Float like a cannonball

esl1

Member
Chinese
Hello. I came across this song.
Stones taught me to fly
Love taught me to lie
Life taught me to die
So it's not hard to fall
When you float like a cannonball
I would like to know whether the final line is talking about floating in the air or in a liquid (i.e., sea or lake).
To float usually means being on the surface of a liquid. Doesn't it?
 
  • tracer2

    Senior Member
    US English
    Actually, it doesn't matter. A cannonball (of course), cannot "float" in the air or in a liquid. I personally think he means "liquid" (water), but as I said, both liquid and air would have the same result......the cannonball would sink (liquid)/fall (air).....no floating allowed.
     

    esl1

    Member
    Chinese
    @tracer2 Thank you. Yes that is a good point. May I ask (if you do not mind) why you personally think he means "liquid"? It does matter to me because this song is poetic and I want to understand its imagery. I think it would "float" for a few seconds at least before going down.
     

    tracer2

    Senior Member
    US English
    Ok. "Float" (in my mind) means sort of bobbing up and down.......like a feather or a piece of paper (in the air) or a piece of wood (in the water). No matter what you do, a cannonball cannot "bob" either in the air or the water (except, if you want to get technical, perhaps for a tiny and imperceptible nano-second.)
    Bottom line: almost certainly, the author has a cannonball floating on water in mind. (What he means, of course, is the cannonball cannot float in the water).
     
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    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    As said above, I think it makes absolutely no difference and no choice needs to be made. I'm not sure one was even pictured. A cannonball drops immediately due to its weight, no matter where you put it, unless it's on top of another heavy, solid object.
     

    esl1

    Member
    Chinese
    @tracer2 @kentix @ain'ttranslationfun?
    Thanks but I am sorry I am still not sure. It makes a huge difference on how I understand this song.
    If it means floating on "water" then it gives me an image of drowning and suffocating.
    If it means floating in the "air" then it gives me an image of fatally crashing to the ground.

    When the cannonball is fired and makes a trajectory, it may look like it is staying in the air doesn't it before it starts going down. It may not bob up and down but can we say that it is "floating" metaphorically?

    1652568176739.png
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    "When you float like a cannonball"

    Cannonballs don't float in any normal circumstances on earth. It's like saying when you fly like an elephant. It's an absent characteristic. You are not supposed to picture it. It's a metaphor for abject failure. A cannonball only plummets (through both air and water).
     

    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    So the meaning is "when you sink".
    Exactly! However there is more to it.

    It really means "When you are a person who habitually sinks"

    it's not hard to fall
    When you [are the sort of person who always]
    float(s) like a cannonball

    This is hyperbole and, you could consider it a form of irony. The statement "I float like a cannonball", is a humorous and self-deprecating remark that means "I always sink/fall".

    Example

    - I will teach you to swim
    - But I will sink to the bottom of the pool!
    - Nonsense; everyone can float
    - I'm telling you, I float about as well as a cannonball!
    (This is of course hyperbole, but it gets the message across)
    - I promise you, you will not sink - I have been teaching swimming for many years

    Anecdote
    A friend of mine was a scuba diver. He actually had neutral buoyancy when wearing his equipment, and so, unlike most divers, he did not have to wear a weighted belt. I think it had to do with bone density and muscle mass.
     
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