CRAIG CONLEY (Prof. Oddfellow) is recognized by Encarta as “America’s most creative and diligent scholar of letters, words and punctuation.” He has been called a “language fanatic” by Page Six gossip columnist Cindy Adams, a “cult hero” by Publisher’s Weekly, and “a true Renaissance man of the modern era, diving headfirst into comprehensive, open-minded study of realms obscured or merely obscure” by Clint Marsh. An eccentric scholar, Conley’s ideas are often decades ahead of their time. He invented the concept of the “virtual pet” in 1980, fifteen years before the debut of the popular “Tamagotchi” in Japan. His virtual pet, actually a rare flower, still thrives and has reached an incomprehensible size. Conley’s website is OneLetterWords.com.

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A Turkish Delight of musings on languages, deflations of metaphysics, vauntings of arcana, and great visual humor.
April 30, 2006

Strange Dreams (permalink)
I was in the most terrible part of town you could imagine.  It reminded me of the most dangerous, most hellish neighborhood in the Australian Outback.  A large woman with a dark complexion came out of a building (which I associated with a prison) and asked me to do her a favor.  She said she needed help pushing a tissue through a slot across the street.  The tissue was draped over the end of a tool, presumably a screwdriver.  The task sounded simple enough, and she was pushy enough that I obliged.  She walked behind me, thrusting me forward rather gruffly, and I told myself not to take her behavior the wrong way.  I imagined that she had many children and was experienced in having to shove them around to keep them in line.  Up ahead I saw our destination, and it filled me with fear.  It was like a solitary phone booth, but it was a cage with prison bars, and it was virtually bursting with menace.  I suspected that someone criminally insane was inside that cell.  "What's going to happen?" I asked my companion.  "I don't know" was all she said, though we were both thinking that those bars could give way any moment.  When we got up to the cage, I saw that it was swarming with many people inside, all either criminally insane or hopelessly deformed monstrosities.  I couldn't help but wonder whether or not there were better ways to deal with these people than this outdoor cage --  weren't there advances in plastic surgery that could help?  Or were their grotesque deformities evidence of a twisted energy present at the time of reincarnation?  And should we be suspicious of dwarves?  The woman ushered me toward the bars, and I cautiously inched the screwdriver toward the bars until the tissue fell off and was grabbed by one of the crouching inmates.  Then the woman and I fled as fast as we could, lest the little prison cell break loose like a Pandora's Box and subject us to the fallout.  Later in the dream, I was telling this experience to my mother, and I recalled more details.  I remembered feeling that something had to be resolved regarding this prison.  I went back to it, and this time the inmates were quiet, calmly studying me.  I looked at my hand, then realized what to do.  The cage now inexplicably half full of water, I dipped the screwdriver into the water so as to drip some of the water onto my palm.  The water was thick and opaque and looked like semen.  I knew that I had to cut myself and allow the water to mix with my blood.  I knew that this water was from the River Styx, and that instead of poisoning me it would give me immortality.  I pushed the screwdriver (which I now noticed to be barbed) all the way through my palm without pain.
If you have a strange dream to share, send it along!
> read more from Strange Dreams . . .


Inflationary Lyrics (permalink)
SONG: I Wanna Be A Dancin' Man
ALBUM: The Belle of New York Soundtrack

ORIGINAL LYRIC:

Gonna leave my footsteps on the sands of time,
If I never leave a dime.

ADJUSTED FOR INFLATION:

Gonna leave my footsteps in bricks and mortar,
If I never leave a quarter.
* Payphones used to take dimes, but now they take quarters.  Isn't it time to update song lyrics to reflect the realities of inflation?  Alas, it's vastly easier to rhyme the word "dime" than the word "quarter," but here at Inflationary Lyrics Headquarters we have risen to the challenge.  Please join the fun and share your own inflationary lyrics, with both the "before" and "after" versions!
> read more from Inflationary Lyrics . . .


Semicolon's Dream Journal (permalink)

I dreamed I couldn't be sure the independent clauses were not joined by a connective.

Later that night, I dreamed I visited Arabia, where my people walk upside down.  

Then I dreamed that I was a Greek question mark, though of course I looked the same as I always do.

