I'm new to this community. I really like Sting's musical "The Last Ship", especially because the lyrics are amazing. I have a few questions concerning the lyrics of the song "What Have We Got?" from that musical.

Q1 In "Pay attention and none of your lip" mean? (2nd line) , what does the second half mean?

Idea: Is it related to the expression "pay lip service to sth."?

Q2 In "Tell me, what have we got but the noise inside the hold?", what is the "hold"?

Idea: does it refer to the inside of the ship?

Q3 Is the expression "And woe betide you're late." a common short form of "And woe betide you if you're late"?

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    none of your lip = don't give me any "sass" or "guff", impudent, disrespectful complaining. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 13 '16 at 22:21
  • What does your dictionary tell you about the noun hold? In any case, three questions do not belong in one question, no matter how amazing the lyrics. – P. E. Dant Oct 13 '16 at 22:25
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    Voting to reopen, this is one of the better questions on ELL. At least it shows effort, attention to presentation, and provides a link; a rarity around these parts. – Mari-Lou A Oct 14 '16 at 8:33
  • Vote to reopen because the OP was wondering if the verb pay governed the phrase "none of your lip". This is a perfectly legitimate question. Close Squad, stand down. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 14 '16 at 13:04
  • @Cyclone: the complement of verb pay is "attention". The phrase "none of your lip" is not a complement of "pay" but constitutes a separate imperative, where "none" is analogous to "no" in "Shhhh! No talking during the movie!" or "No loitering". It's a sort of existential imperative with the existential phrase "deleted", implicit rather than explicit: There is to be none of your lip. There is to be no talking. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 14 '16 at 13:08

Pay attention and none of your lip

"Lip" is a slang term for disrespectful back-talk, most often from a child to a parent but can refer to talking back to anyone in authority.

In contrast "pay lip service" means to superficially agree with or support something, but only with words, not with deeds.

Tell me, what have we got but the noise inside the hold?

Since the title is "The Last Ship" I would expect a lot of nautical references. So yes, the "hold" in this case means the hold of a ship. It's not clear what "noise" he's talking about, though.

And woe betide you're late.

Means "It would be bad, possibly really bad, if you are late (to something)". Here's the full stanza:

Aye, you've got to die of something,

It's written in your fate,

Ye may as well die of a Tuesday,

And woe betide you're late.

As to what it figuratively means in this context, I suppose it's a kind of dark humor suggesting that you can't avoid the day you're going to die, or that it would be bad to miss Judgement Day. Honestly, though, it seems like a throwaway line to finish up the stanza and isn't meant to be significant. But your guess is as good as mine.

Also "betide" sounds like "tide", another indirect nautical reference.

Sting is classically educated and is known to put a lot of attention to the lyrics of his songs. It's no surprise you find them rich in imagery and metaphor.

  • I think the OP is really asking if "And woe betide you're late" has been shortened. – Mari-Lou A Oct 14 '16 at 7:03
  • @Mari-LouA looks like it. Either I missed that or he edited the question since I posted my answer. In any case, yes it is an abbreviation of a longer sentence, but since "woe betide" is already fairly archaic vernacular, anyone who would use this idiom would probably follow this general sentence pattern. More info on "woe betide you/ye" – Andrew Oct 14 '16 at 15:55
  • You missed it, happens to the best of us, you can see the question has never been edited. – Mari-Lou A Oct 14 '16 at 15:58
  • Aha, so that's how you see edit history. Good to know! – Andrew Oct 14 '16 at 16:00
  • Thank you for your reply, especially for pointing out the indirect nautical reference in the usage of "betide", I'd missed that. – Cyclone Oct 14 '16 at 17:03

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