WOW: ataraxia


WoWW_bannerThis Week’s Word is: ataraxia.

tranquilityAtaraxia is the state of tranquility or the lack of anxiety.

This state seems hard to achieve from time to time, especially around this time of year, when holiday preparations are added to the standard busyness and stress of day-to-day life.

I’m not fooling myself that I’m saying anything profound or unique, but there it is.

Let’s all just hope for a little bit of peace on earth and some degree of ataraxia in our lives.

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Word of the Week Wednesday: superfluous


This Wednesday’s Word of the Week is: superfluous.

Superfluous means more than necessary or excessive, also unneeded.

From its etymology, it literally means overflowing.

Granted, the term is almost exclusively used negatively, I do like the concept of overflowing abundance.

I’m also quite fond of the u-o-u-s construction.  The concatenation of so many open vowels adds to the sense of flowing.

Song Lyric Spotlight: Halloween Twofer


It’s been a while, but Song Lyric Spotlight is back!

I was inspired because today is Halloween.

There are, of course, countless spooky and Halloween-themed songs floating around like so many ill-mannered ghosts.

Today, I am presenting two songs which take the concept of the lullaby and childhood fears and go in drastically different directions.

The first song is: Lullaby (lyrics) by The Cure from their Disintegration album.

This is an intensely creepy song about a man-spider creeping into the singer’s bedroom to devour him alive.

Some lyrics:

On candystripe legs, the spiderman comes
softly through the shadow of the evening sun
stealing past the windows of the blissfully dead
looking for the victim shivering in bed

 

The next song, is also a lullaby and it is a much more of a standard, reassuring one.

The song is The Hand That Rocks The Cradle (lyrics) by The Smiths from their debut album.

It is a song a father sings to his son reassuring that he will always be there to protect him.

Please don’t cry
For the ghost and the storm outside
Will not invade this sacred shrine
Nor infiltrate your mind
My life down I shall lie
If the bogey-man should try
To play tricks on your sacred mind
To tease, torment, and tantalise
Wavering shadows loom
A piano plays in an empty room
There’ll be blood on the cleaver tonight

Still creepy, but touching as well.

Song Lyric Spotlight: Where Your Eyes Don’t Go


It’s time again for Song Lyric Spotlight, where I discuss a song whose lyrics strike me as clever or poignant.  A song which uses clever turns of phrase or inventive uses of metaphor.

I mention it, because it’s been a while since the last spotlight and I wanted to give a refresher for any new readers.

Enough preamble, let’s get on with the spotlight.

Today’s I’m spotlighting “Where Your Eyes Don’t Go” (full lyrics) by They Might Be Giants.  This song was released on their 1988 album, Lincoln.

Where Your Eye’s Don’t Go is a tribute to the subconscious mind (with a somewhat nightmarish bent).

It’s a fast-paced song with the lyrics coming rapid-fire talking about the part of our minds that we’re not aware of and what mischief it might be getting up to while we’re not looking.

My favorite part of the lyrics would have to be:

Every jumbled pile of person has a thinking part that wonders
What the part that isn’t thinking isn’t thinking of
Should you worry when the skullhead is in front of you
Or is it worse because it’s always waiting where your eyes don’t go?

The reflexiveness (or is it recursiveness) of the first two lines is what sells it for me and captures the mystery inherent in each of our own personal subtexts.

Enjoy the video:

Word of the Week Wednesday: panache


This Wednesday’s Word of the Week is: Panache

Panache means style or flair which seems quasi-onomatopoeic since the word itself has more style or flair than either of those words.  It has an artistic sound to it.

Easily in danger of becoming pretentious and arty, I believe, used with care, it can still be salvaged.

It comes from Late Latin pinnāculum, meaning “little wing”, the same root of the word pinnacle.

So, the height of style could be considered the pinnacle of panache.

 

 

Song Lyric Spotlight Twofer: Another Satellite/Jupiter Crash


Today we’ll be looking at two different songs. Another Satellite (full lyrics) by XTC and Jupiter Crash (full lyrics) by The Cure.

Both songs use astronomical metaphors, in very different ways, to explore romantic relationships.  They use themes of attraction and insignificance inherent in planetary movements to show the same romantic themes. As Above, So Below.