That was followed by a nightmare about a young bully named Nicholas Semicolon, strikingly similar to the shameful character with the same name in HELLO, MRS. PIGGLE-WIGGLE by Betty MacDonald.
> read more from Semicolon's Dream Journal . . .

April 29, 2006

The Right Word (permalink)

Humorist Jonathan Caws-Elwitt contributes witty definitions to the Omnificent English Dictionary in Limerick Form.  For example, here's his definition of archly:

To know if it's archly she speaks,
Look straight at her brow (not her cheeks).
If an eyebrow is raised,
Then please don't be fazed —
She's been this ironic for weeks.

Jonathan's one-act play The Can of Yams is currently in publication through Baker's Plays.
> read more from The Right Word . . .


Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
Backtracking

This is the oldest trick in the book.  These are the same people who attacked us earlier.  This is just round two.
—Diane Carey, Challenger (2000)
> read more from Oldest Tricks in the Book . . .

April 28, 2006

The Right Word (permalink)

This week, the Associated Press reports that "the letter 'W' has entered the mainstream of the Swedish language, getting its own section for the first time in the country's most respected dictionary."  Linguists in Sweden have traditionally considered the W (called "double-v") to be a lower form of the letter V.  Now, according to the Swedish Academy, the Swedish alphabet has grown from 28 to 29 letters.
> read more from The Right Word . . .


Rhetorical Questions, Answered! (permalink)
"Is nothing sacred?"  Yes.  Atheism is a doctrine that there is no God.  However, many atheists are devout in their lack of belief, which makes them religious in spite of themselves.  So to them, nothing is indeed sacred.
> read more from Rhetorical Questions, Answered! . . .

April 27, 2006

The Right Word (permalink)

Can you name the "hottest" letter of the alphabet?  Or the most "upscale" letter?  It seems that car manufacturers have created a shortage of "luxury letters."  NBC4 explains:

Luxury cars used to be called El Dorados or Town-and-Countrys.  Now they're called "M-35" and Q-45 and MDXs.  And the Wall Street Journal reports that's creating a shortage of luxury letter and number combinations.  As it stands, 22 of the alphabet's 26- letters have been taken.

Letters "S" and "Z" are in great demand.  But neither comes close to letter "X", which is the hottest letter.  And nobody wants O, P, U, or Y which are seen as too ordinary for upscale.  By the way, B, F, and N are lousy letters too.  But the way I see it, the letters L, I, and Z make a delightful car combination.
> read more from The Right Word . . .


Strange Dreams (permalink)
I dreamed that I was with an older woman (perhaps in her 60s), who was leading me on some sort of swimming expedition.  We came across some stalagmite-type formations sticking out of the water, and my guide encouraged me to view them by partially submerging my face so that the top half of my eyes saw what was above water level and the bottom half of my eyes saw what was submerged.  I indicated that I already knew that the formations continued underwater, but she insisted that I view it for myself.  Afterwards, we swam toward a farther destination, and the experience of swimming was transcendently pleasurable.  I found that I couldn't sink and therefore could devote myself to swimming with absolutely no fear, much as a fish must feel.  The feel of the water itself was also astonishingly, transcendently pleasurable.  It had no temperature (neither warm nor cold), but I felt so at home in it that it bordered on ecstasy.  I felt wholly in my element, at one with the ocean, and enjoyed that swimming more than anything else I've ever done in my life.
If you have a strange dream to share, send it along!
> read more from Strange Dreams . . .

April 26, 2006

I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought (permalink)

Kate Flannery as "Kassie Chew" of "The Lampshades."
One of my favoriite comedy duos goes by the name "The Lampshades," and their spoof-lounge act is so funny that it's almost dangerous.  Dame Edna once had a gag where she kept a nurse onstage in case anyone collapsed from too much happiness, and that might be something for The Lampshades to consider.  Kate Flannery and Scot Robinson perform as The Lampshades in Hollywood.  (Though their long-running act is currently on hiatus while Kate is busy with her role in the television comedy "The Office," The Lampshades can still be heard on their CD and seen on their DVD: see TheLampshades.com for sample video clips and mp3s).  When I last saw them perform live, the guy sitting to my left kept looking over at me throughout the show, presumably because I was laughing so hard.  Maybe he thought I was a heckler or something.  Or maybe he just didn't recognize how much talent he was witnessing on stage.  What was cool about being in the front row was that I could see the wonderful subtleties of Kate's and Scot's facial expressions.  It seemed that Kate made about 8,000 different faces throughout the show, and every one of them had me in stitches.  I marvel at how much artistry goes into every moment of the show.
> read more from I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought . . .


