Wouldn't ever gag you with a spoon, my only true love
Never really heard you speak that way, it's unworthy of
Funny how that little college girl called language corrupt
Funny how the other private schools had no Hapa Club

Someone took a trip before you came to ski in the Alps
Your father moved across the country
Just to sunburn his scalp
Contra Costa, Contra Mundum, contradict what I say
Living like the French Connection, but we'll die in LA

Blasted from a disconnected light switch
Through the condo that they'll never finish
Bounced across a Saudi satellite dish
And through your brain to California English

No one sits inside a freezing flat and stays there 'til May
Leafing through a stack of A-Zs to surf the UK
Waiting with the wind against your face
And gel in your hair
Shivering in little undershirts, but don't seem to care

Blasted from a disconnected light switch
Through the condo that they'll never finish
Bounced across a Saudi satellite dish
And through your brain to California English

Sweet carob rice cake
She don't care how the sweets taste
Fake Philly cheese steak
But she use real toothpaste

'Cause if that Tom's don't work
If it just makes you worse
Would you loose all of you faith in the good Earth?

And if it's all a curse
And we're just getting worse
Baby, please don't lose your faith in the good earth

Blasted from a disconnected light switch
Through the condo that they'll never finish
Bounced across a Saudi satellite dish
And through your brain to California English

Blasted from a disconnected light switch
Through the condo that they'll never finish
Bounced across a Saudi satellite dish
And through your brain to California English


Lyrics submitted by mchrissee, edited by dodgerblue, Peachre

California English song meanings
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26 Comments

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  • +4
    My InterpretationSome tidbits:
    A Hapa Club is a club for people "of mixed Asian or Pacific Islander racial/ethnic heritage." (Wikipedia)

    The chorus seems to be about the entertainment industry. The "condo that they'll never finish" is most likely a sound stage, built to resemble a home but with walls missing so the cameras can film. The final product, then, is beamed around the world by means including "a Saudi satellite dish" spreading California culture.

    I'm absolutely in the dark about what the "Blasted from a disconnected light switch" bit might be about, though.
    sofauxbohoon January 15, 2010   Link
  • +3
    My InterpretationFurthermore, here's what Mike Powell at Pitchfork has to say:
    "Take "California English": "Sweet carob rice cakes, you don't care how the sweets taste/ Fake Philly cheesesteak but you use real toothpaste/ 'Cause if that Tom's don't work, if it just makes you worse/ Would you still lose all of your faith in the good earth?" In other words, what if all the products and symbols that gave your life meaning-- and status-- fell away? What if you replaced the organic toothpaste with Colgate? (Which still "says something" about you, namely "I don't have the time, inclination, or money to give a shit about toothpaste.") Would life still look as rosy?"
    From: pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/13807-contra/
    sofauxbohoon January 15, 2010   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI'm from the UK so I thought I might be able to shed some light on this verse:

    No one sits inside a freezing flat and stays there �til May
    Leafing through a stack of A-Zs to surf the UK
    Waiting with the wind against your face
    And gel in your hair
    Shivering in little undershirts, but don't seem to care

    "Flat" is definitely referring to the British colloquial term for apartment, also summer doesn't even begin to start in britain until after april when the so called "april showers" have finished so most people re-engage in outdoor activities after april, this is obviously thought of as outmoded or uncool by the character who says that "no-one" does that any more

    A-Zs are a popular brand of street maps in the UK, Surf is probably referring to the internet term "surf" so perhaps they are saying that the person in question is stuck in the internet age and even though they are looking through physical atlases they see it as merely "surfing" a Country

    "Waiting with the wind against your face
    And gel in your hair
    Shivering in little undershirts, but don't seem to care"

    Since the uk reference has run in this verse we could assume that it carried on through through the last bit as well,so , anyone who has been to the uk will know that it's windy, no doubt, and a lot of people wear gel in their hair, but most importantly nearly every young male in the country will still wear jeans and a t-shirt even when it's freezing outside,

    To me this verse looks like a comment on British culture and perhaps how it too has been influenced by the "Californian English" that has swept the world, after all, people wouldn't be strutting around in a t-shirt with gel in their hair on a freezing day if they didn't see people doing it on American TV shows/Adverts etc..

    this makes sense as the band have toured the uk several times.
    jdrobboon January 29, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General CommentFigured the "Saudi dish" part out. Earlier in the song it talks about how "her" father moved east to sun burn his scalp. They probably saw California through some media in Saudi Arabia and moved to Cali. Just a thought
    Buttpirating101on January 20, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentLet's go line by line.
    The song is simultaneously celebrating and making fun of California stereotypes.


