How long do we have left?

Johnny Cash sings about a condemned man’s last minutes.

Well they are building a gallows outside my cell and I have got twenty-five minutes to go.

A gallows is a frame to hang a man. Hanging was used to kill convicts in the US. Was the death penalty ever used in your country? Is it still used?

And the whole town is waiting just to hear me yell and I’ve got 24 minutes to go.

“Yell” and “shout” generally mean “speak in an extremely loud voice” for example when shouting for help. “Scream” is usually an expression of emotion which has no intelligible words. But it can also be “a scream for help”.

The Last Meal of a Condemned Man

Well, they gave me some beans for my last meal with twenty-three minutes to go.

Do you like baked beans? They cause flatulence.

And nobody asked me how I feel – I got twenty-two minutes to go.

Government Officials – Mayor, Governor, Sheriff

I sent for the Governor and the whole durn bunch – I got twenty-one minutes to go.

The Governor is the executive head of the State. “”Whole durn bunch” is a non-standard way to say “the whole damn group (of people)

Johnny Cash is from the southern US and often uses southern turns of phrase.

Link to North and South.

Out to Lunch

and I called up the Mayor but he is out to lunch – I got twenty more minutes to go

“He is out to lunch” can also mean “he is not mentally acute” or “he is a fool”.

and the Sheriff said “Boy, I am going to watch you die” with nineteen minutes to go.

So I laughed in his face and I spit in his eye with eighteen minutes to go

Note the non-standard use of the verb “to spit”. It us usually “spit spat spat”

Spanish Language Interference

Now here comes a preacher for to save my soul with thirteen minutes to go

Note the non standard use “for to save” which would usually be “to save”. Is it a grammatical borrowing from Spanish because the southern US is near Mexico where Spanish was spoken? Much of the southern US once belonged to Spain and Mexico. Do you speak Spanish?

Link to the Spanish Page.

Heaven and Hell

and he is talking about burning but I am so cold – I got twelve more minutes to go

It is hot in hell. We talk about “burning in hell”.

Of course heaven exists, but does hell really exist or is it just a creation of the mind?

The Gallows Mechanism

Well they are testing the trap and it chills my spine with eleven minutes to go

A “trap” is a trapdoor that you fall through.

Have you ever used a trap to hunt animals. (different meaning of trap)

and the trap and the rope, well they work just fine – I got ten more minutes to go

A Pardon

I am waiting for the pardon that will set me free with nine more minutes to go

A pardon is a message to exonerate you from a crime. It comes from the Governor or the President.

Non-standard Pronunciation

but this ain’t the movies so forget about me. I got eight more minutes to go.

Note the use of “ain’t”, which means “is not” here. Life in Hollywood is not the same as reality.

with my feet on the trap and my head in the noose – five more minutes to go

Won’t somebody come and cut me loose?
four more minutes to go

I can see the mountains I can see the sky. Three more minutes to go

and it is too durn purty for a man to want to die. I got two more minutes to go.

Note the non-standard pronunciation of “too durn purty” which means “too damn pretty”

Carrion Eaters

I can see the buzzards I can hear the crows with one minute to go

Crows and buzzards are types of birds which eat carrion (dead bodies)

and now I am swinging and here I go o o o o

(the sound of applause)

Thank you … all right!

You can video, audio and notes on culture at this link: North and South.

Johnny Cash

Here is a link to another Johnny Cash Song: Man in Black

Vocabulary Tests





More Songs

Beat – Power words with songs