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This morning on the radio, I heard America's hit "A Horse with No Name". As usual when I hear it, I wonder what the following sentence mean.

'Cause there ain't no one for to give you no pain

Wikipedia says that it is "oddly" written and also written under influence (while this explanation seems disputed afterwards). So because it is so odd for me as a non-native English speaker, I just never understand the meaning of that one sentence in the song.

What bugs me most is the seemingly triple negation as well as the "for to". What would a correct version of the sentence be?

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    To hear the song in context requires a heavy dose of narcotics. Don't fret over not being fully able to understand the poorly structured sentences of drugged songwriters – Kris Sep 8 '16 at 12:28
  • There Isn't anyone who wouldn't annoy you, IMHO. – V.V. Sep 8 '16 at 13:19
  • The extra word FOR, is just to make the line work: there is nobody to give you any pain. The rest is just uneducated speech. Very common, though. – Lambie Sep 1 '17 at 22:16
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"There ain't no one" means "There is no one." The double negative is colloquial and is used incorrectly. As in "I ain't got no money" which means "I have no money" instead of the logical "I don't have no money = I do have some money".

Likewise I think the last "no" is also redundant, so "no pain" really just means "pain".

"For to" is a poetic and colloquial double usage. The meaning of "for" and "to" is similar; only one or other of them needs to be used, not both. The correct use of "for" and "to" is often confused. In some cultures, where the distinction is not understood, someone will use both. Poetically both words are used instead of one to provide an extra syllable so that the line has the correct beat or rhythm.

What is left is : "In the desert... there is no one to hurt or disappoint you. It is a place where you can escape life's troubles."

  • Then why can we remember our name? I think you've been too literal/logical in your interpretation. – djna Sep 8 '16 at 17:03
  • +1 now that you have edited to give the much probable (positive) interpretation of the sentence – Alan Carmack Sep 8 '16 at 17:08
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    @djna : Sorry, I altered the last paragraph while you commented. Yes I have interpreted the line literally. However, the meaning of the song is discussed in comments here and it seems the writer intended the song to reflect the peaceful world he encountered in the desert. My interpretation now agrees with the writer's intention. "You can remember your name" means that in the solitude of the desert you can 'reconnect' with your true self. – sammy gerbil Sep 8 '16 at 17:10
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The lyrics of the chorus

I've been through the desert on a horse with no name

It felt good to be out of the rain

In the desert you can remember your name 'Cause

there ain't no one for to give you no pain

I interpret this to mean that there are positives to being in the desert, it feels good and you can remember your name because you are alone:

No one is causing you pain

While there seem to be not just double but triple negatives here (ain't, no one, no pain) I think the rest of the chorus gives us that there's a positive meaning here ... we are pain free.

Quite how that stacks up with the verses is beyond me.

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I ain't Got nobody. -Santana. A linguistically incorrect is a deliberate jab at the linguistic establishment in general.

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    That could be the start of a good answer but as it stands it doesn't really explain what the sentence in the question means. You could edit to extend this answer. – James K Sep 1 '17 at 22:28

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