Friday, May 21, 2010

Nuances of meaning

This previous post is one of my favorite David Sylvian songs and I was thinking about it's meaning. There are such subtle shadings in English, for example:

His world is suffering
Her world is suffering

Our world is suffering

They can all mean that THE world is suffering, mother earth physically suffering, but it can also mean that all he or she knows is suffering, that all of the world means suffering.

Likewise, in The Cure song, "The End of the World" Robert Smith sings:
‘I couldn't ever love you more’

Meaning I could not love you more than I do. It is impossible for me to love you more.

Later, he sings:
‘It’s not my fault, you couldn’t love me more’

Meaning isn’t it sad that you couldn’t love me more. You were incapable of loving me more, or as much as was needed. Of course, it is possible that she couldn’t love him more because it was impossible for her to love him more.

Also, in The Barenaked Ladies song, “Tonight is the Night I Fell Asleep at the Wheel” Steven Page sings:

‘You're the last thing that's on my mind’

Meaning at the beginning of the song, I wasn’t thinking of you.

But by the end (as he is dying—sorry all of these examples are such downers) it means that she is the last thing that he is thinking of as he dies.

So my question for all of my multi-lingual friends is what are the subtleties of other languages that hinge on inflection?

And for everyone, what are some other examples of these dual meanings.

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