Pfft! (permalink)
The Frenchwoman ended the discussion with a fervent pfft, waving him away as she slid off her chair.  —Sparkle Hayter, Bandit Queen Boogie: A Novel.

Reader Jonathan Caws-Elwitt suggests some other great "noise/gesture" examples:

Someone pretends to moisten a finger, then touches it briefly to her posterior and mimes the effect of the finger "sizzling" -- to the accompaniment of a "Tsss" vocalization.   And how about the triumphant "Yessss!" that is always(?) accompanied by body language?  Or Fonzie's "Ayyyy" with thumb extended?  Or the one where someone acknowledges someone else by briefly pointing at him/her while making a one- or two-syllable clicking sound (reminiscent of a shutter-release)?

* The British expression "noise stroke gesture" (in American parlance, "noise slash gesture" or "noise/gesture") refers to the intriguing fact that some vocal expressions seem to call for an accompanying hand gesture.  Take, for example, Pfft!  No matter what its intended meaning, it virtually demands to be echoed in sign language.  Have you noticed a pfft hand gesture in print?  Please share!

For a variety of surprising definitions of pfft, check out my Dictionary of All-Consonant Words at OneLetterWords.com.
> read more from Pfft! . . .

April 25, 2006

I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought (permalink)

When I was 9, my 5-year-old kid brother convinced me that the craters of the moon formed the face of Abe Lincoln.  I didn't believe him at first, but he seemed so sure.  To children, Lincoln certainly comes across as a demigod, beardedly sitting on that throne and austerely bestowing freedom.  That night my kid brother summed up just how much "cents" I had.  He probably could've had a field day pointing out all sorts of imaginary constellations, such as the heavenly chariot of the divine Abraham (I would have fallen for that one right away, because I always thought the Lincoln Memorial on the back of the penny was a trolley car).  But I couldn't for the life of me follow the line of my brother's finger all the way to the heavens.  I didn't realize then that all constellations are made-up, formed by those who can picture the puzzles of life and convince others to connect the dots.

Reader Comments:

Jonathan wrote,
I was obsessed with A. Lincoln when I was in third grade.  I somehow got the idea that I was supposed to have a favorite president.  I chose Lincoln because of the Emancipation, and then went "all-out" in the same compulsive way I embraced my faves The Partridge Family.  Highlights of this bizarre behavior included an essay for school in which I said they should rename "I Love Lucy" as "I Love Lincoln."
> read more from I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought . . .


Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
Asking the Same Question Again Later

It was one of the oldest tricks in the book.  Ask some questions, wait a while, then ask ’em again.
—Ben Rehder, Buck Fever (2003)

> read more from Oldest Tricks in the Book . . .

April 24, 2006

Inflationary Lyrics (permalink)

Quarter and dime photo by dizzlenj.
SONG: Badd
ARTIST: Ying Yang Twins (feat. Mike Jones)

ORIGINAL LYRIC:

I'm lookin' for a dime that's top of the line
Cute face slim waist wit a big behind

ADJUSTED FOR INFLATION:

I'm lookin' for a quarter that's a real transporter
Cute face slim waist wit a big Pullman Porter
* Payphones used to take dimes, but now they take quarters.  Isn't it time to update song lyrics to reflect the realities of inflation?  Alas, it's vastly easier to rhyme the word "dime" than the word "quarter," but here at Inflationary Lyrics Headquarters we have risen to the challenge.  Please join the fun and share your own inflationary lyrics, with both the "before" and "after" versions!
> read more from Inflationary Lyrics . . .

April 23, 2006

The Right Word (permalink)
How can one express "what language is incapable of putting into words?"  Does relinquishing logical language foster unity with all living things?  The Theatre of the Absurd has an innate distrust of language, preferring wordless communication through "shapes, light, movement and gesture."  The aim is "to create a ritual-like, mythological, archetypal, allegorical vision, closely related to the world of dreams."
> read more from The Right Word . . .


Rhetorical Questions, Answered! (permalink)
"Who wrote the book of love?"  The Roman poet Ovid.
> read more from Rhetorical Questions, Answered! . . .

