Message 321: Sayings

Radiohead makes use of commonplace, familiar sayings—if that is the best word—in their lyrics. The usages of these is more marked in their later work. Below is a first attempt to gather those sayings with links or information to their usage.

  • cat get your tongue
  • chew the fat
  • baby (common rock lyric word, last appearance in The Bends)
  • Won’t take my eyes off the ball
  • living in a glasshouse
  • house of cards
  • knives out
  • The chink in your armor
  • the pot will call the kettle black
  • packt like sardines
  • off with his head
  • how am i driving
  • you can’t take it with you
  • climbing up the walls
  • caught on candid camera
  • you’re so last week
  • you and whose army?
  • bull(y) in a china shop
  • piss on our parade
  • don’t get any big ideas
  • high and dry
  • alligators in the sewers
  • watch your feet for cracks in the pavement
  • jigsaw falling into place
  • you do it to yourself
  • move along
  • tongue-tied

Sayings are in no particular order (for an as yet unrevealed reason). I am posting an incomplete list and will add sayings noticed by other users. These findings will be credited. Not all sayings found will make it into the list.

The sayings are, in themselves, uninteresting. But how they inhabit Radiohead’s lyrics is unusual. “We are hungry for a lynching” near “chew the fat.” “Piss on your parade” near “hammerheaded sharks.” “Tongue-tied” near a disease afflicting rabbits. The familiar leans against the strange in ways that defamiliarizes, but also makes the odd lyrics seem commonplace.

Note to self: use the word “defamiliarize” with caution, avoiding pretension if possible.

3 replies on “Message 321: Sayings”

Nice to see these brought together. I’ve always associated Radiohead’s use of such sayings with R.E.M, who employ a similar mixture of slightly mundane sayings and language of a much stranger, semi-poetic nature. ‘losing my religion’ is perhaps an obvious example, though I always appreciated the fact that Stipe manages to bring that most cliched of sayings: ‘greatest thing since bread came sliced’ into ‘imitation of life’ without quite ruining the song.

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