Strung out on the scalpel

Discussion in 'English Only' started by moodywop, Mar 30, 2006.

  1. moodywop Banned

    Southern Italy
    Italian - Italy
    In the IE forum a translator has asked for help in interpreting the following dialogue. The context she provided is as follows: it's a conversation between two surgeons. One of the two has successfully performed open-heart surgery on someone he was stuck in a lift with(please don't shoot the messenger - I didn't write the script:) ).

    - I rocked that heart
    - Yes, you did
    - I think I'm strung out on the scalpel
    - Nothing wrong with that

    Could strung out on the scalpel mean that the surgeon derives the same thrill from performing surgery as a drug addict from a fix?

    What about I rocked that heart? Does it refer to the brilliant surgery he performed?
  2. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    That sounds very plausible.
    Not being familiar with the slang terms involved, I shouldn't really comment, but taking a look around strung out on hits, it does seem to mean that the thing you are strung out on is giving you some kind of thrill.
    Examples include strung out on - rock, music, radiohead, sex, the universe, you, ...

    I rocked that heart?
    Again, no real idea - try looking in the urban dictionary (I can't from this network).
    Here is one example that might be useful:
  3. GenJen54

    GenJen54 Senior Member

    Downright Pleasant, USA
    USA - English
    Aha! Grey's Anatomy, I see.

    "Rocked that heart" means the surgeon "rocked" when he performed the surgery. He did well. He exceeded his - and everyone else's - expectations.

    "Rock" is commonly used as a verb in AE to mean "do well."

    Student One: How did you do on the lit test?
    Student Two: I rocked (it). - said with great confidence and bravado.

    Friend One: How was the Coldplay concert last night?
    Friend Two: It rocked.

    George (the surgical resident) has confidence issues. His confidence was tested when (in an earlier episoe) he had to repair a patient's heart inside an elevator which had stuck - while receiving instructions on "how to" perform the surgery from the cardio-thorasic surgeon who was yelling the instructions down to him from the partly-opened elevator doors from the floor above. The patient lived, the scarcely-confident George was the hero for that day.

    Ah! Such drama on TV.
  4. DaleC Senior Member

    I highly doubt it. Never in the last three decades have I heard or seen "strung out" to allude anything other than distress of one sort or another.

    The phrase was born in the drug subculture, I believe. And I have always understood that the meaning was either in distress (physical or mental) for lack of a fix, or in distress from taking too much of the drug. Nowadays, it means to be in distress over a difficult, draining situation, usually one that is chronic. This is all consistent with GenJen's explanation which relies on knowledge of the TV show.

    A classic example:

    Tolling for the aching ones whose wounds cannot be nursed,
    for the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an' worse, an' for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe, an' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

    Chimes of Freedom, lyric by Bob Dylan, 1964.

    Notice that these four consecutive lines contain two phrases which were unknown to the general American public in 1964: "strung out" and "hung up". Within a few of years, almost all young people were using them. This is not to say either that Bob Dylan invented either one or was the reason for the popularity of either one.

    I am unsure of the meaning of "hung-up" in this lyric. In the 60's, it acquired the meaning of "inhibited". I am unsure that this is what it means in the song.
  5. GenJen54

    GenJen54 Senior Member

    Downright Pleasant, USA
    USA - English
    I agree and disagree. One of the challenges of dialog - particularly that of a screenplay or stage play - is you miss the visual element of "sub-text:" how the actors read lines, their actions and expressions when they are saying lines, past knowledge of characters.

    In the case of this show, George is one of a group of young surgical residents in a highly competitive program. These people CLAMOR for OR time. This is their life-blood. They would do anything to see some "action." In short, they are "addicted" to surgery.

    I agree that "strung out on the scalpel" is a drug reference which conveys the idea that these people are "addicted" to the adrenyline rush (and knowledge) surgery can give them. I agree they are also in a highly-pressured situation. I further agree they are "tired" much of the time from working long shifts.

    I don't necessarily believe their being "strung out" to have the same negative connotations that can be associated with "strung out on drugs." In their case, being "strung out on the scalpel," will lead to their (hopeful) success, not their demise.
  6. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    It is clear that the meaning of strung out on has either changed completely since 1964 (no surprise there) or has expanded in scope.

    The current examples of strung out on that I referred to in post #2 - >300,000 examples available to anyone with a search engine - are not directly drug-related, or distressed in that way. Strung out on seems to have moved into the language generally, to mean extremely fond of, dependent on, "addicted to" in the very generalised sense - indeed it seems that I could say that I am strung out on WordReference and be smack in the middle of the current usage (perhaps smack was an unfortunate word to use in this context).

    A random song from the search:
  7. moodywop Banned

    Southern Italy
    Italian - Italy
    Thank you very much for your help, GenJen, Panji and DaleC.

    GenJen, I'm impressed! You were able to trace back the lines to an episode of Grey's Anatomy based on just a little bit of context.

    Now I can see why some lines don't make any sense in the dubbed versions of American TV series. Script translators must have a hard time translating lines such as these.
  8. DaleC Senior Member

    Wow. I would be the first to admit that for some years now I have grown increasingly out of touch with American popular culture. But I didn't realize how far I've gone in that direction.
  9. cirrus

    cirrus Senior Member

    Crug Hywel
    UK English
    I think we could still make an argument for strung out in this context being used in the "old" fashioned way eg strung out meaning it's time for a hit and I need it now.

    If you live in a rough area you can tell how strung out the ladies of the street are by what time they start work in the day. If they are working before noon you can tell they want to get their drugs really badly.

    Was the context of this conversation after a surgeon had been off on holiday or something?
  10. CristinaBurke Senior Member

    The surgeons are at work, the first surgeon (who said "I'm strung out") is doing a drawing of blood to the other surgeon and he causes hurt to the second the second surgeon say "You operated a heart ealier" "You'd think you could draw a little blood?" and then the dialog above.
    Sorry for my bad English.
  11. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    I'm strung out on etymology. It gives me the giggles and an insatiable craving for pistacchio ice cream. Popular idioms may hold a range of associations, and then get appropriated by a new generation that uses them for its own purposes.

    Strung out on once implied distress, but has moved towards addiction, and onward to the sense of 'getting/being high on'.
    Context is the differentiator, together with our 'inner ear', which carries the sum of our previous contact with a term.
    If we don't stay in touch with modern popular culture, we will be force feeding out-of-date definitions into current dialogue.

    I know this from personal experience. When my sons started calling one another and their friends 'dude', there was a dissonance between their then current usage, and my memories of Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and Randolph Scott talking to an overdressed gent from 'back East' after he fell off a horse.

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