Welcome to the Song Bar’s newest section. We love the lyrical lexicon here at the Bar and alongside the main thematic Song Blog, from which playlists are created, as well as Song of the Day, weekly Album review roundups, and the very occasional pets and other animals, this is a Tuesday side dish where readers can explore and also add their own examples. This section highlights unusual words or, sometimes phrases that appear in song lyrics. They might be chosen for their oddness, obscurity, and perhaps especially for their musicality. Typically, we’re not going to do the obvious thing, starting with A of alphabet, but zoom straight to the letter Z.
Zephyr comes from the late Old English word zefferus, denoting a personification of the west wind, via Latin from Greek Zephuros ‘(god of the) west wind’, a meaning dating from the late 17th century and sometimes with an animal, with Geoffrey Chaucer describing '“his swete breeth” in his Prologue the the Canterbury tales, and Shakespeare, in Cymbeline, mentioning it like this: "Thou divine Nature, thou thyself thou blazon'st / In these two princely boys! They are as gentle / As zephyrs blowing below the violet."
But it also has other senses – a fine, light, gingham cotton, or light article of clothing, a Зефи́р, which in English also be spelled zefir or zephir, is a type of Russian soft confectionery made by whipping apple and berry purée with sugar and egg whites with pectin, carrageenan, agar, or gelatine. It has also been used as an alternative word for large inflatable airships, also known as blimps, or zeppelins, fictional characters in comics and video games, or space ships. There are several songs using it with it in the title, a Scottish indie band called The Zephyrs, and in song lyrics, aside from breeze, it appears to be most commonly used in the context of cars or motorbikes, the automobile Ford-Zephyr or Lincoln-Zephyr, or the two-wheeled Kawasaki-Zephyr. It’s a wondefully onomatopoeic word that is satisfying to hear, speak and say, expressing style and speed.
This section, as with the others, is all about sharing musical knowledge and mutual enrichment, so feel free to add your own examples of zephyr in song lyrics or anything else about it. Just to start things off, here are a few examples.
Madonna - Ray of Light
Zephyr in the sky at night I wonder
Do my tears of morning sink beneath the sun
She's got herself a universe gone quickly
For the call of thunder threatens everyone
Frank Sinatra - Home On The Range
Where the air is so pure and the zephyrs so free
And the breezes so balmy and light
That I would not exchange my home on the range
For all of the cities so bright
Bill Callahan – Rococo Zephyr
She lay beside me like a branch from a tender willow tree
I was as still, as still as a river could be
When a rococo zephyr swept over her and me
Hank Williams - California Zephyr
In the distance hear her moanin'
Hear her lonesome whistle scream
It's the California Zephyr
The Union Pacific Queen
Mary Chapin Carpenter - Zephyr
'Cause I'm a zephyr on the inside
And it's a hard ride when you feel yourself tied down
But there's no tether, on a zephyr
Split Enz – Giant Heartbeat
Feel like a Zephyr harmonizing with a flute
Notes are rising in familiar twos and threes
Time of yearning is the same at any age
Back is bending and the sky is growing pale
St Vincent – Cruel
You were the one waving flares in the air so they could see you
And they were a zephyr, blowing past ya,
Blowing fastly so they can see ya
Cruel, cruel, oh, cruel, cruel, oh
Ian Dury / Kilburn & The High-Roads - Upminster Kid
When I was fifteen I had a black crepe jacket and sideboards to my chin
I used to go around in a two-tone Zephyr with a mean and nasty grin
Twelve-inch bottoms on my stardust flares and socks of dazzling green
Want to suggest other examples of this word in song lyrics, or other unusual words or contexts? Does this song make you think of something else? Then feel free to comment below, on the contact page, or on social media: Song Bar Twitter, Song Bar Facebook. Song Bar YouTube. Please subscribe, follow and share.
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