On Coping with Lyrical Imprecision in the song ♫Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting♫

On Coping with Lyrical Imprecision in the song ♫Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting♫

A Therapeutic Rant Enabling Me to Exorcise My OCD Demons

Sir Stephen Hawking to Carl Douglas: “Surely not everyone was Kung Fu fighting.”

Everybody was? Really? Didn’t Carl “one-hit-wonder” Douglas realize that perhaps somebody, somewhere was not Kung Fu fighting. How about singing the more accurately descriptive “a few people were Kung Fu fighting,” instead of the lazy, fits-all lyrics “everybody was Kung Fu fighting.” I mean if we allow this level of lyrical imprecision to percolate into society, where does it end?

The Rolling Stones lamentably sang ♫I Can’t Get NO Satisfaction♫ – really Mick, None? In England in the mid-60’s. I think everybody knows that Mick was getting at least some satisfaction. Alright, maybe not everybody knows it, but many people do. I don’t want to be accused of the same imprecision by using the word everybody when I should’ve said “a few people.”

Calling out and correcting these overblown and inaccurate claims is the domain of someone who prefers to make our universe as tidy as possible. Someone like me. No, I mean it. Someone like me. No really, I’m pleading with you: Someone like me damn it! See how dangerous the slippery slope of misinterpretation is when you casually employ inexact expressions?

Don’t STOP

It’s bad enough that STOP signs don’t change to GO after we’ve stopped. Those smug octagonal signposts think they can just command us to act and expect us to sheepishly comply. And when we do comply, then what? In the absence of a subsequent instruction I’d like to know what the expectation is. The peremptory command to STOP means just that. I see no interpretive wiggle room to assume that at some point we may GO. However millions do. I’m proud to say I’ve sat at STOP signs for hours waiting for some indication as to what to do after I’ve stopped. Usually an encouraging honk and a few words of encouragement from the exasperated motorist behind me is enough for me to, “Get movin’ assh*le.”

I believe that in allowing these kinds of lyrical inexactitudes, we are creating a dog-whistle of sorts for artists of all kinds to play fast and loose with our perceptions.

Listen to What the Man Said

I’m also a stickler for scrupulous adherence to corporately issued instructions. For example, frequently I’ve gotten trapped in endless 3 hour shampooing loops just because the directions read: lather, rinse and repeat. After the hot water runs out those showers can get numbingly cold. My shampooing usually ends with early onset hypothermia or my exasperated wife knocking on the door and saying, “Get movin’ lover boy.”

And even though a few people (notice I didn’t say “everybody”) insert cotton swabs into their ear canal to clean out the wax, I scrupulously comply with Johnson & Johnson’s liability-limiting warning to: Never insert a Q-Tip into the ear canal. However millions do not. They flagrantly disobey the corporate admonition designed for our welfare and purposely jab the Q-Tip where it was told not to go. As for me I never insert a cotton swab into my ear canal and instead use the tip of my favorite steak knife to reach that hard to get at wax.   

Oh, There’s More

With the punctilious pedigree I possess, is it any wonder I would take exception to the imprecise blanket statement sung so obliviously by Mr. Douglas that ♫Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting?♫ Really. Everybody was. Wasn’t somebody, somewhere doing something responsible like operating a waste water treatment plant or placing warning signs on bidets reading: “Not to be used as a drinking fountain.”   

And don’t even get me started on the follow-up lyric to Mr. Douglas’s martial arts magnum opus: ♫Those kicks were fast as lightning.♫ It’s hard enough to take the pebble from the Master’s hand under normal circumstances, but to do so at a metaphysically impossible 186,000 miles per second just seems to go against the laws of nature and into the realm of a comic book superhero. I mean I can’t even manage to squish an unsuspecting fly with my best-timed judo slap.

But for purposes of clarity, I shall confine myself to tidying the messy and exaggerated lyric: ♫Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting?♫ Now even if all humans of all ages were somehow simultaneously engaged in some kind of martial arts on a global basis, I doubt it would be strictly Kung Fu. Many would be engaged in Aikido or Judo or Karate or maybe even pretending to fight just so they could come into close contact with someone they really liked and rub up against them. But it’s even bigger than that.  

More specifically does this “everyone” referred to in the song pertain to just humans. Is Carl Douglas referring to other creatures within the animal kingdom? And if so, everybody wonders (alright I wonder) how such a complicated message (the message to for everybody to begin Kung Fu fighting) could’ve been sent, received, processed and acted upon by a multitude of creatures across all the species of the Animal Kingdom. I mean it was hard enough to do that Hands Across America thing 30 years ago – and they were using advanced walkie-talkie technology.

So you see my dilemma in the tidification of such an abstruse and ambiguous lyric. It’s not me digressing, transcending or unnecessarily going beyond the scope of the lyric, it is the composers’ inability to precisely confine themselves to matters they’re trying to express that makes my criticism so very necessary. For example, I might have suggested the lyric be written like this:

♫A collection of trained martial artist within my purview were fully engaged in what appears to be Kung Fu. These feline-like humans undertook this event with great rapidity.♫

To me that paints a highly descriptive, if unmelodic picture of the course of events. And while its flow with the melody might suffer somewhat, at least we’re clear on the timeline and the scope of the event.  

And don’t get me started on the whole “Don’t Stop Believin’” thing. I mean is it being suggested that I continue to believe? Does Journey want me to stop believin’? Do I not stop believin’?” What exactly is it I’m to believe or disbelieve in anyway? I’ve done what I can. I’ll just have to leave it at that. After all, Life is about the Journey.

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