Monday Night Special #6: Delving in with Diagrams (to When I Am Through with You)

24 Sep

I know what you’re thinking:  You don’t need me anymore, and you certainly don’t want me.  But, let me remind you that I made you sign the back of a business card swearing you’d been warned that grammar nerdiness lay ahead.

Arbitrarily Picked Work of Fiction:

When I Am Through with You” (AKA the Damages theme song) by VLA

The first disc of Damages Season 4 taunts me from atop my XBox, tantalizing me, daring me to watch it.  But I’m watching it with a friend whose busy schedule prevents her from coming over posthaste.  So, while I eagerly await her call, I will do some diagramming and analysis.

Quick Synopsis:

In the chorus, a  narrator addresses someone he calls “Little Lamb” and warns her over and over again that when their relationship is over, there will be nothing left of her original personality (or something).

In verse one (which I did not know existed until I looked up the song for this week’s entry), the narrator addresses a daisy–a metaphor for perhaps the naive lady to whom the chorus refers–with the same admonition and claims he will tear her out of the ground (even though she’s hiding) and “pluck you right in half.”

In verse two (which I again did not know existed), the narrator flashes back to when he packed his bags and went to the city because he believes “a body at rest / Is a life in hell.”  He then takes up romantically with a woman who calls him “Little Lamb.”

It is suggested that the last iteration of the chorus is this woman singing to him that when she completes her work in him, there won’t be anything left of him.

Important Quotation:

When I am through with you,
There won’t be anything left.

These two lines serve as the chorus and are repeated ad nauseum throughout.  They express the consuming love/hate/obsessiveness/possessiveness the narrator has for the object of his affection as well as the love/hate/obsessiveness/possessiveness the narrator’s lover has had for him.  The sentence tells of a love that is destructive and consuming.  It suggests that the dominant in the relationship molds the other and that when the dominant is finished molding, nothing of the submissive’s original personality will exist.

Diagram:

image

Thoughts on Structure:

In this grammatically pretty simply but still interesting sentence we have an independent clause and an adverb clause.

The independent clause contains an expletive there.  That is, the there is an empty word that exists simply to fill space.  This is a common construction in colloquial English that leads to a somewhat inverted sentence.  The subject and verb get switched around to make room for this there that holds no meaning.  Because of this inversion, we also get a kinda weird negation.  If the there weren’t there, the sentence would read “Anything won’t be left.”  A normal person might change that to “Nothing will be left” so that it doesn’t sound so convoluted.

However, such is the nature of colloquial speech:  It often ends up both inverted and convoluted.  And such is the nature of this aggressive, consuming love/hate the narrator shares with his lady(ies).  He begins as the aggressor, someone consuming and oppressing with his love.  And then it’s revealed he’s been consumed and oppressed by love, as well, fulfilling an inverted, convoluted cycle.  Love should be something that encourages, that builds up.  This love tears down and leaves wreckage in its wake.

And, of course, such is the nature of Patty and Ellen’s bad romance.  They feed off each other and consume each other and become each other, just as the characters in this song do.

On another grammar note, the adverb clause contains a partitive–a verb that is a verb and a preposition functioning as one verb unit.  We know “am through” is a partitive because we can replace it with one word–finish–and it retains the same meaning.  Again, we see that the sentence uses more words than it needs in order to adhere to colloquial speech.  It’s an inefficient sentence that is fraught with emotion and menace, and it could not convey as much of the labyrinthine-ness of the relationship portrayed if it used more straightforward, concise language.

Final Thoughts:

This song contains even more twisted lyrics than I thought it did!  And that makes sense because Patty and Ellen are so twisted!  I can’t wait to see them again!

Also, this song is stuck in my head forever now.  And I don’t even like it because it doesn’t really have a melody.  Just a memorable guitar riff that is currently endlessly riffing in my brain.  Wah.

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3 Responses to “Monday Night Special #6: Delving in with Diagrams (to When I Am Through with You)”

  1. linguischtick 25 September 2012 at 2:34 AM #

    Where did you learn to do sentence diagrams this way? I’m genuinely curious. And why does the word order in the diagram not match the order of the words in the spoken/written sentence? Personally, I prefer to use syntax trees.

    • TheBestofAlexandra 25 September 2012 at 10:58 AM #

      I learned the Reed-Kellogg method in a course called Traditional English Grammar, which was so traditional that it was taught out of a very ancient, out-of-print book. It’s the type of diagramming that would’ve been taught to junior high students in the 30s-60s.
      Reed-Kellogg has its pros and cons, just like anything. One of the pros is that it focuses on knowing each individual element of a sentence–that is, what is the subject, what is the verb, what are the complements. On the flip side of that same coin, because it focuses on those individual elements, syntax goes by the wayside.
      And I’ve done other types of diagramming, but since Reed-Kellogg was my first, I prefer it. 🙂
      I hope that answers your question, and thanks for the response!

    • TheBestofAlexandra 25 September 2012 at 11:45 AM #

      I realize now your questions were at least a little facetious.
      Are you trying to syntax-tree evangelize me? Because it ain’t happenin’, sister! 🙂

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