In the song I Want It All by Queen, there are these lyrics:

I'm a man with a one track mind
So much to do in one lifetime (people do you hear me?)
Not a man for compromise and 'wheres' and 'whys' and living lies
So I'm living it all (yes I'm living it all)
And I'm giving it all (and I'm giving it all)

I can find a similar phrase "whys and wherefores", which seems very old and roughly means "reason".

In the song here, I guess it means "no excuse"? Is it natural to say with this phrase? Is there some subtleties in using it? The song is so emotional.

  • 1
    A general warning on lyrics: They are nearly always unnatural English, since the words are chosen to fit a song. While they can provide interesting examples of the use of English, they don't provide models of spoken language.
    – James K
    Commented Jul 1, 2018 at 21:22

1 Answer 1


The song, to me, is about a young person starting from nothing but with ambitions to be very successful as quickly as possible. He is determined not to let anything get is his way of achieving this. I have always understood 'not a man for...wheres and whys' to mean that he has no time for himself, or anyone else, questioning his right to success, or his methods of obtaining it. His drive is all encompassing, and leaves no room for philiosophising.

From the songwriter's (Brian May) perspective, 'whys' also rhymed with 'compromise' and 'lies', and this triple rhyming sequence gives this pivotal line much of its power.

  • That is plausible. I'm thinking more about the situation that he will do what he has planned to do in life, no backoff, no excuse, no lying to himself. But what is the exact meaning of 'wheres' and 'whys' here?
    – THN
    Commented Jul 1, 2018 at 9:17

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