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This has been a lyric in a song I have liked since the '80s, namely Howard Jones' song "Life in One Day", and I have never understood the significance of it.

Time will wear away the stone;
Gets the hereditary bone.

When I started to do some research, I found an article on the Manchester UTD Supporters Club website that started off:

Football transfer rumours: Daniel Sturridge to West Ham or Stoke?
What the papers say - Tue, 11/15/2016 - 08:57

Today’s fluff gets the hereditary bone

The article goes on to talk of several football (READ: soccer, for those who don't follow the Premier League) players planning and bargaining for moving between teams, but there didn't seem to be any real bias to the story. Just matter-of-fact reporting of who is talking about going where.

So, while I can surmise that the expression is British English, I still don't get the meaning of the phrase.

Does someone know what the expression means?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Edwin Ashworth, sumelic, FumbleFingers, Dan Bron, choster Aug 1 '17 at 14:19

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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The line, "Gets the hereditary bone," would seem to be an allusion to the proverb, "What's bred in the bone will come out in the flesh," often simply "what's bred in the bone", used to refer to an hereditary or inveterate predisposition. According to The Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs, the proverb is first recorded in Latin in the late 13th Century, and is found in English from 1485.

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If I were to rely purely on the wording of the verse, then I would say that the phrase has the following meaning:

An obdurate or stubborn person who shares the aforementioned trait with his ancestors. Hence, when used in a similar context, it should, in all likelihood, carry the same meaning: behaves in a manner similar to or exhibits the traits of his ancestors, or just like his ancestors.


In case of the article, it should probably mean that it gets the time–honoured treatment that such articles have received, meaning no real discussion or in–depth analysis, just the narrative covering or conveying the news of transfers agreements signed during the “signing window”.

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I think this question is less about English usage and more about interpretation of prose.

The phrase "get's the hereditary bone" doesn't seem to have a meaning outside of the context of the rest of the lyrics (pasted below). In context, I think his message is clear: Why be in such a rush to join your ancestors in the family bone-yard?

Completely out of context, "get's the hereditary bone" would be a cool way to refer to someone who gets "thrown a bone by a deceased relative" in the sense that some less favored child, grandchild, niece or nephew might inherit something of relatively low monetary or sentimental value, purely our of a sense of charity or familial obligation, or as a consolation prize of sorts.

LIFE IN ONE DAY - by Howard Jones

The old man said to me
Said don't always take life so seriously
Play the flute
And dance and sing your song

Try and enjoy the here and now
The future will take care of itself somehow
The grass is never greener over there
Time will wear away the stone
Gets the hereditary bone

[Chorus]
Don't try to live your life in one day 
Don't go speed your time away
Don't try to live your life in one day 
Don't go speed your time away

The old man said to me
Said you can't change the world single handedly
Raise a glass enjoy the scenery
Pretend the water is champagne
And fill my glass again and again
While the wolves are gathering round your door
Time will wear away the stone
Gets the hereditary bone

[Chorus]

The old man said to me
Said don't always take life so seriously
Play the flute
And dance and sing your song

Try and enjoy the here and now
The future will take care of itself somehow
The grass is never greener over there
Time will wear away the stone
Gets the hereditary bone

I tried to live my life in one day
Don't go speed your time away

I bit off more than I can chew
Only so much you can do

Wolves are gathering round my door
Ask them in and invite some more

I tried to live my life in one day
Don't go speed your time away

Don't try to live your life in one day
  • The question, and your quotation, are about "gets the hereditary bone", not "get’s ...". The rules for apostrophe usage are ridiculously complex, and - if not absolutely certain - it’d be better not to use apostrophes at all. In this case, "get’s" would mean something belonging to [a] get - and "get" would mean "offspring" - which, given "hereditary", wouldn’t be totally unreasonable. – Simon Wright Mar 24 '17 at 15:44
  • I upvoted this answer because "to wear the stone" suggests that time erodes the "headstone" (a slab of stone set up at the head of a grave, typically inscribed with the name of the dead person), thus the family graveyard/cemetery is the "hereditary bone". – Mari-Lou A Jun 8 '17 at 5:03
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Time wears away the stone, (time) Gets the hereditary bone. It makes sense in a British class society where you obtain your place according to your parents who obtained theirs from their parents, and so on... In other words, "time" inherits or wins whatever titles or privileges your dead ancestry conferred.

  • Hello, Brad. Speculation without supporting evidence is hardly ever considered appropriate in an ELU answer. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 31 '17 at 23:24

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