In the fields of the lord
Stood Abel and Cain
Cain slew Abel 'neath the black rain
At night he couldn't stand the guilt or the blame
So he gave it a name
So he gave it a name
So he gave it a name

Billy got drunk, angry at his wife
He hit her once, he hit her twice
At night he'd lie in bed, he couldn't stand the shame
So he gave it a name
So he gave it a name
So he gave it a name

Pa told me "Son, one thing I know is true
Poison snake bites you, you're poison too"*
At night I can feel that poison runnin' 'round my veins

* Pete Dexter, Paris Trout

Lyrics submitted by oofus

Gave It A Name song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentTo me, two themes come through in this song.

    First - as represented by the first two verses - the two characters (Cain and Billy) have done something wrong. They then try and rationalise their actions by "giving it a name" to make them feel better. For example, Billy tells his wife that he would not have hit her if she had not criticised him. By rationalising his actions in this way, he is able to pass the blame, and therefore deal with the shame.

    Second - represented by the final verse - really gets at the idea that humans are a product of our environment. If your experience is observing people that pass the blame then it is likely that you too will go through life passing the blame. Which is poisioness.

    Great song!
    Cassackon January 02, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song has mystified me for years. Still does. I suppose Cassack's interpretation is as good as anyone's. But I'll submit a thought, though I admittedly don't really know. There might be a clue to the first two verses in the third verse (again, maybe).
    "Poison snake bites you, you're poisoned too."
    Given that the first verse is the first story in the Bible after "The Fall", and records the first sins of man after "the fall", it might be that "The Fall", or "sin", is the name. Bruce was fascinated with this idea and the theme shows up in several of his songs. The most direct is obviously "Adam Raised a Cain". He gives his own summary of Genesis 3 with... "we're born into this life paying for the sins of somebody else's past."
    Perhaps in "Gave it a Name", Bruce is submitting that we still have choices, and can make the right ones. That's why the guy in the last verse can feel the poison the running in his veins, but he hasn't yet done anything like kill his brother or beat up his wife.

    Again, this song is one of, if not the, most mystifying of all Bruce songs. I'm just guessing.
    Rayburnon February 13, 2012   Link

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