I love your legs”. (A friend of mine used to sing it with the line “I’m not half the man I used to be” an octave too high and in falsetto voice.)

  • Gill: That’s really interesting – and it proves, as you say, that it’s often not about changing direction mid-utterance. As regards redundancy it reminds me a little of how we say things like ‘the reason is because’, and even ‘the reason why is because’, as though intuiting that the more basic structure (‘the reason is that’) doesn’t sufficiently convey the intended meaning.
    In your examples, maybe the earlier preposition is motivated by the traditional syntactical ‘rule’ of avoiding preposition-stranding, or by the sheen of formality it lends, but by the time the clause is nearing completion the same preposition is felt to belong naturally there, or felt to be necessary. (I haven’t yet read what you emailed me about this, so it will be interesting to compare.)

    John: That’s true too. Melody wins out over lyrical sense for a lot of singers. Sometimes I even avoid finding out the lyrics to songs I like because I expect they’ll add nothing and might even diminish the experience.