April 21, 2006

Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
Asking on Behalf of a Friend

You didn’t honestly expect me to believe that business about needing information for a good friend, did you?  That’s the oldest trick in the book.
—Debbie Macomber, One Night (1994)
> read more from Oldest Tricks in the Book . . .


Inflationary Lyrics (permalink)
SONG: Like a Rolling Stone
ARTIST: Bob Dylan

ORIGINAL LYRIC:

I wish I had a shilling
For each senseless killing

ADJUSTED FOR INFLATION:

I wish I had a quarter
For each senseless slaughter
* Payphones used to take dimes, but now they take quarters.  Isn't it time to update song lyrics to reflect the realities of inflation?  Alas, it's vastly easier to rhyme the word "dime" than the word "quarter," but here at Inflationary Lyrics Headquarters we have risen to the challenge.  Please join the fun and share your own inflationary lyrics, with both the "before" and "after" versions!
> read more from Inflationary Lyrics . . .

April 19, 2006

Rhetorical Questions, Answered! (permalink)
"Is the Pope Catholic?"  No, for two reasons.  The Pope is the head of the Roman Catholic Church, and is therefore not a part of it (if we define part as one of a number of equal quantities that compose a whole).  Also, the original meaning of catholic is universal.
> read more from Rhetorical Questions, Answered! . . .

April 18, 2006

Puzzles and Games :: Constellations (permalink)
Can you find the pictured constellation in this night sky?  Click the image for the answer and a nifty quotation.


> read more from Puzzles and Games :: Constellations . . .


Pfft! (permalink)
“Just—pfft!”  He brandished a hand.  —LaVyrle Spencer, Bitter Sweet.
* The British expression "noise stroke gesture" (in American parlance, "noise slash gesture" or "noise/gesture") refers to the intriguing fact that some vocal expressions seem to call for an accompanying hand gesture.  Take, for example, Pfft!  No matter what its intended meaning, it virtually demands to be echoed in sign language.  Have you noticed a pfft hand gesture in print?  Please share!

For a variety of surprising definitions of pfft, check out my Dictionary of All-Consonant Words at OneLetterWords.com.
> read more from Pfft! . . .

April 17, 2006

Rhetorical Questions, Answered! (permalink)
"What is so rare as a day in June?"  The answer is "Every day in September, April, and November."  June and those other months have only 30 days each, so all are equally rare.  Rarer than a day in June is any day in February.  The most February can have is 29.
> read more from Rhetorical Questions, Answered! . . .


Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
Ask Questions

First , dust off the oldest trick in the book.  Ask questions [to encourage close attention and active participation].
—Ted Burda, Baseball’s Hitting Secrets (2001)

> read more from Oldest Tricks in the Book . . .

April 13, 2006

Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
Answer a Question with a Question

Answer a question with a question.  For cops and salesmen, this was the oldest trick in the book.  And more often than not, it provided instant insight into a person’s motive for having asked the question in the first place.
—Allen E. Wiesen, The Cairo Conspiracy (2004)
> read more from Oldest Tricks in the Book . . .


Semicolon's Dream Journal (permalink)

Photo courtesy Noah Brier, www.noahbrier.com
Thanks, Noah!
I dreamed that I hated the fact I was two punctuation marks in one: a period and a comma.  I envied other punctuation, especially the dash. 

Then I dreamed about how Winston Churchill "believed that in remarks directed to the ear, a semicolon was verboten—whereas a dash fit the rhythm of a speech or talk, making it more conversational," just as in SPEAK LIKE CHURCHILL by James C. Humes.
> read more from Semicolon's Dream Journal . . .

April 11, 2006

Semicolon's Dream Journal (permalink)

I dreamed I discovered a new room in my house.  In it was stored all sorts of important things I'd forgotten about.

Later that night, I had a nightmare about Kurt Vonnegut reading aloud from his book A MAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY: "Do not use semicolons.  They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing.  All they do is show you've been to college."
> read more from Semicolon's Dream Journal . . .

April 9, 2006

Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
Absence of Resistance

I felt him trying to twist me to the right and down so I just relaxed and went with his energy.  Oldest trick in the book.  The sudden absence of resistance caught him off guard and I felt him slip a bit.
—Richard Marcinko, Violence of Action (2002)
> read more from Oldest Tricks in the Book . . .

