“Carnies” [Martina Topley-Bird]

Flag of England.svg
.
A flag featuring both cross and saltire in red, white and blue
.

Fun and games are coming to town … and all the crying and drama that go along with them. Read the lyrics and explanations of “Carnies” song by Martina Topley-Bird, and learn some new English terms! And don’t forget to read a fuller explanation, comment, and watch the music video below–>

Ferris wheels and cotton candy

  • I’ll stick some images here in case you don’t know these.
A Ferris wheel, Photo by Amanda Cottrell on Pexels.com

The folks try to stall as the kids get antsy

  • “Folks” is another word for people in general. Usually used to talk about a certain group of people together. It can also be used to talk about one’s parents. “I’m going to visit my folks this weekend.” To “stall” is to hesitate or stop completely. In a more figurative way, it also means to distract from the main point. “Stop stalling and just tell the story!” And “antsy” means restless, like when someone can’t sit still.

They sit there complaining there’s nothing else to do

So we pick up our coats and go down to the fair

  • Just a note, “fair” as a noun usually refers to a kind of carnival with rides, games, and snacks. For example, in many places in America, we have county fairs. The biggest kinds are World’s Fairs.
Some cotton candy, Photo by Mariana Kurnyk on Pexels.com

Who knows what we’ll find when we get there?

Eyes will be streaming, faces split in two

  • “Eyes streaming” has the sense of a river or stream flowing. This probably means that kids will be crying, probably because they don’t want to leave. “Faces split in two” reminds me of the classic symbol of theater or drama with a mask that is half happy and half sad. This imagery tells how people at the fair will be a mixture of happy and sad faces.
classic comedy/tragedy masks, at Foundry Brothers

Carnies have come to town

  • “Carnies” is the same as a carnival or fair. It is more of a British slang, if I’m not mistaken, since we don’t use it as much in the U.S. Saying something “has come to town” means that it has come or arrived in your area. Whether you’re talking about a town, city, or rural area, you can always use “come to town” to talk about an event coming to your area.

If they stay, will you hang around?

  • To “hang around” just means to stay or remain somewhere. She could also say “Will you hang?” and it means the same thing. A similar phrase is “stick around.” “Will you stick around for Christmas too?”

Lately where have you gone?

  • “Lately” is such a good word! I think it could be a little confusing for English learners. It is basically the same as recently, or in recent days. “What’ve you been doing lately (in recent days)?”

I’ve been waiting for so long

When will you come back?

Say what you want life’s too good to be true

Jump start me after I’m through the sunroof

  • To “jump-start” something is to give it a big push, almost like you’re so excited to start or to go somewhere. The idea comes from track racing. When someone jump starts, they start running before the race even begins. A “sunroof” is the part of a car’s roof that opens up so you can see the sky. The idea is of Martina jumping out of the roof of her car.
Someone “jumping thru their sunroof”, Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

Soon I’ll be home but I don’t know if you will too

Carnies have come to town

If they stay, will you hang around?

Lately where have you gone?

I’ve been waiting for so long

When will you come back?

Carnies is such a fun word. As I said above, it’s more of a British slang from my understanding, since fair or carnival are more common in the U.S. Regardless, I feel like this song really captures the mysterious, fun, and dramatic sense of being at a fair. Fun, games, candy and rides go together with whining children and stressed parents. Besides all that, Martina seems to be missing someone in her lyrics, wondering where they went and if they’ll come back. Part of her wondering might be about the fair itself and when it will come back to her town. But she also seems to be remembering specific experiences with this “mystery person” of when they used to go to carnies, maybe when they were kids. It’s a song full of magical vibes and nostalgia, for sure.

Tell me what you think! Have you ever been to a carny? Is there something from your childhood that you feel nostalgic about? Let me know if you liked this song, and if there is another song you want to see here. Just shoot me an email. Thanks for reading!

And watch the video people 🙂

Shooting the buzz bang

Today’s terms: hit / slam / bang / rock / hit me up / give a ring, buzz / shoot a message

No, I’m trying to get you to meet my buddy. He’s a producer.

Jonah was trying enthusiastically to calm Charles down on their way to the music studio.

