Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Too Much Time on My Hands

Here in L.A. we have a radio station called "Jack FM". Their whole thing is "Playing what we want." There are no DJ's, no talking, and no requests. Basically someone put an iPod shuffle on the radio. But it is one rockin' iPod shuffle.

Even though I've been listening to Jack for three or four years (however long it's been on the air, it was formerly the classic rock station Arrow, which I still occasionally call it), I still discover songs I haven't heard before, or re-discover songs I haven't heard in quite some time. So it was with Too Much Time On My Hands, by Styx1. I knew the lyric "Is it any wonder I'm not the President?" which amuses me because of how the singer does it, sounding like a pouty child. But for the first time I really listened to the lyrics, and I discovered that, like Alanis, they had apparently written a song hinging strongly on a phrase they were using incorrectly.

The phrase "Is it any wonder...?" is meant to be ironic -- it's usually used as part of an explanation, and the expected answer to the idiom is "no."

"The guy was insulting my wife, is it any wonder I decked him?" Et cetera.

But as you can see by reading the lyrics, in most parts the question becomes straightforward. "I spend my time in bars and have nothing going for me. Is it any wonder I'm not a criminal?"

As a matter of fact, it is a wonder.

I guess I can't entirely say it's being used "wrong" since, grammatically, it still kind of makes sense. It's not like the out-and-out wrong usage of Ironic in the song of the same name. But that's not what the phrase is understood to mean, so it seems a little weird to use it that way.

"Is it any wonder I've got too much time on my hands" is, however, fairly non-sensical. Because he doesn't explain where this time has come from. If he had talked about being fired from his job, or something, this might have worked, but he just jumps in on having too much time on his hands, and never bothers to explain where it came from. So "is it any wonder" is out of place.

The only time it's used in its most common form is the line about being President. Maybe that's why it's the one I remembered best.

I do have more important things to write about than Styx songs, I swear. But at the moment it's more important that I do them, than blog about how I ought to. So in the meantime, anyone else got song lyrics that just bother them every time they hear the song2?

  1. Best known to my generation, perhaps, for Come Sail Away, Eric Cartman's favorite song.

  2. Another good example is Paul McCartney's Live and Let Die: "If this ever changing world in which we live in." Agh.


Katie said...

There's a song that goes, "Something happens and I'm head over heels." It's totally not gramatically incorrect, just infuriatingly vague. That's the only one I can think of right now, but I'm sure that I'll think of more.

Master Darksol said...

I am sometimes plagued in nightmares of "Crimson and Clover, over and over. Crimson and Clover, over and over. ... " and so on.

Jake said...

One that has always bothered me is in California Dreaming by the Mamas and Papas.

The verse goes:

Stopped in to a church I passed along the way.
Well I got down on my knees
(got down on my knees)
And I pretend to pray.

Always bugs me that it's all past tense until pretend.

Dorkman said...

One other one that I just remembered:

On Gwen Stefani's album Love. Angel. Music. Baby. there's a track called "Long Way To Go", which is about the racism that still exists in our world, and how people are still too focused on skin color and subtle segregations.

Well, one of the lines they sing is "What if Picasso only used one color", and it always annoys me, because of all the famous artists to choose, they chose the one who is famous, in part, for a four year period where he essentially painted with only the color blue.

I get the analogy they're trying to draw, but the actual example backfires a little.

RhysFletcher said...

I just saw on tv (in australia), on '20 to 1', they had on the spice girls for no.13. for the top rating on the charts or something like that, and one line which makes no sence in on of the spice girls songs, is when they say, "jigga jigg aaah", or something like that. It's confusing, what in the hell does that mean, im an Aussie and never heard it said before, so does anybody understand what the fuck that means. It's just wierd.

St. Chris said...

See, I just mentally rewrite Paul McCartney's line as "But if this ever-changing world in which we're living...," which works quite well. And...

HEY. All right, that prompted me to finally rip some long-overdue McCartney for my iPod, and now that I listen again now, it is "in which we're livin'"! I don't care if the liner notes themselves say "in which we live in" -- listen to it! McCartney for the grammar win. Or...well, it's close enough that I can convince myself. It's still the best Bond theme ever.

As for Styx, I always figured Tommy Shaw was being double-ironic in "Too Much Time on My Hands."

So go ahead, ask me how many times Sting has used "you and I" in the objective case. "This looks like the ticket for you and I" ... "I swear I saw you and I." This guy taught schoolkids, fer cryin' out loud.