April 6, 2006

Pfft! (permalink)
“Why without swords, eh?  It is clever, this fighting, but on a battlefield...”  Kazan drew his hand across his throat. “Pfft!”  —Jacqueline Carey, Kushiel’s Chosen.
* The British expression "noise stroke gesture" (in American parlance, "noise slash gesture" or "noise/gesture") refers to the intriguing fact that some vocal expressions seem to call for an accompanying hand gesture.  Take, for example, Pfft!  No matter what its intended meaning, it virtually demands to be echoed in sign language.  Have you noticed a pfft hand gesture in print?  Please share!

For a variety of surprising definitions of pfft, check out my Dictionary of All-Consonant Words at OneLetterWords.com.
> read more from Pfft! . . .


Strange Dreams (permalink)
Last night I dreamed that I was walking down the street (without pants).  I was caught off guard when a dark figure (Caucasian male) walked up beside me.  I casually said "Hello," hoping he didn't intend to mug me.  In a flash, he lassoed my neck with some sort of thin chain and pulled me in to attack me with a knife.  I fought him for a while, and though I couldn't seem to get away from him, several times I managed to use his knife against him and actually cut him with it.  But I eventually noticed that he was not fazed by my counter attacks.  He would smile detachedly when I stabbed him, as if the wound was not painful or perhaps was even pleasurable.  I asked him, "Who are you?" and "What do you want?"  But he just looked back at me with a blank expression as we continued to struggle.  Then I finally seemed to figure it out.  I thought to myself something to the effect of: "He's showing me that pain and pleasure are equal, and are equally illusory."  And with that thought, the struggle ended, he disappeared, and I woke up.  I was a bit puzzled at first, wondering why I was going over a concept that I *thought* I already knew.  But of course I'm still viewing life dualistically.
If you have a strange dream to share, send it along!
> read more from Strange Dreams . . .

April 5, 2006

Rhetorical Questions, Answered! (permalink)
"What's eating you?"  Plaque is an accumulation of bacteria that forms on the teeth.
> read more from Rhetorical Questions, Answered! . . .


Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
A Reliable Chain of Middlemen

—Willem A. Veenhoven, Case Studies on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms Vol. 3 (1976)
> read more from Oldest Tricks in the Book . . .

April 1, 2006

P I n K S L i P (permalink)
P I n K S L i P: Preserve the Integrity of Key Song Lyric Pronouns

When artists perform cover versions of songs, they often alter the lyrics to match the gender of the new singer.  For example, a male singer doing a cover of the Diana Ross song "Upside Down" might change the words "Boy, you turn me inside out" to "Girl, you turn me inside out."  It would be unheard of for a person doing a spoken-word reading of a literary classic to change the text's gender references according to whim.  It should be equally unheard of for a singer to alter the lyrics of a song.  This all-too-common practice violates the integrity of the original song and, in fact, often prevents fresh new subtexts from arising.

What kind of fresh new subtexts, you ask?  Consider Information Society's cover of "Express Yourself" by Madonna.  Had singer Kurt Harland retained the original lyrics, he would have turned "Express Yourself" into a feminist manifesto from a male point of view, making the song vastly more interesting and important.  Instead, he alters the pronouns throughout and his remake falls flat.  For example, Harland changes the lyric "make him express how he feels and then you'll know your love is real" to "make her express how she feels and then you'll know your love is real."  Females don't generally have too much trouble communicating their feelings; expressiveness is typically more difficult for males.  So the changed lyrics lose their original meaning and indeed border on the ridiculous.  Had Harland left the original pronouns untouched, he would have transformed the song into a cautionary tale for women from a man's point of view.  The singer would be encouraging women to demand only the best from men, benefiting both genders in the process.  (The cover version is available on the Madonna tribute album "Virgin Voices." The original version is available on the Madonna album "Immaculate Collection.")