—Come on, man. You know I don’t like to be around these kinds of people. I get nervous.

Jonah reassured him; —Yeah, Mike is a real scary kind of guy. A real gangster off the streets! Come on, bro. There’s nothing to worry about. I’ll hold your hand.

Charles tapped Jonah’s hand away as he reached for it.

—Nobody likes sarcasm, bro, Charles protested.

—Everybody does!

Eventually, they drove up to the studio parking lot. There were a group of teenagers smoking in the front, maybe add the smell of spilled liquor on the floor. Everyone looked calm but suspicious. Although, when they saw it is Jonah, they all smiled and signaled “hello” to him.

—What’s up everybody! Are y’all rocking today?

Everyone nodded, made mumble sounds, and they turned back to their joints. Charles gave them a shy nod. Then the two friends strolled inside.

Once inside the studio, there were strong musical beats coming from all over the place. Smooth instrumentals blended with fast rhythms. The noise was chaotic but artful, all the same. Jonah saw one of his colleagues coming towards them.

—Yo, my brotha! What’s happening with ya? Y’all just got all the beats banging today.

—Well, you know how I rock, Jonah. Who’s your friend?

Charles felt a quick pain in his belly.

—Oh, my name’s Charles. What’s up?

The man reached out his hand and gave Charles a mixed handshake and hug in a friendly manner.

—Classic Mike. Gotta show them love. This is my buddy, Charles. He comes from another country, but he knows a lot of English.

—He seems like he can handle his business, isn’t that right, Charles!

They all laughed for a few seconds. Charles then spoke up.

—Yeah, I get by pretty well out here. I just didn’t understand when you said “banging” and “rock.” I didn’t really get it.

—No prob, man. Banging is what I say when something is really good, especially when it comes to music. I can say, “This song bangs.” It’s the same with Hit or Slam for something that’s really good, like a piece of music, some good food, or even a cute girl, for example. All my music slams and hits.

Charles was reminded.

—Oh, right. You are the producer!

—Correct-o! But that’s different from banging, like to be a part of a gang. I don’t bang. But, those kids outside, I don’t know. All of them look like they bang. Now, Rock is basically the same thing. If something rocks, that means it’s really good, amazing. And what’s cool is you can rock something, like a song, a test, or a sport. It all means that you do really good in it.

—Yeah, my buddy Mike here rocks as a producer, by the way, Jonah added in.

As they talked, a young lady appeared from one of the recording booths and made her way towards the exit.

—Sheila?

She turned around. Yep, it was the same Sheila that Charles had been out with.

—Charles! Woah, I didn’t know you were into music.

Charles puffed up his chest.

—Oh, yeah. I’m really into music. Recording, he coughs, Really into recording. What do you do here?

—I’m a singer, remember? I thought I told you when we were texting a few days back.

Charles scratched his head.

—Anyway, I gotta go. Nice seeing you here! Exciting, am I right? Hit me up tonight, okay?

In a hurry, Sheila left from the studio and into her busy life. Charles looked confused.

—Why did she want me to hit her up? Is that, like, sexual?

Jonah and Mike stormed with laughter.

—You wish!

Jonah then explained.

—Hit me up, man! It means the same as “send me a message,” or “give me a call.” It’s not sexual at all. Well, I guess not.

Mike added, —Yeah, it’s the same as saying give me a ring, shoot me a message, or give me a buzz. It all means “call me” or “message me.”

—Oh, I guess that makes sense.

—Charlie’s got a girlfriend!

All three of them laughed and pushed each other around playfully. Oh, guys.

—So, are you gonna hit her up tonight? Jonah asked Charles.

—You know I will!

Despite his outward confidence, Charles still felt pretty nervous. Not to mention guilty, having forgotten so quickly that Sheila was a singer. He dug for a little more information.

—So, Mike. Sheila records her songs here?

—Yeah. Just a few samples for SoundCloud. Why?

—Is she any good?

—For sure, bro! Sheila slams in the recording booth!

