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Because there is a profound difference between writing something to be read and writing something worth reading; and in that difference might beauty be found.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

"A Bushel and a Peck"

Music and lyrics by Frank Loesser


two somethings worth two moments' thought


Something short; well, two somethings short, that have caught my mind recently, both about the lyrics to "A Bushel and a Peck."

The song is originally from the Broadway show Guys and Dolls. It is also a single by Doris Day, which is the version you presently here on television in a State Farm commercial. (Here's a Youtube of the song [link].)


My first thing:

The song plays with repeating phrases, with the repeated phrases opening up a new line. The commercial uses the second verse so I will too.

I love you a bushel and a peck
A bushel and a peck though you make my heart a wreck
Make my heart a wreck and you make my life a mess
Make my life a mess, yes a mess of happiness

The question that always popped into my mind: what would happen, if anything, if I broke the lines up?

I love you
A bushel and a peck
A bushel and a peck
Though you make my heart a wreck
Make my heart a wreck
And you make my life a mess
Make my life a mess,
Yes a mess of happiness

It might take some reading aloud to be able to read it without the music. For me there is a shift: the repeated lines now connect backwards instead of forwards. That is, where in the long lines the second "A bushel and a peck" is connected to "though you make my heart a wreck" (and it works whether its with the music or not), with the lines broken the second "A bushel and a peck" connects backwards, to the first use of the phrase. The second instance becomes an echo where before it was a leading in.

It's a little thing, but I find it interesting.


Second thing:

A bushel is only eight dry gallons, and a peck but two. So the song is saying the speaker loves the target of the song only as much as ten dry gallons. (Wikipedia tells me that a dry measure is about sixteen percent larger than its wet equivalent.)

That's not all that large an amount, really. Not when one might say "I love you tons." Yet the song works. Why? (Or maybe it no longer works for you now that you know just how big the measure is?) I believe the song works because it is not dependent on just how much the actual measure of a bushel and a peck is. Rather, the phrase "a bushel and a peck" is used merely as a lead in to other, greater things, like a life being a mess. A bushel and a peck must be representative of a lot if it is measured against a wrecked heart and a messed up life.

I find that interesting. The verse did not need to commit to large amounts to speak large amounts. It could use something relatively small, but a something that connects – through the aural play – to larger things.

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