I wrote Squints on a Triple 15 years ago, and it remains one of my favorite songs. As it turns out, it’s also a song that I will have performed three times in quasi-academic settings that are somehow connected with Cornell.
The first time was when I hosted a Cornell “Thumbnail” event in 2018 with the theme of “Taboo.” What does the song have to do with the theme, you may be wondering? Well, one of the verses has some ambiguous lyrics that could be construed as having taboo content: “She has flung in my face all the skills that I taught her / Now I’m left in disgrace; there’s a moral that’s sought here / You better be careful when playing games with your daughter.”
The second performance was a retirement event in January 2023; in this context, the song was part of a “growing old” theme — in this case, watching my daughter grow older and, for the first time, beating me in a game of Scrabble.
And now, in September 2023, I’m about to perform the same song for a third time — at a book launch event [updated Sept. 12, 2023: see this blog post] for a colleague who has published a co-edited volume about board games called Playing Place. In this context, the connection to the song’s lyrics is unambiguous; in fact, Squints on a Triple was the winner of the 2008 BoardGameGeek contest for real board games mentioned in songs.
But there is at least one more context in which this song could be performed in an academic setting, specifically, in an academic setting dealing with metaphor (and simile) — and, in particular, mixed metaphor. Even though the song is nominally about a game of Scrabble, I deliberately used inappropriate metaphors referencing all sorts of other games and ideas. A list follows, taken directly from the lyrics:
1. All of my hopes, false expectations burst like a bubble [the only simile]
2. Protect all your troopers from a flanking attack [war]
3. Don’t let the lineman in for a sack [football]
4. Let my constructions collapse into rubble [demolition]
5. On the very last play, on the very last roll [craps or other dice games]
6. She has flung in my face all those skills that I taught her [throwing objects]
7. I think she’s perhaps rolled the dice once too often [again, craps or other dice games]