Saying that something slams, hits, or bangs is saying it’s really good to the senses (That food looks slamming! That rhythm hits hard! This song is banging!) These are more colloquial slang, so not all communities across the country use them. Otherwise, “hit me up,” “give me a buzz/ring,” and “shoot me a message” are all pretty common nationwide to tell someone to send you a message or to call, though these terms are very informal. Using “bang” to talk about being in a gang can be a problematic word, so I underlined it. It’s best not to use it unless you really know what you’re saying, and most people don’t even have to use it. Do you know why the other terms are underlined? Can you use today’s terms in your own sentences? Share with me down below!

*The language used in this dialogue is meant to reflect how different Americans might express themselves. Significant incorrect grammar or sensitive words will be underlined for reference. Did you recognize the mistakes in this story?

“Lazaretto” [Jack White]

Watch video below–>

Oh, my veins are blue and connected

  • Having “blue blood” means to be privileged, an aristocrat, or well-off. There also might be a connection to Blues music.

And every single bone in my brain is electric

  • This reminds me of the phrase “hard-headed” or “having a hard head.” This means that the person doesn’t listen or follow directions, and they like to do things their own way. Having “bones in my brain” might be a reference to having a hard head.

But I dig ditches like the best of ’em

  • Adding “like the best of them” to an action means that you can do it as well as the best. “He’s a great guitarist. He can play it like the best of them.”

Yo trabajo duro

  • For those that don’t speak Spanish/Castilian: “I work hard”

Como en madera y yeso

  • “Like in wood and plaster.” Like he’s a construction worker, basically.

Como en madera y yeso

And even God Herself has fewer plans than me

  • Referring to God as a “Her” in English is not common, but it’s a rebellious way to break the idea that God is a male figure. A biblical reference, but he’s saying he has even more plans than God has. Very busy.

But she never helps me out with my scams for free, though

  • A “scam” is some plan that is discreet, undercover, or malicious, usually trying to trick someone or to do something you’re not supposed to. Again, referring to God as a female.

She grabs a stick and then she points it at me

  • This is like people who are outcasts or have severe diseases. People are too afraid to touch them with their hands, so they only touch them from far away with a stick. It’s like being disgusted or frightened by those who are different than us. It also reminds me of the story of Moses parting the Red Sea with his staff, for some reason.

When I say nothing, I say everything

Yeah, when I say nothing, I say everything

Transmission of Leprosy in the US via Armadillos - The Plainspoken  Scientist - AGU Blogosphere
some of the symptoms of leprosy, from here

They threw me down in a lazaretto

  • “Lazaretto” was a special kind of quarantine for people with a disease called leprosy. Historically, people with leprosy were secluded from the rest of society. This relates to him feeling like people threw him away into isolation, maybe because of his style or ideas.
Long before coronavirus, Philly ran a quarantine center for another deadly  contagion
An example of an old lazaretto, found here

Born rottin’, bored rotten

  • To “rot” is to go bad, like when a fruit or piece of meat is left out of the fridge for too long. If he was “born rotting,” this means he was born into this state of quarantine, or he’s never fit in with others since he was a kid. To be “bored rotten” is to be extremely bored. Similarly, a kid that is “rotten” is spoiled, or gets whatever they want even if they act bad. There are a lot of mixed meanings in this small lyric.

Makin’ models of people I used to know

Out of coffee and cotton

And all my illegitimate kids have begotten

  • An “illegitimate child” is one born out of a relationship that is not approved of or outside of marriage, for example. To be “begotten” is to be forgotten and left alone. It’s not such a common word in English nowadays and has more of an archaic or biblical feel to it.

Thrown down to the wolves, made feral for nothin’

  • “Thrown to the wolves” is a popular phrase for when someone is thrown into a situation that they obviously have no chance to win. A similar phrase is “thrown to the lions.” “Feral” means wild or like a wild beast. Also, he pronounces “nothing” like “nuttin,” which is common in certain regions and accents.

Quarantined on the Isle of Man

MICHELIN Isle of Man map - ViaMichelin
Isle of Man between Great Britain & Ireland, from here
  • The Isle of Man is a small island off the coast of Great Britain.

