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Help settle an argument.

There's a song whose chorus "How do I feel this good sober?"

One interpretation is, "How is possible that I feel as good as I do, even though I am sober?"

The other is, "What can I do so I continue to feel as good as I do now, even once I sober up?"

Of the two disputants (one of whom is me, the other of whom is wrong), one asserts that the song-writer (Alecia Moore in case it helps) is being deliberately ambiguous; the other asserts only the first interpretation is correct.

I'm not taking a poll here. I'd like someone to give me a reasoned defense of one interpretation or both.

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4 Answers 4

up vote 2 down vote accepted

My initial reaction was that the first interpretation was correct, but that was without context. If you read the rest of the song lyrics, I would contend that the second interpretation is more likely. Consider:

No pain inside, you're like perfection

How do I feel this good sober?

The pain-free aspect could imply a drunken state, but might also mean that pain is what drives her to drink, so this pain-free state is unusual when sober. I think it is more likely drunkness, because she continues, perhaps more pointedly:

Comin' down...spinnin' round...Lookin' for myself sober

When it's good it's so good, it's good 'til it goes bad

'Til you're trying to find the you that you once had

This sounds much more like someone who is struggling with alcoholism, in which case the second interpretation makes more sense, but an intentional ambiguity would be most powerful.

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Funny, when I read your question I immediately "plumped" for the first alternative. But, I have since listened to the song and am pretty sure the second is the right answer.

The song is from the viewpoint of someone who is not sober. Although they are currently relatively happy, they don't like the fact that when they get sober, they will lose this happiness, They want to know what they have to do to experience this level of happiness when sober.

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In general, both interpretations are possible, depending on context.

In the context of that song, she definitely means the second interpretation. The lyrics show that she's frequently not sober:

Aahh, the sun is blinding

I stayed up again

Oohh, I am finding

That's not the way I want my story to end

and various other lyrics reflect that she wants that to change:

I don't wanna be that call at four o'clock in the morning

'Cause I'm the only one you know in the world that won't be home

but the problem is "How do I feel this good sober?" That is, she'd like to stop partying/drinking/etc. so much, but she isn't sure how to feel good without those things.

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It could indeed mean either.

The original question can be thought of as having some missing and/or alternative words. For the first interpretation:

How [is it possible that] I feel this good [despite being] sober?

For the second interpretation:

[What] do I [do so that I] feel this good [when] sober?

(Answer edited in light of Dusty's comment.)

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I disagree that you need can for the second meaning. How do I is frequently used to ask how to do something (the second meaning) rather than to ask how the current state of things is possible (the first meaning). E.g. How do I obtain a passport? or How do I get there from here? –  Dusty May 13 '11 at 15:32
    
@Dusty: you're absolutely right. Will update answer. –  Steve Melnikoff May 13 '11 at 15:55

protected by tchrist Dec 18 '12 at 3:12

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