What is the entertainment industry’s fascination with broken arrows? Rod Stewart puts his listener on the line, demanding to know “Who else is going to bring you a broken arrow?” Another song just playing now informs their interlocutors that they’ve “lost the will to live, like a broken arrow.” The fiction movie “Broken Arrow” used the words as code for a stolen nuclear weapon. On the other hand, in the film “We were soldiers” (based on the battles fought by the 7th Cavalry in the Ia Drang valley in Vietnam) the term was a code requesting air support and so seems to have historical validity.

But what does the phrase mean? What is its etymology? Did native Americans originally use it as a sign of peace, surrender, or as a request for help? In any other form a broken arrow is singularly useless, even as a back scratcher. Who would want a broken arrow? The Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Projectile Missiles? Moreover, if an arrow was broken, it has lost its purpose in life – no wonder it has lost its will to live; who could blame it? Nevertheless, no fletcher of my acquaintance considers an arrow to be a sentient entity. Thus, the term seems to be another abomination excreted from people who appear to think that lyrics written under inspiration obviate the need for editing.

Whoever writes such tripe should suffer the same fate as the audiences who have to listen to it. So for example, if the bank writes to tell them that they have an overdraft, the letter should read something like this:

# Baby baby, oh my dear,
I’ll never say goodbye.

I call to the clouds to find you,
the moon answers that you fly;
only you can fill my deepest need:
your sunset sparks my eye alight.

[chorus]
I need you for my life,
I’ll feel it when you touch the earth.
I’ll never say goodbye.
O no, no, no; yeah baby.

The interpretation:

Baby baby, oh my dear, [Dear valued client,]
I’ll never say goodbye. [First and final notice.]

I call to the clouds to find you, [we are writing to inform you …]
the moon answers that you fly; [… that for the past month your chequing account has been in deficit.]
only you can fill my deepest need: [We regret that this deficit will incur a monthly handling and maintenance fee until the account is in credit …]
your sunset sparks my eyes alight. [… and any costs arising from dishonoured cheques and payments will be debited from your account.]

[chorus]
I need you for my life, [We appreciate you calling us at your earliest convenience to arrange a meeting with our loans officer within the next two weeks. Failing this, we require you to give satisfactory assurances of your intent to repair this situation …]
I’ll feel it when you touch the earth. [… otherwise we will initiate legal proceedings to recover the outstanding amount.]
I’ll never say goodbye. [op. cit.; We remain your obedient servants,]
O no, no, no; yeah baby. [Yours truly,
Givsnaught & Co.
Your friendly bank.
]

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