And I’m trying to escape any way that I can, oh

7 Reasons you should visit the Isle of Man
Isle of Man is actually quite pretty, here

Any way that I can, oh

Damn, I have no time left, time is lost

No time at all, throw it in a garbage can

And I shake God’s hand

I jump up and let Her know when I can

This is how I’m gonna do it

They wanna burn down the prison

They’re lighting fires with the cash of the masses

  • With the public’s money.

And like the dough, I don’t fall down

  • “Dough” is a slang term for money. Real dough (used to make bread) rises in an oven. “Bread” is also slang for money.

I’m so Detroit, I make it rise from the ashes

  • “I’m so…” is a way to compare yourself to something else. “I’m so Los Angeles, always hot and sunny!” Detroit is known for suffering a huge economic crash but has been steadily rising in importance again. This image of “rising from the ashes” comes from the myth of the Phoenix, a bird that burns and rises again from its ashes. Figuratively, it means to reinvent yourself, grow, learn new things, and come back better after failing.

.

This song centers around the idea of a societal outcast, like someone with a terrible disease like leprosy. His quarantine, as if on a lonely island, doesn’t come from a physical illness, but from his ambitions and personal style. The fact that he feels isolated turns out to be positive, since all this makes him unique. There are lots of references from the Bible or that could relate to religion, since leprosy is a disease that was prominent in the Bible. There’s this idea that he was born with some privilege, but he acknowledges this, accepts it, and it doesn’t stop him from working hard or getting his hands dirty. Him saying he works hard like a construction worker in Spanish is kind of a reference to many hard laborers in the U.S. having Mexican heritage, or Latin American heritage in general. What are your thoughts on this song? Do you understand why he would compare himself to a lazaretto? Share your thoughts!

.

Also, watch the video. It’s really cool!

“Juice” [Lizzo]

Watch the video below–>

Mirror, mirror on the wall

  • This is from the fairy tale, Snow White, when the witch is admiring herself in the mirror.

Don’t say it ’cause I know I’m cute (Ooh, baby)

Louis down to my drawers

  • As in Louis Vuitton designer clothes. “Drawers” is another word for underwear, often pronounced “draws” for short. Basically, all her clothing is expensive, even the underwear.

LV all on my shoes (Ooh, baby)

  • “LV” and “Louis” are both common abbreviations for Louis Vuitton.

I be drippin‘ so much sauce

  • *I am dripping… In slang, “sauce” is confidence, swag, good looks, etc. To “drip” then refers to someone being so full of confidence and swag that it is dripping off of them like water. A similar word is “drip.” (“Do you like my drip?”)

Got a bih lookin’ like RAGÚ (Ooh, baby)

  • “Bih” is another way to say the B-word without sounding too vulgar or just to be funny. RAGĂš is a brand of Italian tomato sauce, referencing her “sauce” from the previous line. A similar line was made popular in the song “Party” by BeyoncĂ©, where Kanye West says, “You got the swag sauce, she dripping Swagu” (swag and RAGĂš). Listen to that song here
Ragu Old World Style Traditional Pasta Sauce ‑ Shop Pasta Sauces at H‑E‑B
Image from here

Lit up like a crystal ball

  • “Lit” is a way to say that something is exciting, or you have lots of energy, are having fun, etc. (“I am lit 24-7.”) (“That was a lit party.”) But she compares this slang meaning of lit to the literal meaning: to show light. Also, the crystal ball is in reference to mystical things and fairy tales, like from the first line.

That’s cool, baby, so is you

  • *So are you

That’s how I roll

  • This phrase is used to explain that this is the way a person is, usually because of some good quality. (“You always wear the best clothes, girl.” “You know, that’s how I roll!”) A similar phrase is “That’s how I do.”

If I’m shinin‘, everybody gonna shine (Yeah, I’m goals)

  • *Everybody is going to shine… To “shine,” besides talking about light, can also describe someone who does really amazing things, shows off a lot, or is really intelligent. (“I suck at physics! But math is where I shine.”) “Goals” comes from social media. It just means that whatever someone is doing is so good that it represents what other people should do. Most popularly with relationships. (“Mark and Susan are such a cute couple! That’s goals.”)