Sometimes lyric alterations totally obliterate the artist's original meaning.  Take, for example, Loleatta Holoway's cover of "I Wanna Be Your Lover" by Prince.  As part of her removal of masculine references, Holoway changes the lyrics "I wanna be your brother, I wanna be your mother and your sister, 2" to "I wanna be your lover, I wanna be your mother and your sister, 2."  As Prince wrote the lyrics, the singer is offering to transcend the limitations of gender roles.  He is offering the support of brotherhood, the nurturing of motherhood, and the sharing of sisterhood to the woman he desires.  He is suggesting that he will be a new family for her, ready and able to fulfill her every need.  Holoway carelessly erases this important aspect of the song's meaning, making her cover version pale by comparison. (The cover version is available on the Prince tribute album "Party O' the Times."  The original version is available on Prince's self-titled album.)

Let's contrast these bad examples with another Madonna cover, but this time one which works brilliantly:

KMFDM's cover of "Material Girl" by Madonna.  A scary, distorted masculine voice tells us that "we are living in a material world" and that he is a "material girl."  En Esch sings, "Some boys kiss me, some boys hug me, I think they're O.K.  If they don't give me proper credit, I just walk away." By retaining the original lyrics and switching the gender of the singer, the cover version takes an intriguing look at the connection between materialism and gender identity.  While Madonna suggests that people use their sex appeal to court others for personal gain, En Esch further suggests that people of one's same gender ultimately have the most to offer and that such courtships must be handled delicately.  (The cover version is available on the Madonna tribute album "Virgin Voices."  The original version is available on the Madonna album "Like a Virgin.")

Further insights into gender identity are gained in the following covers:

Erasure's cover of "River Deep, Mountain High" by Ike and Tina TurnerAndy Bell of Erasure preserves the song's original lyrics, singing such lines as "When I was a little girl I had a ragdoll."  The song takes on new meaning by exploring how gender identities and boundaries are defined during early childhood.  (The cover version is available on the Erasure album "Innocents."  The original version is available on the album "Best of Ike and Tina Turner.")

Biftek's cover of "Wired For Sound" by Cliff Richards.  Lead singer Julee Cruise stays true to the original song, singing "I was a small boy who did not like his toys" and "I met a girl and she told me she loved me."  As with the Erasure cover of "River Deep, Mountain High," this song is given added depth by examining early formations of gender identity.  (The cover version is available on the Biftek album "2020."  The original version is available on the Cliff Richards album "Whole Story: His Greatest Hits.")

Future Bible Heroes' cover of "Don't You Want Me" by the Human League.  This popular male-female duet gets switched around in the cover version, with the man singing that he was "working as a waitress in a cocktail bar."  By retaining the original lyrics and switching the genders of the singers, the song explores traditional gender roles in a refreshing new way.  (The cover version is available on the Human League tribute album "Reproductions."  The original version is available on the Human League album "Dare.")

Male-male relationship subtexts are created in the following covers:

The 6ths with Lloyd Cole's cover of "Human" by the Human League.  This popular male-female duet is here sung by two men, each apologizing for cheating on the other during a period of separation.  One man says to the other, "I wouldn't ever try to hurt you.  I just needed someone to hold me, to fill the void while you were gone, to fill this space of emptiness."  The cover version brings new meaning to the lyrics as it explores the challenge of maintaining stable same-sex relationships.  (The cover version is available on the Human League tribute album "Reproductions."  The original version is available on the Human League album "Greatest Hits.")

The Beatles' cover of "Boys" by the Shirelles.  Since the Beatles often covered Motown material in their early days, no one seemed to raise an eyebrow at this.  But when you hear Ringo singing about boys ("Well, I talk about boys, now; what a bundle of joy!") it's rather intriguing.  (The cover version is available on the Beatles album "Anthology."  The original version is available on the Shirelles' album "25 All-Time Greatest Hits.")

Erasure's cover of "Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)" by ABBA.  By preserving the original lyrics, Erasure subverts the song into a gay anthem. Andy Bell sings, "Gimme gimme gimme a man after midnight.  Take me through the darkness to the break of the day."  (The cover version is available on the Erasure album "The Two Ring Circus."  The original version is available on the ABBA album "ABBA Gold.")

Female-female relationship subtexts alter the storylines in the following songs:

Missing Persons' cover of "Hello I Love You" by the Doors.  By changing the gender of the singer while retaining the original lyrics, Missing Persons brings new depth to the song.  When Dale Bozzio sings, "Do you think you'll be the guy to make the queen of the angels sigh?" she can be referring to herself as a guy as well as referring to a male listener.  (In the Doors' version, that lyric is a bit of internal dialog as the singer thinks aloud to himself.)  When Bozzio sings, "Her arms are wicked, and her legs are long; when she moves my brain screams out this song," she brings a lesbian sensibility to the lyrics.  Now, the listener realizes that the beautiful stranger on the street has many admirers fighting for her attention, both male and female.  (The cover version is available on the reissue of the Missing Persons album "Color in Your Life."  The original version is available on the Doors' album "Best of the Doors.")