    Wouldn�t ever gag you with a spoon, my only true love
    ((San Fernando) Valley Girl speak - Gag me with a spoon! = I'm disgusted by something)

    Never really heard you speak that way, it�s unworthy of�
    (Song is addressed to a girl from California who doesn't fit the Valley Girl stereotype - Shallow/Stupid)

    Funny how that little college girl called language corrupt

    Funny how the other private schools had no Hapa Club
    (Presumably private schools/colleges outside of California (and probably Hawaii) don't have enough of a Hapa (people of mixed Asian or Pacific Islander racial/ethnic heritage) population to have a club.


    Someone took a trip before you came to ski in the Alps
    (She is probably financially well-off - flying to Europe to ski the alps is not cheap)

    Your father moved across the country just to sunburn his scalp
    (Her family was initially from the East - most likely NY)

    Contra Costa, Contra Mundum, contradict what I say
    (Contra Costa - a County in Northern California just outside of San Francisco - the name is Spanish for "Opposite Coast" - Contra Mundum - literally means Against the World)

    Living like the French Connection, but we�ll die in LA
    (The French Connection is a film with Gene Hackman that takes place in NYC - they're living in New York but plan on retiring in Los Angeles)

    Blasted from a disconnected light switch
    Through the condo that they�ll never finish
    (Seems to describe their living situation in California - no electricity and an unfinished apartment)

    Bounced across a Saudi satellite dish
    And through your brain to California English
    (This baffles me :)



    No one sits inside a freezing flat and stays there �til May
    (Again - their living situation - it's freezing cause the heat is disconnected)

    Leafing through a stack of A-Zs to surf the UK
    (?)

    Waiting with the wind against your face and gel in your hair
    Shivering in little undershirts, but don�t seem to care

    Blasted from a disconnected light switch
    Through the condo that they�ll never finish
    Bounced across a Saudi satellite dish
    And through your brain to California English

    Sweet carob rice cake
    (Carob is a naturally sweet "health-food" alternative to chocolate)
    She don�t care how the sweets taste
    Fake Philly cheese steak
    (Fake Philly cheese steak = Vegan or Vegetarian version)
    But she use real toothpaste

    Cuz if that Tom�s don�t work
    (Tom's refers to Tom's of Maine - a company that manufactures organic non animal tested natural hygiene products including toothpaste)
    If it just makes you worse
    Would you loose all of you faith in the good Earth
    (I think the Pitchfork article referenced above does a good job of analyzing this part)

    And if it�s all a curse
    And we�re just getting worse
    Baby, please don�t lose your faith in the good earth

    Blasted from a disconnected light switch
    Through the condo that they�ll never finish
    Bounced across a Saudi satellite dish
    And through your brain to California English
    mobiusstripon January 16, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"bounced across a Saudi Satellite Dish - through your brain to California English"

    My take on the satellite dish reference is actually that its a reference to cell phones. To me, I imagine this young and relatively intelligent, well-spoken college girl from the east coast whose vernacular is being corrupted by the 'california english' being spoken around her in her new LA locale. What better image than this corruption happening via cell phone - the language (like everything else in modern society) is sent via text and cell calls, bounced across a satellite dish (which I believe is noted as 'Saudi' for political and societal implications), and enters her brain to form "California English." God knows texting is ruining our language as it is -- adding a valley-girl bent to it only worsens the degradation! ((no offense to Cali folks!))

    I agree with most of mobiusstrip's line-by-line breakdown, and I thought I could possibly fill in that blank. Just my opinion of course!
    divineaverageon September 29, 2010   Link
  • +1
    My Interpretationto P456 - I actually do think that the phrase "good earth" might be a reference to Pearl Buck's novel The Good Earth. This might be total over-analyzation on my part, but one of the novel's underlying themes is the notion that fortune and wealth are culturally destructive. This fits really nicely with the theme of the song itself; "California English" is about the degradation of language, issues of money/fame, and the de-evolution of American culture. I don't think this is that great of a leap -- besides, the phrase "good earth" isn't really something people say often, as simple as the words might seem.

    Glad someone else thought of the novel -- once I gave it some deeper thought it actually kinda made sense!
    divineaverageon September 30, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt's definitely "Freedom rings of California English."
    FORTUNATEonlyon January 08, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"contra mundum" is a reference to evelyn waugh's "brideshead revisited" which is one of the greatest books ever. it means "against the world."
    i love that "baby please don't lose your faith in the good earth" line.
    ap0theosizeon January 08, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThese lyrics are just about dead on. Kudos. Ezra said this song wasn't an insult, but a tribute to the citizens of California. The Golden State was the inspiration behind most of the album.
    kyle16813on January 10, 2010   Link

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