Shut out, pimpled and angry.
I quietly tied all my guts into knots.
gave up on trying to make them,
I figured it'd take them too long to look up and besides...

it was undeniably clear to me, I don't know why
when every other part of life seemed locked behind shutters
I knew the worthless dregs we've always been.

lucked out and found my favorite records
lying in wait at the Birmingham mall.
the songs that I heard,
the occasional book
were the only fun I ever took.
and I got on with making myself.

Yeah the trick is just making yourself
but when they're parking their cars on your chest
you've still got a view of the summer sky
to make it hurt twice when your restless body
caves to its whims
and suddenly struggles to take flight...

Three thousand miles north east
I left all my friends at the morning bus stop shaking their heads.
"what kind of life you dream of? you're allergic to love."
yes I know but I must say in my own defense
it's been undeniable dear to me, I don't know why
when every other part of life seemed locked behind shutters
I knew the worthless dregs we are,
the selfless, loving saints we are,
the melting, sliding dice we've always been.


Lyrics submitted by rudegirl, edited by Ryuhza

Know Your Onion! song meanings
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77 Comments

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  • +3
    General Comment"Know your Onion!"
    shut out, pimpled and angry.
    i quietly tied all my guts into knots.
    gave up on trying to make them,
    i figured it'd take them too long to look up and besides...
    [This is Mercer describing his teenage years: introverted, frustrated, and discovering his own intelligence. The first real chapter of his life, he is rejected and ridiculed by his peers for being himself. He probably tried to convince everyone that there were more important things in life, but he eventually gave up because it only got him in more trouble.]

    it was undeniably clear to me, i don't know why
    when every other part of life seemed locked behind shutters
    i knew what worthless dregs we've always been
    [At some point in his life, he had an epiphany for whatever reason. It seemed, to Mercer, that most kids and conforming teenagers have a pretty worthless existance because they can't see any of the valuable parts of life (they're all "locked behind shutters"). All they can see is popularity and apperances and petty nonsense.]

    lucked out and found my favorite records
    lying in wait at the birmingham mall.
    the songs the i heard,
    the occasional book
    were the only fun i ever took.
    and i got on with making myself.
    the trick is just making yourself.
    [I can relate to this because I remember the first time I bought my first CD and realized how much music could help me. Mercer catches a break from the frustration of school when he starts going to the mall and finding his interests. He slowly begins to get an idea of what lies behind the shutters as he reads books and listens to records, so he decides to keep heading in that direction and "making himself" into the person he wants to be: a musician. "The trick", he says, "is forcing yourself to put up with the BS in the meantime".]

    but when they're parking their cars on your chest
    you've still got a view of the summer sky
    to make it hurt twice when your restless body
    caves to its whims
    and suddenly struggles to take flight...

    [Mercer is now talking directly to the listener about the difficulties of trying to fulfill your dreams. He's saying that whenever life gets hard and you're discouraged and nobody believes in you, just keep your eye on your dreams and take pride in doing so. This section is one of of Mercer's infamous "epitaphs" , it reminds the listener that there will always be setbacks, but that they should never give up.]

    three thousand miles north east
    i left all my friends at the morning bus stop shaking their heads.
    "what kind of life you dream of? you're allergic to love."
    yes i know but i must say in my own defense

    [He finally understands what it is he needs to do to fulfill his dreams, so he packs his things and moves far away from his hometown and his past life. His friends think he's crazy and he'll never make it work, but he says that it's something he just has to do and he doesn't care if it works or not]

    it's been undeniable dear to me, i don't know why
    when every other part of life seemed locked behind shutters
    i knew the worthless dregs we are,
    the selfless, loving saints we are,
    the melting, sliding dice we've always been.

    [It's incredibly important to him to find himself, though he has no idea why. When everything else in his life seemed out of reach and he finally grew up a little, he realized how worthless, how selfless, how loving, and how multi-faceted we are as human beings. Like the myriad layers of an onion.]
    rebelquietlyon March 31, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI love the little voice "What kind of life you dream of? you're allergic to love" :)
    brisweeton June 23, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti concur, this song is about someone trying to find themself. i think that mercer used the term "onion" instead of "yourself". refering to the movie shrek again, onions have many layers. this song states that a person has many "layers" as well, and the song describes them.
    DisappearCompletelyon January 17, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI didn't initially see the masturbation thing, I have to admit, I have to thank this site for that. While part of the song may indeed be about masturbation, the whole song is not about masturbation. It is only part of it, if that is indeed what Mercer meant by these lyrics...

    "the songs the i heard,
    the occasional book
    were the only fun i ever took.
    and i got on with making myself.
    the trick is just making yourself."

    The Shins seem to be a pretty philosophical band, a lot of their songs seem to be about human nature, and humans questioning themselves and there existence on earth. There is a lot of that in this song and a lot of their other songs as well.

    I think it's somewhat demeaning and dismissive to say that this whole song is about masturbation. There is a bigger picture in the whole song and that is highlighted in these lyrics...

    i knew the worthless dregs we are,
    the selfless, loving saints we are,
    the melting, sliding dice we've always been.
    bakismakion February 19, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think this song is about being an introvert for the most part, but you do want to be in love. But in the meantime you have to occupy yourself. Thi is sort of how I feel. I live in california and I often contemplate about taking an train to Maine for a month in hopes of finding something or someone, but realistically I may just be more alone. Knowing your onion just means understand yourself cause once you undertand yourself you can correctly cope with conundrums in your life.
    Allergictt2greenon May 14, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song is incredible. nuff said.
    phobos258on August 01, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Commentindeed
    poisonawellon March 09, 2003   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI love this song. LOVE IT. My favorite line is "three thousand miles north east
    i left all my friends at the morning bus stop shaking their heads.
    'what kind of life you dream of? you're allergic to love.' "
    Aaah! Lovin.
    prettylittlethingon April 26, 2003   Link
  • 0
    General CommentBest Shins song I've heard so far. The "what kind of life you dream of? you're allergic to love" part is so super rad and cute. I love love love.
    Star Slighton April 28, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song is my life.
    elodieon September 18, 2004   Link

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