I was born like this, don’t even gotta try (Now you know)

  • *I don’t even have to try…

I’m like chardonnay, get better over time (So you know)

Heard you say I’m not the baddest, b****, you lie (Haha)

  • A “bad b****” is a woman who is really good at what she does, really confident, pretty, and has lots of good qualities. Confidence is the main factor, though. Although it sounds really offensive, it’s actually a compliment in most informal cases.

It ain’t my fault that I’m out here gettin’ loose

  • *It’s not my… To “get loose” is to let go of anxiety or fear, have fun, release your energy, and things like that. Similar verbs are to “let loose” and “cut loose.” People also use it to stretch and warm up muscles before an exercise. (“Let’s start the game!” “Wait, I need to get loose first.”)

Gotta blame it on the Goose

  • *You have to blame… Grey Goose is a brand of vodka. This line refers to a popular song by Jamie Foxx where he says, “Blame it on the Goose … Blame it on the alcohol.” Listen to that song here

Gotta blame it on my juice, baby

  • “Juice” can have lots of meanings in slang. Here, it’s more ambiguous (not concrete). She probably uses it to say her power, confidence, showiness, sexiness, etc.

It ain’t my fault that I’m out here makin’ news

  • Not actually “making” the news. She’s appearing in the news, doing big things.

I’m the pudding in the proof

  • This comes from a saying; “The proof is in the pudding.” It means that something is good because you can try it or prove it, usually as an incentive to convince someone that something is really good. Lizzo changes it, making herself sound like the source of the goodness/tastiness. She is the whole pudding.

Gotta blame it on my juice

Ya-ya-ee, ya-ya-ee, ya-ya-ee, ya-ya-ee

Blame it on my juice, blame it, blame it on my juice

Ya-ya-ee, ya-ya-ee, ya-ya-ee, ya-ya-ee

Blame it on my juice, blame it, blame it on my juice (Ooh, baby)

No, I’m not a snack at all

  • A “snack” is a small meal. In slang, it refers to a person, usually a woman, that is attractive.

Look, baby, I’m the whole damn meal (Ooh, baby)

  • So she’s not saying that she is not attractive, but super attractive. A big “snack.”

David, you ain’t bein’ slick

  • To be “slick” is to try to trick or fool someone. (“You’re not slick, I see what you’re trying to do.”)

Don’t dare try to cop a feel (Ooh, baby)

  • To “cop” something is to get it or try to get it. “Cop a feel” means to try to touch someone, usually in a sensual way. This plays on the name of famous magician, David Copperfield. David, cop a feel. They kind of rhyme.

The juice ain’t worth the squeeze

  • Again, playing on the slang meaning of “juice.” Referring to those juice boxes or packets that you have to squeeze to drink from.
OCEAN SPRAY 100% ORANGE JUICE, 4.2 OUNCE JUICE BOX (PACK OF 40) -  GTIN/EAN/UPC 31200238566 - Cadastro de Produto com Tributação e NCM - Cosmos
Image from here

If the juice don’t look like this (Like this, like this, like this)

  • *juice doesn’t look like…

Hold up, n****, please

  • “Hold up” means wait, wait a minute. “Please” when said like this is the same as telling someone to stop or not think about it, like “stop dreaming.” (“I want to take you out to dinner.” “Boy, please! You don’t even have a car.”)

Don’t make me have to take your b****, s*** (How I roll)

If I’m shinin’, everybody gonna shine (Yeah, I’m goals)

I was born like this, don’t even gotta try (Now you know)

I’m like chardonnay (Okay), get better over time (So you know)

Heard you say I’m not the baddest, b****, you lie (You lie)

It ain’t my fault that I’m out here gettin’ loose

Gotta blame it on the Goose

Gotta blame it on my juice, baby

It ain’t my fault that I’m out here makin’ news

I’m the pudding in the proof

Gotta blame it on my juice

Ya-ya-ee (Ya-ya-ee), ya-ya-ee, ya-ya-ee, ya-ya-ee

Blame it on my juice, blame it, blame it on my juice

Ya-ya-ee (Ya-ya-ee), ya-ya-ee, ya-ya-ee, ya-ya-ee

Blame it on my juice, blame it, blame it on my juice (Alright)

Ya-ya-ee

Somebody come get this man

I think he got lost in my DMs, what? My DMs, what?

