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"She makes the sign of the teaspoon, he makes the sign of a wave."

Friday, June 24, 2011


This lyric from Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes, one of my favorite Paul Simon songs, has never been explained to me. I have an idea as to what it means but would love it if someone could give me a definitive answer. Since I don't expect one, feel free to offer your guess.

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    I have heard the teaspoon is small, wave implies ocean and is large interpretation. I don't see it but Simon often allows various interpretations.

    Poor kids/people in Africa often made sandals/shoes from car tires which had a diamond tread. I think the woman is wealthy and treating her wealth as unimportant, with the diamonds out of sight and on the bottom of her shoes like dirt. When the song says THEY have diamonds on the soles of their shoes near the end when they are sleeping near a bodega, I picture hers as diamonds (not literally) and his as tire treads.
    2464 days ago
    I love that song and always sing along with that line. I've wondered about those words, too. I've heard some say that it shows how opposite the two are - her with her small teaspoon (of water) and him with the expansiveness of a wave. I've heard others, but that one always struck me the most. I think I pick that one. But knowing Paul Simon's lyrical genius, he probably meant for it to mean many different things. Or as Goegirl says above, he's just creating imagery that has no specific meaning.
    2464 days ago
    You know, I've actually thought about this one before. I think it might be a simple juxtaposition, similar to others in the song, with a visual element added. The whole song builds a vivid visual image of the two characters and their surroundings in very rich but succinct terms. One of Paul Simon's greatest strengths as a poet.

    She makes the sign of the teaspoon - small amount
    He makes the sign of the wave - large amount

    Now, picture a 'rich girl' (with diamonds on the soles of her shoes no less ;o) holding a tiny spoon in her fingers. Her pinky might extend in a dainty kind of way.
    Picture a 'poor boy' making the sign of the wave - an exuberant, beach boy kind of gesture. Very different images, eh?

    What I always wondered about this song is if he was serious about her being rich with ACTUAL diamonds on her shoes, or if he's referring to the diamond print/pattern that results from sandals made from old car tires - maybe they're just pretending, role-playing?

    Can you tell that I'm really supposed to be studying? Procrastination knows no bounds!
    2464 days ago
    No clue - but the title of your blog made me check it out!
    2464 days ago
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