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SO REMEMBER THOSE WHO WIN THE GAME
LOSE THE LOVE THEY SOUGHT TO GAIN
IN DEBENTURES OF QUALITY AND DUBIOUS INTEGRITY
THEIR SMALL-TOWN EYES WILL GAPE AT YOU
IN DULL SURPRISE WHEN PAYMENT DUE
EXCEEDS ACCOUNTS RECEIVED AT SEVENTEEN
These are lyrics from a Janis Ian song "at seventeen"; could you please help me understand what's in bold?

PS: shouldn't it be "when payment'S due"?

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Comments  (Page 2) 
I know how she feels.
Well, I guess most of us do, alas...
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I suppose the TWWTGs could be the hometown queens...but then I'm not sure why they would be gaping in surprise at 'you', i.e. the ugly duckling, or what they could owe the latter.

So I think I'll stick. 'They' have taken advantage of her, on the basis of an IOU, and are surprised when she presents her emotional bill.

To change the metaphor slightly, it reminds me of one of those promissory notes you find in C19 fiction: she gives them E$100, where 'E$' = 'emotional dollars'; when the note falls due, 'they' are surprised when she claims E$200.

I suppose the implication (on their part) is that an ugly duckling should be grateful.

Very much a guess though. It may be that Janis wasn't altogether clear about the 'debenture' herself!

MrP
PS: Actually, it wasn't too bad in the corner. I liked the hat.
Yes, with the "oreilles d'Anne"?

Many thanks to the three of you... the text is rather dense, too, and, as Janis has to mind the number of syllables, the endings etc, so the result might as you say, not be too clear to her.
I buy the ugly ducklings having to be grateful...
with the "oreilles d'Anne"

I like that! (But it must refer to some other Anne.)

An hour after my last post, I happened to walk into a record shop. What do you think was playing?

I wish I could remember what I used to think she was singing, when she said 'debentures'. (I know it wasn't 'debentures'.)

MrP
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Hello Sir,
Iam sure that I am the one to sign, and latter we can discuss the inetrest rate.Cheers
(sorry I am not in the right post, and I don't know how to delete it)
You're right, in that case, there's only ONE "N" !
Funny how life can be full of coincidences!
See you, MrP...
a debenture is one of those clever 'derivative' loans, which have to be repaid. sometimes the borrower who issues the loan (like AIG) hasn't the quality they were meant to have and have more dubious integrity than joe public 'used to' think the rich and wise were meant to have. so a young girl whose dreams were to bank on her good looks to win her favour in the future might find that when she's older and less "pretty" and comes to cash in her chips (to mix metaphors) she gets less than she bargained for and the trade of cash/security for good looks ends up being a bad deal in the end whereas janis ian's ugly duckling cleverly ends up as a swan!

I wonder if janis ian actually wrote this line because it's very clever but actually quite a "technical" metaphor. "receivables" and "accounts due" at the maturity of a loan are technical terms cleverly used to mix emotional and financial metaphors, janis' ugly duckling gets much more in life (her payments due) than the hometown queen would have expected of that ugly duckling at 17
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Hello, I have also always wondered about the "debentures" part in the song. My interpretation is a bit different, I think the song has an ironic twist in this verse:

"Remember those who win the game will lose the love they thought they gained."

This obviously refers to the "beauty queens" who "married young": So even though they were the popular stars "at seventeen" they won't be happy (with their husbands) for long, for they will lose their love.

"In debentures of quality and dubious integrity"

I'm still not sure about the "debentures" but the "dubious integrity" refers to their marriages, which are not as happy or secure as they might seem.

"Their small-town eyes will gape at you in dull surprise when payment due exceeds accounts received at seventeen."

This means, that later (when their marriages have gone stale) they pay the price for the happiness in their youth; and this price is too high, it more than outweighs the happiness / popularity when they were seventeen.

So basically this appears to mean, that the "ugly ducklings" and "brown-eyed girls in hand-me-downs" have the last laugh so to speak.

Can you follow this interpretation? I am not a native speaker, so I'm not sure if it really comes across.

Bye

Purschka
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