Does it bother you when songwriters misuse words or expressions in lyrics?

I was listening to this youtube video of a song by Chris de Burgh, one of my favorites, and I once again noticed an outrageously dumb error in the lyrics:

"A spaceman came travelling on his ship from afar,
'Twas light years of time since his mission did start"

A light year is a measure of distance, not time. It is the distance that light will travel in one year. Light travels at approximately 186,000 miles PER SECOND, so you can do the math and quickly determine that a light year literally is an astronomical distance.

What makes this error so dumb is not just that Chris de Burgh did not know the definition of the term. The song was heard by many people in the recording industry and through the recording process before it was released. Why didn't someone say something? It would have been easy to change the lyrics to

"A spaceman came travelling on his ship from afar,
'Twas eons of time since his mission did start"

I then was reminded that another singer-songwriter had made the very same mistake.

"And here I sit
Hand on the telephone
Hearing a voice I'd known
A couple of light years ago
Heading straight for a fall."

If Bob Dylan said her poetry was lousy (the song is about him, and that line is in the lyrics,) I'll bet he laughed when he heard this error. Again, no one stopped her.

Yes, this is nit picking, but these people are professionals and they get paid big bucks for this stuff. I know that words are sometimes misused in a way that mimics how words are used in the vernacular, but this is inexcusable. Every writer should know that it always pays to have a good editor!


Most Helpful Girl

  • It really bothers me whenever anyone does it, but especially writers.

    i. e. "I could care less" = you COUDL care less so you DO care some
    rather than the correct saying "I couldn't care less" = you dont care at all


Most Helpful Guy

  • Yes it does. I & me are constantly misused. And I hate when a preposition is used at the end of a sentence like "where are you at" They're supposed to be wordsmiths.

    • Speaking of wordsmiths. What the hell is Salvation a la mode?

    • Show All
    • OK that makes sense, especially if you know the background of that character.
      Ian Anderson lived next to a river (the Thames I think). His wife was a photographer. There was a homeless guy by the river and his wife took a picture of him. That photo was the basis of your avatar and inspiration of Aqualung. So your avatar is/was actually a real person.

      Ian Anderson tells the story in an interview with Rick Wakeman. Look up Wakeman and Anderson on youtube and you should be able to find it. (almost an hour long)

    • @NearlyNapping cool, thanks, I will.

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What Girls & Guys Said

  • Actually, yes. There has been more than one song I really don't mind, and maybe even liked, that I felt butchered a word/phrase/concept in a way that I don't think "poetic license" covers that I just can't listen to.

    And despite saying that, and know it it is true? No examples come to mind!

  • Light years of time is just a poetic use of words. That doesn't really bother me.

    Same with Diamonds and Rust which is one of my favorite songs. The tone of her voice says it was a long time ago as much as the words, like in a reminiscent way.

    • I, also, like the song, but every time I hear it, I wince when she sings that line. Maybe it's because I was a science major in college.

    • By the way. Joan Baez is one of those women who aged like fine wine.

    • It doesn't bother me at all. What bothers me more are "rhymes" that don't rhyme.

  • I can see why you would find that irksome. That's one of the few grammatical mistakes that doesn't drive me up the wall. I think it's because I accepted long ago that people are just stupid.

  • Yeah you're thinking too much

    • It's not a conscious decision. If there was a switch on the side of my head and I could turn it off at times. . . life would be much easier. :)

  • If it bothers you so much... don't listen to it anymore.


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