Speaker Ambiguity

This entry was originally going to center on the similarities and differences between acceptance, tolerance, endurance, and resignation.  The preoccupation around “resignation” originated earlier today when I was reading at a Starbux (not my favorite one, but a newly renovated one in my side of town).  Book in hand, and later pens with sketchpad, I was listening to this Chinese song by MC Jin and Hanjin.  MC Jin raps the verses in Cantonese and Hanjin sings the pre-first verse and the choruses in Mandarin.  Lyrics are:
PetiteAmie1

I may have remarked in the past that when it comes to music, I tend to pay more attention to the melody rather than the lyrics (even though it doesn’t take me long to memorize the words).  When it comes to Mandarin, though, I’m much more cognisant of the lyrics.   Basing my interpretation of this upbeat song solely on listening comprehension, the choruses struck me as quite sad.  It made me think of resignation because the words suggest that the singer is willing to settle.  I didn’t translate the verses because there is a considerable amount of Cantonese slang with which I’m unfamiliar.
PetiteAmie2

My thoughts veered from the idea of resignation as I read the lyrics of the chorus.  When Hanjin sings for a third time, where the translation begins “You say I can’t lose myself,” the character for “You” is the masculine version of the pronoun.  When refering to a female “you,” there is a “female” character on the left which lets a reader know the “you” is female.  Compare with masculine and feminine forms of third-person pronouns:
PetiteAmie3

I took a break from thinking about the song to eat and watch some of the 2011 USA Sevens Collegiate Rugby Championship on NBC (Army beat Navy 19 to 15!).  Amidst mastication and realizing that both Army and Navy’s rugby teams are much more pleasing to the eye than their football teams, it dawned on me that the meaning behind “Girlfriend” is ambiguous.

Assuming the speaker is male (because the actual artists are male), then the addresse is male–because of the masculine form of “you” used in the “second” chorus.  What is the speaker saying then?  He’s in love with a girl who treats him like a girl, who might as well pretend he is a girl, and he accepts this emasculating role because her family likes him?  Because he must have her in his life no matter the conditions? Meanwhile, there’s a guy out there that wants the speaker to be his maid of honor (or bridesmaid), his girl because they are lovers?

Does the song make sense if the speaker were a female, maybe a tomboy?  The masculine “you” wants her to be his girl?  That makes no sense either…unless the “you” were a tomboy.  Then, it would make a lot of sense because masculine/feminine forms of pronouns notwithstanding, the players are lesbians.  These unknowns made me think of Skye Sweetnam’s song “It Sucks,” which can be read as being about girl-on-girl romance (and various permutations involving a boy).  Lyrics:

It’s just simple kissing
No one has to ever know
What she doesnt know won’t hurt her
As long as I don’t let it show
And we’ll keep it just between us
Bottled up inside
Just our little secret
I’ll be playing dumb and acting shy

Goin crazy for a week
(crazy for a week)
Your Girlfriend’s gonna freak
(she’s gonna freak)
Because I know that I’d be freaking too
Cause that’s the thing that girlfriends do
It’s so frustrating you’re not the type that I should be dating
No matter where i go or what I do
It sucks cause I wanna be with you you you you
Found a lame excuse to call you

Just to hear you on the phone
Talked a million miles an hour
Pretending we were all alone
And if only for a moment
It felt like you were really mine
But no one wants a cheater
Even if the boy is fine

Goin crazy for a week
(crazy for a week)
Your Girlfriend’s gonna freak
(she’s gonna freak)
Because I know that id be freaking too
Cause that’s the thing that girlfriends do
It’s so frustrating you’re not the type that I should be dating
No matter where i go or what I do
It sucks cause I wanna be with you you you you you you you you.
04

Yes, I know, there I go over-thinking on trivial matters.

3 thoughts on “Speaker Ambiguity

  1. Philippe

    In *The Fish and the Bird* by Mark Knopfler (formerly of Dire Straits) I always wonder if the “I” in the song is male or female.

    I’m now inclined to think that the “I” is male. Que penses-tu?

    When I gave my heart to a tinker boy
    He said a fish could love a swallow
    And I will go with my travelling man
    Wherever he goes I will follow

    He will mend your pots and pans
    Your kitchen knives he’ll take and sharpen
    Then I’ll be gone with my travelling man
    And never more your doorway darken

    The fish and the bird who fall in love
    Will find no place to build a home in
    The fish and the bird who fall in love
    Are bound forever to go roaming……

    Reply
    1. sittingpugs Post author

      Mmm, tinker boy as opposed to a tinker bell.
      Is the “you” a male or female?

      I’m reminded of Andrew Marvell’s poem The Definition of Love, particularly the last two stanzas:

      VII.
      As lines, so love’s oblique, may well
      Themselves in every angle greet :
      But ours, so truly parallel,
      Though infinite, can never meet.

      VIII.
      Therefore the love which us doth bind,
      But Fate so enviously debars,
      Is the conjunction of the mind,
      And opposition of the stars.

      Reply
  2. sekanblogger

    I read a Ray Davies interview where he and his battling brother are actually negotiating a truce.
    What does that have to do with your post?
    If they achieve a truce, they may return again as “The Kinks”, and as such, they can certainly add to or help explain any gender-based oddly provocative lyrics.
    So…..we got that going for us.

    Reply

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