8

What is the meaning of "did time" in this context?

Then my heart did time in Siberia.


More context:

When you come back I won't be here
She said and gently pulled me near
If you want to talk you can call
And no it's not your fault

I just smiled and said let go of me
But there's something that I've just got to know
Did someone else steal my part?
She said it's not my fault

Then my heart did time in Siberia
Was waiting for the lie to come true
Because it's all so dark and mysterious
When the one you want doesn't want you too

  • 4
    We'll need more context to be sure, but "to do time" is to serve a prison sentence. Siberia was well known in Russian and Soviet history as a place for prison camps. – deadrat Dec 15 '15 at 14:44
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    @deadrat Agreed, though the "heart" part is puzzling. If he was speaking of literally being imprisoned in Siberia, he'd simply say, "I did time in Siberia." References to the heart usually refer to love and romance. Maybe saying his/her lover has captured his heart like a prisoner in Siberia? Weird analogy, but possible. As you say, we'd need more context to make sense of this. – Jay Dec 15 '15 at 14:48
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    I assume it means the person had a cold heart after what she did. Or their emotions were locked away in the coldness of their heart as a result.... if the character is dead inside he would be cold and not filled with the fire of passion. Stuff like that. – Neptunian Dec 15 '15 at 14:53
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    My interpretation is that his heart was imprisoned [did time] in a cold icy place [Siberia] because his love for her was unrequited and though she denied it, he suspected someone else had taken his place in her heart. – Marv Mills Dec 15 '15 at 15:00
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    for the whole lyrics genius.com/Backstreet-boys-siberia-lyrics – P. O. Dec 15 '15 at 15:37
7

When you come back I won't be here
She said and gently pulled me near
If you want to talk you can call
And no it's not your fault

I just smiled and said let go of me
But there's something that I've just got to know
Did someone else steal my part?
She said it's not my fault

Then my heart did time in Siberia
Was waiting for the lie to come true
Because it's all so dark and mysterious
When the one you want doesn't want you too

Siberia was the location for several prison camps (gulags) in the USSR. It is largely uninhabited and desolate. According to Wikipedia, the population density of Siberia is about 8 people per square mile. It is heavily forested and most of the people who make Siberia their home are disconnected from the rest of the world.

Then my heart did time in Siberia
Was waiting for the lie to come true

The lyricist is painting this picture of the heart going into isolation and doing so in a manner much more extreme than by sulking in a corner. It's not necessary that the heart went to prison, only that it went to a vast, desolate place where it would be nigh impossible for anyone to find until it wanted to be found.

  • If you think it's right, please mark it as accepted. Thanks! – Paul Rowe Dec 15 '15 at 15:39
  • The Siberian part of the gulag is well documented. Hardly a "rumor." – deadrat Dec 15 '15 at 19:10
  • @deadrat Thanks. I was blanking on gulag, but it looks like those were spread all over the USSR and more heavily concentrated in the area around Moscow and the other population centers. I'll update my wording, but I think the presence of gulags is incidental. – Paul Rowe Dec 15 '15 at 21:36
  • Hi Paul. To echo dearat's comment it's difficult to see that the "presence of gulags is incidental". (Using my same extreme example of below, it would be like saying a reference to "Auschwitz" "might mean" something to do with concentration camps!) Since WW2 or earlier a basic figure of speech is being "sent to Siberia", meaning: being politically imprisoned. (OR, in the case of German solidiers in WW2, similar to / confused with the figure of speech being "sent to the Eastern front", ie, being given a (profoundly :) ) bad career move for screwing something up.) – Fattie Dec 16 '15 at 0:13
  • @JoeBlow Aushwitz-Birkenau is more specific a location than Siberia, but I see your point. My education has touched more on the German death camps than the Russian work camps, so I wasn't as familiar with the apparent parallel. It does make sense if you combine "did time" with Siberia and its work camps. – Paul Rowe Dec 16 '15 at 15:23
-3

Not that it matters, but it's perhaps worth pointing out that it is rather badly written. For the following reason:

The phrase slang "did time" is slang very much from the UK or US "gangster" era; a typical dictionary definition example will be from Mickey Spillane or the like.

In stark contrast, "Siberia" relates to issues like gulags, concentration camps, political prisoner camps, death marches, the Soviet Era, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and other depressing aspects of Russian literature and history.

Note that quite simply you would, indeed, never say you "did time" in a Gulag. (!)

Indeed, perhaps an even more unsavory phrase, you would certainly never say you "did time" in a concentration camp. (!!!)

To make perhaps an analogy, Shafizadeh, you would not take slang from the "rap world" of Eminem and so on, and kind of mix it with slang from (say) the "disco!" era. it would be sort of silly right? The "mixed slang" here is rather groan-inspiring. I "did time" in a "gulag". Yeah.

So, yes, "did time" is simply UK/US slang for "was in prison", it's "gangster" slang (think of say 1950s gangsters). In a rather conjunction, "Siberia" relates to "prison camps" and "gulags".

So for example, a far more sensible phrase would be something like, I did time in some horrible prison, say, "my heart did time in san quentin" sort of thing.

  • 1
    That's the heart of poetry: mixing images that looks like they don't belong together at first, to create new associations in the mind of the reader. If you write correctly and stick to the perceived rules of semantics, poetry would not exist. There's nothing wrong with jumping from a recent trope (I did time/us slang) to a more distant one in time, in space and culturally (Siberia/Gulags). It adds to the feeling of distance. – P. O. Dec 15 '15 at 17:52
  • "Doing time", meaning serving a prison sentence is very much contemporaneous slang. Of course Russians don't say "doing time" for the same meaning; they say "sitting." – deadrat Dec 15 '15 at 19:14
  • Hi POber. Well no, it's just a hideous and confused mixing. An even worse one would have been: "it's like my heart did time in Auschwitz". (If you feel that "it's like my heart did time in Auschwitz" is in the category of "mixing images for poetic value", well, fair enough :) ) – Fattie Dec 16 '15 at 0:07
  • hi Deadrat. Sure, it's contemporary. (Or, contemporaneous to us, as you put it.) Quite simply, the gulags weren't "prisons" (in the sense of Johnny Cash, Martin Scorsese movies, and the contemporary slang "doing time"), they were gulags. – Fattie Dec 16 '15 at 0:08
  • Nevertheless to be sure to be sure, if you guys and others have downvoted the answer, it's valueless! Cheers ... – Fattie Dec 16 '15 at 0:14

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