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a guide to (miss)understanding RADIOHEAD


Airbag: When you crash in a car, these plasticy things inflate like a balloon, and cushion you from getting hurt. In theory, anyway.
"An airbag saved my life" ('Airbag')

Android: 'An Automaton created from biological materials and resembling a human being.' Um. Yes.
(from song title 'Paranoid Android')

Ansaphone/Answerphone: Answering machine. Evil.
"She's out with her answerphone" ('Nice Dream')

Banana Co: A reference from Gabriel García Márquez's book One Hundred Years of Solitude. The banana company is a foreign business that comes into the small South American town of the story called Macondo and messes with the culture, as well as exerting political control.
"Oh Banana Co we really love you and need you." (Banana Co.)

Bigot: A person who is intolerant or narrow-minded, especially when it comes to matters of politics, religion, and the like.
"He's a dangerous bigot" (How Do You?)

Belisha Beacon: Also 'flashing beacon', this is the poles with orange balls on the top at zebra crossings which flash to say 'don't smash into the people who cross the road here,' or words to that effect.
"My belisha beacon" (My Iron Lung)

The Bends: When divers come up too quickly from under the water, too much nitrogen get dissolved in your blood, and then undissolves once at the surface. More painful than it sounds.
"My baby's got the bends" (The Bends)

Bishop: A Christian worker who organizes the work of a church.
"Dressed in bishop's robes" (Bishop's Robes)

Cathode ray: Invisible electrons flying around in a vacuum. Most likely to be found in TVs.
"Hooked back up to my cathode ray" (Prove Yourself)

Cattle prods: Sticks, shove them up a cow's arse, and it electrocutes them. Seriously...
"Cattle Prods and the IMF" (Electioneering)

Cotton wool: Fluffy stuff, well known as the fluffy stuff on cotton buds to clean your ears. Also used in medicine bottles, to clog them up.
"All wrapped up in cotton wool" (Blow Out)

Dang^era najbar-ajo: Esperanto for "dangerous neighbourhood" (as seen in okc booklet)

Electioneering: The act of running, or working in elections. Done by doing stuff like making speeches, and other interesting things.
"Say the right things when electioneering." (Electioneering)

Esperanto: Famous first 'international language' created in the late 1800s by Ludovic Lazarus Zamenhof, who believed it would benefit the world if everyone spoke the same language

Gucci: Expensive fashion company/brand, favoured by the likes of Posh spice girl.
"Kicking squealing Gucci little piggy" (Paranoid Android)

Head of state: the monarch, (king or queen)
"The head of state has called for me by name" (Lucky) Headshrinkers: It's the nickname for a psychiatrist... because after visiting them, you can't think for yourself anymore... and therefore, your head shrinks...
"The headshrinkers want everything" (My Iron Lung)

IMF: International Monetary Fund, part of the United Nations that was set up in 1945 to deal with currency values and rates between the countries that belong to the UN.
"Cattle prods and the IMF" (Electioneering)

India Rubber: Old English term for 'eraser', now shortened to just 'rubber'. Winnie the Pooh gets one at his party in the last chapter of his book. (from song title 'India Rubber')

Injektilo: Esperanto for 'syringe' (as seen in okc booklet)

Interstate: That's like highway/motorway in America. Connects two states together.
"Interstate 5 walk straight down the middle" (Maquiladora)

Interstellar: between the stars.
"In an interstellar burst i am back to save the universe" (Airbag)

Iron Lung: A huge device fitted over the whole body, (except the head) that helps you breath when you can't breath with your own lungs anymore. *How it works*. The device forces your chest to open, forces air in, and allows it to close. Nice. Used in the song 'My Iron Lung' as a metaphor for Creep.
"We are grateful for our Iron Lung" (My Iron Lung)

Jackknife: to bend sharply in the middle into a v-shape and go out of control' English: a car on it's side two wheels before it crashes.
"In a jackknifed juggernaught" (Airbag)

juggernaught: slang for a lorry. a truck.
"In a jackknifed juggernaught" (Airbag)

Karma: The fate of a person, as decided from how that person has behaved in previous lives.
"Karma Police, arrest this man" (Karma Police)

Lift: An elevator, (you'd be surprised at how many people don't actually know this).
"You've been stuck in a lift" (Lift)

Lozenge: a sugary tablet, usually with medicine in it. Most popular form is in cough sweets. (from song title 'Lozenge Of Love')

Lozenge of Love: Reference to a line in a Philip Larkin poem 'Sad Steps'. Larkin is Jonny's favourite poet.

