by Emalie Whan
Americans coined the term “know your onions” in Harper’s Bazaar in 1922. To put it simply, it means you know your shit. The Shins’ 2001 single "Know Your Onion!" is an interesting tale of a person peeling their layers away and coming to a conclusion about theirself.
This song is an ode to everyone who’s not quite sure where they are and where they want to be. I’m not going to sit here and analyze every word in this song, but I want to focus on one part I love:
The trick is just making yourselfEven though this is my favorite verse in this song, I get such a feeling of anxiety and sadness whenever I hear it. That feeling where your heart jumps into your throat and you realize that you’re alone in this world and you need to depend on yourself before others.
But when they’re parking their cars on your chest
You’ve still got a view of the summer sky
To make it hurt twice when your restless body
Caves to its whims
And suddenly struggles to take flight
Mercer’s imagery of the weight we put on ourselves is so subtle yet means everything. Who hasn’t had a moment like this in their life? I know I struggle with it every day. It seems that we get kicked when we’re already down, but that’s when you have to cave in and pick yourself back up.
I can go on forever about the lyrics of this song and on this album, as well as (gulp!) feelings; instead I’ll leave you with the official video for "Know Your Onion!" and this link to SongMeanings for a great explanation of the lyrics.
In the official video, Mercer is playing God (er—a higher being) in these scenarios and helping the humans (dregs) get through the stressful parts of their day. Watching Mercer dispatch a Dog (aka The Voice of God) to help the humans out in their everyday struggles and helping them succeed is pretty hilarious! As we know, God (er—a higher being) would be too great to meet in the flesh, and we would explode, so he hires a cute dog. Amazing!