Monday Night Special #2: Delving in with Diagrams (to Linda on My Mind)

27 Aug

Hello, darlin’!  It’s time again for some needless analysis and some extraneous diagrams.  Slip into your tight-fittin’ jeans (although I know you’ve never been this far before), and I’ll be your blogger with the slow hand.  If you get frightened, remember:  It’s only make believe…

Arbitrarily Picked Work of Fiction:

(Lyin’ Here with) Linda on My Mind” by Conway Twitty

Quick Synopsis:

A dude lies in bed beside his lady, but he’s thinking of another lady (Linda).  He hadn’t meant to cheat–physically or emotionally–but Linda danced with him, squeezed his hand, and confessed her secret love for him.  Now, he’s lying in bed processing this information, deciding he will, indeed, leave his old lady for Linda.

Important Quotation:

Now I’m lying here with Linda on my mind,
And next to me, my soon-to-be, the one I left behind,
And, Lord, it’s killing me to see her crying;
She knows I’m lying here beside her with Linda on my mind.

I must admit that I’ve cheated a bit.  Because this is a song, I can punctuate it pretty much however I see fit, so I’ve made the whole chorus one long sentence, but here’s the thing:  I believe it all really is part of one thought, the kind of thought a person has as he’s lying in bed–ambling and semi-incoherent and anguished.

Also of note, I love the double meaning of “lying.”  We can always trust Conway Twitty not to confuse lie and lay (unlike some singers we know).  Not only does it mean reclining here, but it doubles as telling an untruth.  The speaker gives the impression he hasn’t expressly told his lady it’s over–although she suspects–so he’s essentially lying to her by lying next to her.

Additionally, the narrator begins the song with the chorus, which is atypical:  Normally a song starts with the verse and works up to the chorus.  The verse chronicles the exact events that led to the chorus, and we hear the chorus again later in a new context–a clever way of reiterating the narrator’s cyclical, sleepy thoughts.

Moreover, the chorus begins with the very immediate word “now.”  We don’t know if it’s mid-afternoon or 3am.  We know it’s now.  We know something has led the narrator to this state of thought, and it’s all been building to this very moment, which adds excitement and urgency to the ballad.

Diagram:

 

Thoughts on Structure:

Whenever I sing this song in the shower, I’m always intrigued by the second line: “And next to me, my soon-to-be, the one I left behind.”  I have been contemplating how to diagram this for some time, and I’ve finally decided that it’s an elliptical clause (a clause where some words have been left out) in which the subject is “soon-to-be,” which is a substantive adjective (an adjective that stands in for the noun it’s describing, e.g. “Give me your tired, your poor,” where tired and poor mean people who are tired and people who are poor).  Soon-to-be stands in for something like soon-to-be ex-wife.  The narrator, in this clause, also omits the verb, which could be any number of intransitive jobs, such as lies, is, exists, sits, sleeps, etc.

Not only is the clause elliptical, but it’s also got some weird word order going on, typical of a song because songs like to rhyme.  So, putting it together, the non-elliptical, straightened-out version of the clause might go “My soon-to-be ex-love, the one I left behind, bawls next to me.”  While I know the front-of-the-clause placement of “next to me” is probably all about rhyme in real life, I want to also believe that Conway thought about it thematically.  Dude’s lying there; he looks over.  He thinks of “next to me” first, then the rest of the clause, not caring in his somnambulent sadness that he’s thinking/talking/singing in stilted, nonsensical phrases.

Oh, I’m not done with this fun elliptical clause yet.  We have an appositive (a noun that renames a noun), which is “one,” further described by its adjective clause “I left behind.”  We’ve got another appositive in the next independent clause.  “To see her crying” (which is an infinitive phrase with a gerund as its object–how delectable!) renames what the pronoun “it” is.  I mention these appositives because they fit in with the mood of the song so well.  A reeling, emotionally upheaved brain is trying desperately to fit the pieces of his love life together, and he keeps renaming people and things and thoughts.

Last, I’d like to call attention to the final line of the chorus, which echoes the first.  In the first line, the clause appears fairly simple and straightforward–a regular old subject pronoun, a regular old intransitive verb–but the next time the line happens, it’s put into a different perspective.  It’s now the noun clause that functions as the direct object for the clause starting “she knows.”  This brings the idea full circle–that the narrator’s telling lies and that his lady is privy to the info.  It’s as if all this internal suffering the narrator’s doing is somehow also being internalized by his lady.  Totally country-western-cheatin’-song Inception.

Final Thoughts:

People do not even realize how complex colloquial speech is.  It blows my mind how many intricacies there are just in this one(ish) sentence in this silly, maudlin country song.

I could seriously talk about this all day.  I mean, I really want to talk about tense, mood, and aspect shifts and the nature of memory and whether “crying” is a gerund or participle and the thematic connection this song shares with “The Tennessee Waltz.”  But I will contain my nerdy, nerdy self.

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2 Responses to “Monday Night Special #2: Delving in with Diagrams (to Linda on My Mind)”

  1. Stephen 14 December 2012 at 10:50 PM #

    Searched Google for the song, and ended up here. Your analysis was actually really engaging. Fun treat by happenstance!

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