Lull: State of being quiet and less active.
"I'm in a lull" (Lull)

Lurgee: In America, it's sort of like the cooties. Now Thom said this himself, and you all must believe Thom, mustn't you?. Note: the 'g' in 'lurgee' is pronounced like the 'g' in 'girl'. (From song title 'Lurgee')

Malamikigi: Esperanto that approximately translates into 'to create enemies' (as seen in okc booklet)

Malvenkemo: Esperanto for "to be defeated" or "defeatism" (as seen in radiohead artwork)

Man-O-War: A nice looking jelly-like sea creature which has the ability to knock you out with its nasty sting. Like a jellyfish really.
"You're my manowar" (from Man-O-War/Big Boots)

Maquiladora: Factory, usually manufacturing clothes,where pre-cut pieces of cloth arrive to be sewn and made up into finished garments. (From song title 'Maquiladora')

Melatonin: Melatonin may have initially been used as a jet lag drug(it does aid in sleep), but more recently, older humans regard it as the capsule form of the lost fountain of youth. It stimulates the pineal gland, an organ responsible for youthful health, which begins to lose potency at puberty. Melatonin is suppose to help you sleep better at night, but for some people it has the strange side effect of creating nightmares. The metaphors abound. The result of the struggle for agelessness- the torment of the subconscious. Melatonin is also apparently useful when used to aid in having lucid dreams (that is, the ability to do whatever you want in your dreams). (from song title 'Melatonin')

Molasses: Yuk. Dark syrup drained out of raw sugar when trying to make sugar *pure*, albeit without other substances messing about with it too. Put it on your pancakes.
"We've been stitched up, molasses" (Molasses)

Motion Picture: A movie. A film. (from song title 'Motion Picture Soundtrack')

Motion Picture Soundtrack: Soundtrack to a film. (from song title 'Motion Picture Soundtrack')

Pablo Honey: A reference to something from the Jerky Boys skit. Part of the skit is sampled right at the end of How Do You? ("Hello? Pablo?" "Yeah?" "Pablo?" etc...) (from album title Pablo Honey)

Polyethylene: The polymerization of ethylene. Most common plastic apparently. *NOTE* Not to be confused with the rather different polystyrene. (See below).
"Leukemia, schizophrenia, polyethylene." (Polyethylene [parts 1 & 2])

Polystyrene: a light firm plastic material; used to be popular to make Big Mac cartons. Also popular for artificial snow. And boxes.
"A cracked polystyrene man" (Fake Plastic Trees)

Paranoid: 'A psychotic disorder characterised by delusions of persecution or grandeur.' Whatever that is. (from song title 'Paranoid Android') Paranoid Android: A character from Douglas Adam's classic book: "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy". The Paranoid Android's name was Marvin, interestingly enough. Don't panic. (from song title 'Paranoid Android')

Presse Ne Pas Avaler: Famously on a t-shirt belonging to thom, it's French for "do not swallow the press", or in proper English, "do not believe what the press says." A statement against the press, perhaps against the likes of NME who have written some nasty stuff about thom.

Radiohead: probably a reference to the Talking Head's song called 'Radio Head' from the album "True Stories". Or maybe not. ("Radio Head, Radio Head, do you eat bread?")

Ripcord: The cord on a parachute pack which, when pulled, will open your parachute. In cartoons, when you pull them, they: a) never work, or b) an anvil comes out instead, and crushes you. Supposedly funny.
"You've no ripcord" (Ripcord)

Simbolo: Esperanto for sign, symbol, token (as seen in okc booklet)

Subterranean: Underground. (from song title 'Subterranean Homesick Alien')

Surrogate: substitute. In family/relationship terms, a surrogate mother is someone who carries someone else's baby.
"All surrogate and bulletproof" (Bulletproof..i wish i was)

Sussed: To work or figure out. Great word, this.
"They're the ones who hate you when you think you got the world all sussed out" (High and Dry)

Talk Show Host: Person who, surprisingly, hosts a talk show (from song title 'Talk Show Host')

Telex: Any form of communication between two or more computers. (from song title 'Planet Telex')

Vegetable: When a person, through a defect or accident, becomes immobile. This person can't talk, move, or do anything. Likened to a vegetable in the sense that they don't do anything.
"I am not a vegetable" (Vegetable)

W.A.S.T.E.: As stated in Radiohead Answerphone #1:

W.A.S.T.E. WHAT DOES IT STAND FOR?
From a novel by Thomas Pynchon - 'The Crying Of Lot 49'
WE AWAIT SILENT TRISTEROS EMPIRE
A political movement of paranoid acid casualties

W.A.S.T.E products: Radiohead company which sells Radiohead merchandise like t-shirts, posters and stuff... here.


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