Six Pence None The Richer's cover of "There She Goes" by The La's.  By retaining the original lyrics, the band gives the song a new female-infatuated-by-female slant.  Leigh Nash sings, "There she goes again, racing through my brain, and I just can't contain these feelings that remain."  This was a bit unusual for mainstream pop, especially for a band with a "Christian Rock" past.  (The cover version is available on Six Pence None The Richer's self-titled album.  The original version is available on the La's self-titled album.)

Sandra Bernhard's cover of "Me and Mrs. Jones" by Billy Paul.  By retaining the original lyrics, Bernhard transforms the song into a love affair between herself and a married woman, thereby adding a brand new dimension to a familiar story.  Bernhard sings, "Me and Mrs. Jones, we've got a thing going on."  (The cover version is available on Sandra Bernhard's video "Without You I'm Nothing."  The original version is available on the Billy Paul album "Me & Mrs. Jones-Best of Billy Paul.")  Similarly, Bernhard brings a lesbian flair to "Little Red Corvette" by Prince.  She sings, "Girl, you got an ass like I never seen; And the ride... I say the ride is so smooth you must be a limousine."  (The cover version is available on Sandra Bernhard's video "Without You I'm Nothing."  The original version is available on the Prince album "1999.")

Rebecca Romijn Stamos' cover of "Darling Nikki" by Prince.  Like the "There She Goes" cover by Six Pence None The Richer, Rebecca Romijn Stamos brings a female-infatuated-by-female slant to "Darling Nikki."  Stamos sings, "I can't tell u what she did 2 me, but my body will never be the same."  (The cover version is available on the Prince tribute album "Party O' the Times." The original version is available on the Prince album "Purple Rain.")

Honorable mention goes to Momus's covers of songs he wrote for Kahimi Karie. Momus disregards the gender references in his own lyrics, adding new subtexts to songs he composed for a female singer.  In "The Lady Of Shalott," he describes himself as a woman: "I am a kind of Lady of Shallot; My drawbridge, portcullis and moat; The chastity belt round my throat."  In "Mistaken Memories Of Medieval Manhattan," Momus addresses another man in his bed: "Never wake me, boy; If you wake me I'll die; If you wake me you'll destroy this perfect world I see when I dream."  In "The Seventh Wife Of Henry VIII," Momus is a suitor to the notorious British king: "Well I know he might seem to be a big brute, but he waits on me hand and foot.  And when I blow upon his flute, he plays 'Greensleeves' on a lute."  In "Pygmalism," Momus addresses a male professor: "You filled me with your breath and your jism.  You gave me life, I give you death, pig; Pygmalism."  (The cover versions are available on Momus' web site.  The original versions are available on the Kahimi Karie album "Journey To The Centre Of Me." )

It is insulting to the audience to adjust song lyrics, as if we can't take them as they were written.  Should the artist perhaps alter lyrics based upon the audience, as for example making it all male in a gay bar, all female at a NOW meeting, or all dog at the Kennel Club?  Though it may or may not be discrimination to make this usually heterosexual adjustment, it's certainly trite and silly, and really more about a lack of confidence in the song than anything else.  Music, poetry, and art in any form should speak to us on some universal level, which could not be limited by pronoun or place. The offense of lyrics alteration lies in the superficiality of the thing.

Please participate in the PInKSLiP campaign by submitting your good or bad song lyric examples to webmaster@oneletterwords.com

(Thanks to Ken Clinger and June Conley for sharing their expertise.)
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Semicolon's Dream Journal (permalink)

I dreamed I was blind and couldn't see if there was a conjunctive adverb.

Then I had a nightmare about tatty motel room in the middle of a brutal desert, where "the beds are cheap and occasionally feature little black periods and semicolons that reveal themselves to be hungry bedbugs," just as in The Devil's Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea.  I woke up scratching.  I remember now that the room didn't have cable, either.
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