Glyph of the word 'ua'.


  • (phon.) glyph for the sequence ua
  • (n.) hill

Takama iu ua…
“Run to the hills…”

Notes: Run for your lives! Here it is, Iron Maiden’s most famous song, coming in at number 4:

Number 4
“Run to the Hills”

Iron Maiden's single for 'Run to the Hills'

The Number of the Beast (1982)

I mentioned earlier how I came to hear “Run to the Hills”. It was back when they still played heavy metal on the radio in Southern California (even if it was only a two hour show). What I neglected to mention was how thoroughly off my socks were knocked by the experience. (Ha! How’s that for a sentence? Maybe that’ll finally get me onto Language Log. Or do I have to change it to “knocks were socked” to make it interesting enough…?) “Run to the Hills” is a veritable sonic assault; it’s pure energy.

I’ll refrain from trying to capture the music of it in print. Allow me, though, to comment on the lyrics. The song is divided into two parts. The first part is a kind of lament by a Native American tribe (the Cree, according to the lyrics) about the devastation that Europeans have visited upon their lands and their people. This is followed up by a much faster section that’s the point of view of the Europeans. The Europeans, in this tale, are a rather rapacious and vicious bunch. They’re certainly not portrayed sympathetically.

And yet, the tempo is so lively, and the chorus so unbelievably catchy, that one can’t help but be swept up in it. The goal, I think, is to force the listener to adopt the point of view of the invaders, and to accept it, for the duration the song, in order ultimately to reject it. It’s a splendid musical example of what it’s like to be swept up in the hysteria of unbridled jingoism, to the point where lines like “Murder for freedom / A stab in the back” sound exciting. All in all, I’d say it’s a good meditation on the nature of exploitation.

There is a very definite reason that the iku for ua looks the way it does. Or at least I thought there was—for quite awhile, in fact. But now that I look at it, it simply cannot be an ikunoala. No way. It does kind of look like a hill, but why wouldn’t I have made it look more like a hill…? That’s what’s got me now.

Let’s say, for the time being, that it is a hill. What’s the line in there for…? I mean, if that were a mountain, maybe the line is telling you, “If it comes up to here, it’s a hill. If it goes beyond that, it’s a mountain.” I wish I could take a time machine back to when I came up with the whole system… I should have actually written down what I was doing. I always assume that I’ll know precisely what I was thinking by glancing at what I was doing. What I didn’t anticipate was how aging has frazzled my brain… I often feel like that old “this is your brain on drugs” commercial, even though I’ve never gone near the stuff.

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