Zach Braff's Biggest Offense: His Grammar

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Zach Braff takes a lot of crap, some of which is maybe undeserved. But all outrage directed his way is perfectly reasonable when it comes to grammar. Braff's latest movie bares a title that gives a big middle finger to the subjunctive mood, and people are mad. 

In an interview with Vulture posted today, Braff defended calling his movie Wish I Was Here instead of Wish I Were Here

The whole film is about a dad who’s not an academic trying to teach his kids, and his kids know more than he does. His daughter is constantly correcting him when he says who instead of whom; and so the title, although it has another meaning, we grammatically did it incorrect on purpose, because it’s about a father who is actually learning from his children who are brighter than he is.

The old it was intentional and meaningful argument, isn't likely to placate his detractors. Nor is the fact that he uses "incorrect" when he means "incorrectly." 

In fact, Braff had already tried to make the case for his bad grammar in an interview with Empire, in which he said: "Wish I Was Here sounds cooler than Wish I Were Here. Then the movie’s about a father who’s trying to teach his kids at home despite not being much of an academic himself. So it works in two ways, really, but yeah, I take your point." Those comments did not sit well with the Washington Post's Alexandra Petri. Petri wrote earlier this week

Listen, buddy. You like yourself some wistful counterfactuals, do you? Well, let’s get one thing straight. There are two ways to express a counterfactual wish. One way is with the subjunctive. The other way is wrong.

Denizens of Twitter—a platform not known for inspiring good grammar, despite the efforts of Kelsey Grammer—have also taken issue with Braff's title. 

As Petri pointed out in her piece, Braff is far from the only figure in pop culture to use "was" where he should have used "were." However, she notes, Beyoncé doesn't stoop so low with her song "If I Were a Boy."  Petri wrote: "Is it too much to ask that Zach Braff do the same? I know we cannot all be Beyoncé, but we can but strive." 

There you have it: Zach Braff should be more like Beyoncé. Problem solved. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.