Message 34: Idio-

The title of “Idioteque,” the eighth song on Kid A, is presumably a conflation of “idiot” with a truncated form of “discotheque.” The word “idiot” entered the English language as a noun some time around 1350. The OED defines idiot as “1.a. A person without learning; an ignorant, uneducated man; a simple man; a clown.” A discotheque [a. Fr. discothËque, after BIBLIOTH»QUE. Cf. DISC n. 2d.] is “a club, etc., where recorded music is played for dancing.”

However, the title may also derive the thrust of its meaning from the original Greek prefix “idio-,” which means personal, private, peculiar, separate, or distinct. This meaning of the prefix prevails in words like idiolect and idiom. On “idiom” the OED states: “3. b. A characteristic mode of expression in music, art, or writing; an instance of this.”

In this context, the title provides an ironic commentary on the song’s lyrics which cut-and-paste lines from other songs. The song’s opening verse, “Who’s in a bunker,” may derive from REM’s “Underneath the Bunker.” The third line, “Women and children first,” recalls the Van Halen album of the same name. A line near the end of the song reads, “Take the money and run,” a verse that echoes the eponymous Steve Miller song. The source for the line that reads “Ice age coming” has been addressed in Message 13 below. The title, then, foregrounds the song’s satiric potential as it both participates in and undermines several traditional pop music conventions simultaneously.

The song’s enigmatic closing line, “We’re not scaremongering,” may have been excerpted from the following press release:

“As always, when raising one’s head above the parapet on this issue, a balance has to be struck. If one insists that sensible precautions be taken, one runs the risk of over-egging it till it looks like alarmism. We are not scaremongering: I believe that we have hit the right balance. But we are in earnest about these enforcement initiatives.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *