A distant ship smoke on the horizon

amirmg

Senior Member
Farsi
Well, certainly most of you listened to the famous song by Pink Floyd called Comfortably Numb.
Today I was reading its lyrics, and surprisingly I found a grammatical mistake.

A distant ship smoke on the horizon
Comfortably Numb lyrics - The Wall Lyrics - Pink Floyd Lyrics

As far as I am concerned, an 's' has been omitted at the end of the smoke.
A distant ship smokes on the horizon.

Do you agree with me?

Thanks,
Amir
 
  • S1m0n

    Senior Member
    English
    I have always heard it as "A distant ship's smoke on the horizon". Smoke gets the stress, so a missing ~s would be more obvious there. And the 's of "ship's" would easily blend into the start of "smoke".
    And as an image, it's even more remote: the ship itself is below the horizon: all of it that can be seen is the smoke rising above.
     

    amirmg

    Senior Member
    Farsi
    I have always heard it as "A distant ship's smoke on the horizon". Smoke gets the stress, so a missing ~s would be more obvious there. And the 's of "ship's" would easily blend into the start of "smoke".
    And as an image, it's even more remote: the ship itself is below the horizon: all of it that can be seen is the smoke rising above.
    Well, let me listen to it again o_O
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Back around the time of WWI, ships were starting to be powered by steam-driven turbines. You probably could see the steam before you could see the ship. It seems odd that Pink Floyd would reference something that ancient, so perhaps this is not what is being described.

    The Lusitania was an early example of a steam-drive turbine ship.

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    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    That's what I hear, too. The lyrics page I looked at shows a comma after ship (no s). But there can't be a comma there if he is singing "ship's".
     

    LVRBC

    Senior Member
    English-US, standard and medical
    Lyrics pages are notoriously inaccurate. I have seen some amazing mistakes. I would just assume that what is being sung makes sense in terms of the song.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Back around the time of WWI, ships were starting to be powered by steam-driven turbines. You probably could see the steam before you could see the ship. It seems odd that Pink Floyd would reference something that ancient, so perhaps this is not what is being described...
    This would be even more true of steamships before turbines came into use, since they made at least as much smoke and moved more slowly. Their smoke would be visible for even longer before the ship came into view. However, I think the song is about the concept of seeing distant smoke, not about the specifics.
     

    amirmg

    Senior Member
    Farsi
    This would be even more true of steamships before turbines came into use, since they made at least as much smoke and moved more slowly. Their smoke would be visible for even longer before the ship came into view. However, I think the song is about the concept of seeing distant smoke, not about the specifics.
    Could not agree more, but my point was about the grammatical point of that phrase.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    US English
    Lyrics pages are notoriously inaccurate. I have seen some amazing mistakes. I would just assume that what is being sung makes sense in terms of the song.
    I think the problem is that song lyrics are "poetry", not "prose". Grammar rules are for prose (complete sentences).

    A distant ship smoke on the horizon
    If this was prose this would be a noun phrase, not a sentence, and ship's smoke might be correct. But the unchanged phrase could be correct in some sentences. For example:

    I see a distant ship smoke on the horizon. :tick:

    In this sentence "smoke" is a verb. "I see a distant ship that is smoking." So the issue of "grammar correctness" depends on the sentence.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    This would be even more true of steamships before turbines came into use, since they made at least as much smoke and moved more slowly. Their smoke would be visible for even longer before the ship came into view. However, I think the song is about the concept of seeing distant smoke, not about the specifics.
    When I think of steamships I think of river paddle boats. You are probably correct. On the ocean you would see the smoke before you saw the ship, especially if it were in the far horizon.

    I just looked online and the Fairsky was the last cruise ship powered by steam and it was launched in 1984. That surprised me. I would not have thought it would be that modern. The QE2 (Cunard Line) was an oil-fired steamship commissioned in 1969. Not so very long ago.

    I mentioned the steamship, but I have no idea that the ships were being referenced. It was just a guess.

    Of course, all nuclear submarines are steam-powered, so that would be newer yet.
     

    amirmg

    Senior Member
    Farsi
    I think the problem is that song lyrics are "poetry", not "prose". Grammar rules are for prose (complete sentences).


    If this was prose this would be a noun phrase, not a sentence, and ship's smoke might be correct. But the unchanged phrase could be correct in some sentences. For example:

    I see a distant ship smoke on the horizon. :tick:

    In this sentence "smoke" is a verb. "I see a distant ship that is smoking." So the issue of "grammar correctness" depends on the sentence.
    :thank you:
     

    S1m0n

    Senior Member
    English
    If you're singing into a microphone, sibilants are always a problem, because many mics pick up the hiss much better than other sounds, so they tend to jump out as being louder. One solution is to move the mic (or the mouth) farther away when singing ess sounds, but I imagine that swallowing part of a double ess caused by adjacent words is another solution.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Do they emit a big cloud of steam, visible for tens of miles? o_O
    Actually, they don't emit any steam. Water circulation in a ship's nuclear reactor takes place in two closed systems. In one, the water gets very hot but doesn't boil because it's under pressure. In the other, the water boils into steam to power the turbine, but then condenses again inside the system. No steam, or water for that matter, gets out.
     

    LVRBC

    Senior Member
    English-US, standard and medical
    The problem is not so much that lyrics are poetry, but that there are many, many sites online that print lyrics as heard and supplied by the fans and site users, not all of whom get the words right.
     
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