a verse from "Born in the USA"

Hi,

What can you make of this verse from the famous song “born in the USA”:
(I can’t seem to make head or tail of it, could you tell me at least what it is vaguely about?)
The synopsis of the song is that a guy came home from the Vietnam war and tried to rehabilitate himself.

What does “gas fires” mean?
What does “I’m ten years burning down the road” mean ?

Thanks in advance! :slight_smile:

I suppose “gas fires” are those flames you see coming out of some pipes that stick up at refineries. They must be burning off gas for some reason.

As for the other line, keep in mind that Bruce Springsteen’s songs don’t always make literal sense and just have to be felt.

When they do make sense, it often requires a three-page cultural treatise to explain them to someone who isn’t American.

Interesting. Can you give us some examples of such?

You can find the same expression (“burning down the road”)
here:

badgersforward.blogspot.com/2008 … -road.html
emedialive.com/Articles/Read … cleID=5127

"What I said I said to her
I’m alive when you walk that way
Can you hear what I can hear?
It’s the sound of a brand new day

She met me down a disco in a beat up car
I was burning down the road
I can be a star in my Jaguar
I need to lighten my load"

google.es/search?hl=en&q=%22 … %3Dlang_en

In my English it would literally mean driving or running very fast down the road while metaphorically, it would mean doing something with energy, vigour, well, as a leader, etc.

And there’s ghosts in the eyes of all the boys you sent away.
They haunt this dusty beach road in the skeleton frames of burnt-out Chevrolets.
They scream your name at night in the streets.
Your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet.
And in the lonely gloom before dawn, you hear their engines roarin’ on…

bla bla bla

I see. So most Americans would understand that passage right off, right? What’s it mean?

They’d get it.

What’s it mean?

Hi Alex,

As for the gas fires, I had the very same notion as Jamie

“10 years burning down the road” can mean all kinds of things, but it seems very likely he’s implying that he had been working in the refinery, and 10 years down the road (after 10 years) he felt burnt out. Metaphorically, that is.

Hi Alex

I see the line “I’m 10 years burning down the road” primarily as a reference to an American veteran of the War in Vietnam – 10 years after the war officially ended. To me, the suggestion is that since he returned, “he has gone (and is still going) nowhere fast” (especially in combination with the following line).
.

I think this verse shows he couldn’t get a job at the refinery:

[i]Come back home to the refinery
Hiring man says “Son if it was up to me”
Went down to see my V.A. man
He said “Son, don’t you understand”


Down in the shadow of the penitentiary[/i]

I think this means that he fears he will be driven to break the law, once more (note he talks about “getting into a little hometown jam” - the reason he was sent off to war in the first place).

Fair point. The song was written in 1984, so that’d make perfect sense in connection with the Vietnam War.

It is, in fact, an anti-war song.

Americans, can you tell me what this means?

And there’s ghosts in the eyes of all the boys you sent away.
They haunt this dusty beach road in the skeleton frames of burnt-out Chevrolets.
They scream your name at night in the streets.
Your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet.
And in the lonely gloom before dawn, you hear their engines roarin’ on…

Rough translation: “Americans, waste a fair bit of time preparing a paraphrase, so that I can then pick you up on some minute point and gratuitously insult your use of the present perfect for several pages…”

MrP

Mr P is busy founding “Yawnsville, USA”. Are you on Brownie points or something, Mr P?

Molly, you’ve been pounding the drum for months here advocating the idea that the distinction between native speaker and non-native speaker isn’t important. You have been claiming that what you call an “expert user” (such as you regard yourself) is equal to or better than a native speaker in language knowledge.

And yet here you are unable to interpret a simple song stanza that even the most poorly schooled American or Briton would understand. Evidently you lack the cultural competence that is necessary for full understanding of everyday English – and so you have to ask native speakers what it means.

I think this puts your argument to rest definitively.

Ah, so now you’re including Brits. Why did you exclude them in the first place and why do you exclude Aussies, New Zealanders, the Irish, for example?

First you say, “When they do make sense, it often requires a three-page cultural treatise to explain them to someone who isn’t American.” and then you accuse me of not having the cultural competence to interpret your extract. Odd contradiction.

Have a look at Nigerian writing and tell me how your cultural competence fits.

There is enough cross-over of English-language media for Americans, Brits and Australians to understand things like this.

As with many items on this forum. You spend time explaining those, why can’t you ,with you superior cultural knowledge, explain the extract you posted?