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Charli XCX and the Ambiguity of English

Posted in Language, and Music

In “Fancy,” by Iggy Azalea, ft. Charli XCX, Ms. XCX sings:

I’m in the fast lane

from L.A. to Tokyo

Just in case future anthropologists or archaeologists stumble across this line and are confused, I would like to take this opportunity to point out that there is no fast lane from L.A. to Tokyo in the year 2014. There are no lanes or roads at all connecting California (and hence the continent of North America) to Japan, whether over the Pacific Ocean by bridge, or under it by tunnel. It may become possible in the future, but at the time of the song’s recording and release to the public, one cannot drive from Los Angeles to Tokyo.

By saying the foregoing, I do not mean to accuse Ms. XCX of lying, however. The term “from L.A. to Tokyo” is meant to modify not the extent of the fast lane in question, but the extent of Ms. XCX’s being in a fast lane. She is claiming that there are fast lanes in cities all over the world (whether this is true is something I will not venture to guess), and that whenever she is in one of these cities, you will find her driving in the fast lane (rather than any of the others). When she is in L.A., one will find her in the fast lane. When she is in Tokyo, one will also find her in the fast lane. No doubt the same would be true if one wished to meet her while she was in Sydney, Mumbai, or Paris.

That English can tolerate ambiguities like this makes it a lot of fun to think about, and a pain in the neck to try to understand.

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