Friday, August 03, 2012

In which it all makes sense now....

OK, I *loved* Depeche Mode when I was an adolescent. Basically what happened, as I recall, is that I heard the song "Strangelove" one day and I immediately had an epiphany, began buying all their albums (mostly on cassette, p.s.), and learned what it means to have a favorite band and care about music.

But you know what I didn't know when I was 12?  British English. I mean, there I was, growing up in the U.S. of A., and although I bought Smash Hits whenever I could get my hands on it, it would be years before I was the highly educated, well traveled, ESL-teaching, friend-o-Brits that I am today. So back then, sure, I may have known that those English folk said "flat" when they meant "apartment" and stuff, but I didn't know everything. And although these days I have definitely passed a British English quiz or two (these generally involve a bored British friend, beer, or both), I am still surprised every once in a while when I'm teaching English from a textbook full of British vocabulary and I discover in, say, an automobile vocabulary lesson that windscreen is their word for windshield.

I mean, I knew about boot (trunk), and bonnet (hood), and indicator (signal), but...have I heard windscreen used in that context? I mean...that means...a windscreen is....wait! It ALL MAKES SENSE NOW!

"Death is everywhere
There are flies on the windscreen
For a start
Reminding us we could be torn apart

  -- Depeche Mode, "Fly on the Windscreen"

Cripes! Dead bugs on the windshield?! Is that all?  When I was a 12- or 13-year-old listening to this song, by which I of course mean obsessively playing this song over and over in a darkened room while brooding about the meaning of life, the word "screen" meant, you know, a screen. Like a screen door. (Hello, raised in Arizona, land of patios.) Or possibly a screen in a window. So if it was a windscreen, then I guessed it was just, I don't know, some big screen. With flies on it. Flies that were symbolic of evil, the minions of the devil, Beelzebub trying to get into our hearts.  Flies that covered an entire window, like in The Amityville Horror.  But all he was talking about was dead bugs on the windshield? I mean, the song's still really profound and thoughtful and all that, but it's certainly not as creepy or grotesque of an image if it's just a smashed bug or two while you're driving down the highway.

I had no idea.

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