Semaphore - Flock of Dimes

from the album If You See Me, Say Yes (2016)

As a person who deeply appreciates the meaning and the visual imagery of lyrics, I tend to become obsessive in my pursuit of meaning when listening the well-crafted song of a thoughtful lyricist.

As a result, I became all-consumed in my quest to comprehend the song Semaphore by Flock of Dimes.  As an exceptional songwriter, Jenn Wasner - better known as the front woman for the Baltimore band Wye Oak - must have had a specific visual image in mind when naming a song Semaphore.  The problem I have is not knowing which definition for the word she is using.

I am most familiar with the word in a computer programming context, where a semaphore is symbol that is used to act as a "gate" to prevent run away processes from occurring.  Inside this framework, the hook line "I'm too far gone for a semaphore" is fucking brilliant.  I interpret the meaning as her saying "It is too late.  My mind is already racing and I cannot be stop this crazy thing..."

However, there are many other definitions of a semaphore.  They are largely variations of a "flag semaphore" used to signal an oncoming object (or person) with information or instruction.  When an airplane pulls into the gate area, the guys holding the red sticks are acting as semaphores, telling the pilot what needs to be done.  When I think of the line "I'm too far gone for a semaphore" in this context, I interpret the meaning as "This is no time to be sending me signs.  I have made a decision and cannot reverse it."

Although there is clear similarity between my two interpretations, I needed to know which one she intended.  Is her mind racing in an unstoppable loop or is she simply past the point of no return?

Thank goodness this song has a music video to straighten me out.  After watching it, I realize that she is using the "flag" definition of semaphore.  However, what I now believe she is saying is the she is "too far gone" to be sending signals and that the subject of the song will need to come to her without assistance.

But I still love the computer processing interpretation...

Click Here to watch the official video for Semaphore.

Click Here to watch a Japanese semaphore training video from WWII.

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