Another Satellite is from the album, Skylarking.  Like many of my favorite XTC songs, it is dense with metaphor.  Some lyrics:

Abort your mission let’s just say you tried
Before you glimpse I have a darker darker side
I say why in Heaven’s name do you come on these trips
Only to freeze in a total eclipse
Don’t need another satellite

The theme in this song describes unwanted and unrequited attraction as an annoyance in the form of the above-named superfluous satellite.

Jupiter Crash from Wild Mood Swings, on the other hands, presents the singer, not the object, as the one with unwanted attraction.

The song starts out hopefully enough.  The singer brings the object of his affection out to see the spectacle of comets hitting Jupiter.  This is presented as a symbol of their attraction.  Sadly the symbolism was poorly chosen as, after the show, the object of his attraction is singularly unimpressed.  Like many songs by The Cure, this song explores the concepts of futility and isolation.  This is particularly poignant because of the failed attempt to show attraction and inevitability.

The closing lyrics:

Yeah that was it
That was the jupiter crash
Drawn too close and gone in a flash
Just a few bruises in the region of the splash…

She left to the sound of the sea
She just drifted away from me
Yeah,So much for gravity…

Song Lyric Spotlight: Girl Least Likely To


Today’s Song Lyric Spotlight is: “Girl Least Likely To” (full lyrics) by Morrissey.

The song came out as a B-side on the single, “November Spawned a Monster” but I heard it first on the compilation album: My Early Burglary Years.

The song begins:

How many times have I been around?
Recycled papers paving the ground
Well she lives for the written word
And people come second, or possibly third

Besides that line, which I find particularly clever, the entire tone of the song combines both pity and scorn for the titular girl, an unsuccessful songwriter.

At Dave Folstad’s suggestion after my first Song Lyric Spotlight, I gave “Education”, by the Kinks a listen and was going to post about it but I realized he’d already covered it better than I could here: Education – In a deep dark jungle…..lived a lonesome caveman.

Song Lyric Spotlight: One Thousand Umbrellas


Today’s Song Lyric Spotlight is: One Thousand Umbrellas (full lyrics) by XTC on their album Skylarking.

XTC is one of my favorite bands when it comes to inventive and fun lyrics.  They’re right up there with They Might Be Giants.

There are so many things I love about this song that I’m not even going to try to choose a favorite part.

The rhyme scheme is so dense and rolling that it gives a great pace to the flow of the lyrics.

Not to repeat too much from the previous spotlight, but this one also plays with water as a metaphor.  In fact, one of the delightful things about this song is that the use of metaphor is as dense as the use of rhyme.

The song begins:

One thousand umbrellas
Upturned couldn’t catch all the rain
That drained out of my head
When you said we were
Over and over I cried
‘Til I floated downstream
To a town they call
Misery oh oh misery
Misery oh oh misery

Song Lyric Spotlight: It’s Not My Birthday


Not surprisingly, I’ve always been a fan of song lyrics, often more so than the music itself.

This being a blog about language, I’ve decided that it would be fitting to present my favorite lyrics from time to time.  Lyrics tend to grab my attention due to a clever turn of phrase, a fun play on words or just an elegance that really makes the emotional impact of the song.

Since I mentioned them in last week’s Word of the Week Wednesday,  I felt it would be fitting to feature lyrics by They Might Be Giants.

I’ve chosen one of my favorite of their songs, which exemplifies many of the qualities I mentioned above: “It’s Not My Birthday” (full lyrics) from the EP: They’ll Need a Crane.

The song as a whole is jam-packed with clever phrasing and double-meaning, so it’s hard to choose my favorite part of it but one of the best snippets would have to be:

So, I’m rattling the bars around this drink tank
Discreetly I should pour through the keyhole or evaporate completely
But there’d be no percentage, and there’d be no proof
And the sound upon the roof is only water

It’s got a terrific rhythm to it, which is perceptible even without the music and the liquid imagery adds to the “flow” (pun very much intended).  My favorite part of this verse, though, would be the use of “percentage” and “proof” for both their alcohol-related and mundane meanings.

I intend Song Lyric Spotlight to be a recurring, but sporadic feature of this blog.

If you’ve got a favorite song lyric that you’d like featured on the blog, let me know in comments and tell me what you love about it.

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