McDonald’s Is Lovin’ It, But I’m Not

www.RuthlessEditor.comBlame McDonald’s.

That’s my response to a reader who has been noticing what he perceives as unconventional, nonstandard — or simply ungrammatical — usage.

Here’s his issue:

People who say, “I’m wanting to get to Boston by noon” instead of “I want to get to Boston by noon”

People who say, “They’re liking the fact that Friday can be a work-at-home day” instead of “They like the fact that Friday can be a work-at-home day.”

People who say, “He’s knowing why his job will be eliminated” instead of “He knows why his job will be eliminated.”

When I received his email query, the McDonald’s tagline “I’m lovin’ it” popped into my mind.

Is ‘I’m lovin’ it’ grammatical?
The popular tagline was introduced in 2003. Although many companies update their taglines periodically, this phrase had been so catchy, so memorable and so successful that the global chief marketing officer for McDonald’s brought it back to the forefront in 2010.

Because “I’m lovin’ it” proved to be so successful, it apparently made more sense to continue to ride its popularity than to create a new tagline. “Launching and seeding awareness of a new tagline is a major financial undertaking,” Mary Dillon pointed out.

The result for McDonald’s has been good: It’s still selling lots of burgers and fries.

The result for our English language has not been so good: Many apparently consider the phrasing grammatically acceptable and have incorporated it in their everyday language in inappropriate ways.

Not to mention that I am lovin’, I am wanting … They are liking … He is knowing … all include a form of the verb to be (am, are, is), which good writers and speakers do their best to avoid.

Grammar Girl Nixes ‘I’m lovin’ it’
Writing for the Grammar Girl website, Bonnie Trenga takes on the catchy McDonald’s slogan from a grammar perspective. She cites two types of verbs, dynamic versus stative, and she goes into detail about their differences and how those differences relate to I’m lovin’ versus I love.

In general, you should not combine stative verbs with forms of the verb to be:

Verbs that show thought or opinion: know and recognize
Verbs that show possession: own and belong
Verbs that show emotion: love and need
Verbs that show senses: feel and see

“I’m lovin’ it” indeed falls short of being grammatically correct. Trenga writes:

‘I’m loving it’ does sound slightly off, and that draws attention. Perhaps that’s why McDonald’s chose it for their slogan. None of the dictionaries I checked sanction loving as a form of the verb love, but the McDonald’s slogan isn’t the only instance where this sentence has been used in popular culture.

Ruthless Editor note: A corporation is a single entity; their slogan should be its slogan.
Rewrite option: Perhaps that’s why McDonald’s marketing executives chose it for their slogan.

Trenga confirms something we all realize: Advertising copy and song lyrics are not always examples of good grammar.

Lovin’ it just for fun
Before you leave, consider checking out these Five Things You Never Knew About ‘I’m lovin’ it.

We all need to watch our grammar p’s and q’s. Was the reader who questioned the ungrammatical construction a co-worker of yours? Or your manager?

Attention to grammar detail matters, whether in writing or speaking.

But in advertising? Unfortunately, not so much.

Let me know if you’ve heard or read an advertising tagline or jingle that strikes you as ungrammatical.

Kathy Watson
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Kathy Watson

Kathy has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)

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