  • “DM’s” on social media are Direct Messages. To “get lost” in them is like sending someone lots of messages because they really like that person, almost like they’re obsessed.

You better come get your man

  • “You better” is an expression used to tell someone what they need to do. It can either be a piece of advise, or a demand from an authority, like one’s parents. (“You better clean your room, or we’re not leaving.”)

I think he wanna be way more than friends, what?

  • Saying “way” like this means a lot or much. (“I’m sorry, but you were way wrong.”) (“They paid, but I can pay way more.”)

More than friends

What you want me to say?

  • *What do you want…

Lizzo makes a lot of songs about loving oneself, being confident, and appreciating one’s own style and body. This song is no different. The whole concept of the “juice” is this sexiness and swag that she has. She does use more informal English that mostly wouldn’t be acceptable in a professional setting, but is great for using in casual settings or with family and friends. The song is very positive and upbeat. What was your impression of this song? Did you understand it? Do you want to have “juice” like Lizzo? Let me know in the comments!

Video here:

“Don’t Start” [Dua Lipa]

Akrotiri Flag

Video down below–>

If you don’t wanna see me

  • *If you don’t want to…

Did a full 180, crazy

  • *I did a full… A “180” (one-eighty) means turning 180 degrees, which in math terms means turning around. It’s another way to say that you take a pause and look back at how a situation occurred. “I was walking down the street and thought I saw a friend of mine. I did a full 180 and realized that was Carol, my brother’s friend.” Similarly, a 360 (three-sixty) is to turn fully around. “He did a full 360 and fell on the ground.”

Thinking ’bout the way I was

Did the heartbreak change me? Maybe

But look at where I ended up

  • To “end up” refers to how something ended or finished. When talking about a location or situation, it means to arrive at that point or to get there. “Hmm, we’re in the Mojave Desert. How did we end up here?”

I’m all good already

  • “All good” is pretty self-explanatory. Just know that it’s a very common phrase. “I’m sorry about that.” “It’s all good, don’t worry.”

So moved on, it’s scary

  • To “move on” is to get past something like a breakup or relationship. “So … it’s scary.” This is a popular way of putting emphasis on some quality or skill. “I’m so good at this game, it’s scary!”

I’m not where you left me at all, so

  • “At all” is used at the end of a sentence to emphasize that something is really not a certain way. “She doesn’t look happy, at all.”

If you don’t wanna see me dancing with somebody

If you wanna believe that anything could stop me

Don’t show up, don’t come out

  • To “show up” is to appear somewhere. “Don’t show up at my party!”

Don’t start caring about me now

Walk away, you know how

Don’t start caring about me now

Aren’t you the guy who tried to

Hurt me with the word “goodbye”?

Though it took some time to survive you

I’m better on the other side

  • She means away from her ex. “The other side” is used to talk about overcoming something, often death, though it doesn’t always have to be a difficult situation. “Man! I have to go to jury duty today.” “Well, I’ll see you on the other side.”

I’m all good already

So moved on, it’s scary

I’m not where you left me at all, so

If you don’t wanna see me dancing with somebody

If you wanna believe that anything could stop me

(Don’t, don’t, don’t)

Don’t show up, don’t come out

Don’t start caring about me now

Walk away, you know how

Don’t start caring about me now (‘Bout me now, ’bout me)

.

Then the lyrics repeat.

  • Alright, these lyrics are pretty straightforward. Dua appears to have suffered from a bad relationship. Her partner didn’t care about her and all they know is how to walk away or give up on her. It took some time for her to get over this, but now she’s back! She goes out dancing, having a good time, and maybe her ex wants to start caring about her again. But Dua’s not interested. Her partner didn’t care when they were together, so why start caring now?

This is one of the catchiest songs out there. Does this song always get stuck in your head? Is Dua right for not wanting to let this person back in her life? Tell me what you think!

Watch the video too:

Cover image: By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62974038