There is a well known song from 40s, called “Buttons ’n’ Bows” sang by Dinah Shore. It contains a verse that confuses me as a non-native english speaker. It goes:
… “Don’t bury me in this prairie
Take me where the cement grows
Let’s move down to some big town
Where they love a gal by the cut o’ her clothes
And I’ll stand out
In buttons and bows”
AFAIK, cement is the binding agent in the masonry products of concrete and mortar. Could it be used as a metaphore for civilization, man-built surrounding (town e.g.)?
If yes, how often is it used? If not, what is she singing about?
I googled out another weird sentence involving cement growing:
“Welcome to a world where cement grows taller with age, walnut shells double as pirate ships and trailer parks shimmer in an eternal eerie beauty…”
It doesn’t even have to be a metaphor, really, if you take grow to mean proliferate. If a town can grow; i.e. get larger, than cement, which comprises the pathways and superstructures of said town, can grow as well.
Just to give credit where it’s due: “Buttons and Bows” was written by the great songwriting team of Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. It was introduced in the 1948 film The Paleface, in which it was sung by Bob Hope. It went on to win the Oscar as Best Original Song. Over “The Woody Woodpecker Song,” if you please.
The word for that is synecdoche, or “using a part to represent the whole” (or a specific to represent a general), such as saying “hands” to mean workers (especially sailors) or “blade” for a sword. As far as I know the this is also the correct term for the converse, like using “law” to pean “police officer”.
I’ve had friends argue that there’s a separate word for using the more comprehesive to represent the specific, but I don’t think any of them ever presented a convincing candidate (or it didn’t stick in my head). If there is such a word, and someone here knows it, please enlighten me.
How I’d take it (as a native speaker, and perceiving it to be the kind of cheerful mockery you might get in the '40’s and earlier in American English usage):
it’s a kidding riff on the “where the tall grass grows” or “where the pine trees grow” type of cliche. It’s assisted by the broad low expanse of prairie grass, similar to that of concrete paved surfaces.
And a reference to another popular cowboy song of that era,
“Oh, bury me not on the lone prairieeeeeeeeeeeee
" Where the coyot’s howl, and the wind blows freeeeeee”
OK, this doesn’t totally relate to the OP but as AskNott, noted the vast majority of concrete shrinks as it cures. This can cause a problem in building with mixed materials, particularly brick and concrete. When you first lay the concrete foundation, it is at it’s largest size and will shrink as it cured. Bricks, delivered fresh from the brickyard , are at their smallest as they’ve just been cured. The concret will shrink, the bricks will expand over time and you’ll have cracking. You often see this at the base of masonry walls set on a concrete foundation. so, no, in general cement doesn’t grow.
OK, if your eyes didn’t glaze over and you’re just fascinated by the subject, here’s a pdf about differential cracking…