It’s Like Dancing about Architecture


I was reading probably my 50th story about Villanova’s incredible NCAA championship game, and in one of the stories I saw the following sequence of comments:

Reading about sports is an even bigger waste of time than watching sports.

     Reading about sports is like dancing about architecture.

     Reading is a way of reliving a thrilling event if you were lucky enough to                    have watched in the first place and a way of somewhat experiencing it
     if you were not.  But why are you reading this given your opinion. 

    Many read the sports section of a newspaper first, before the front page.
One famous man who did so was former SCOTUS CJ Earl Warren, who
in 1967 explained, “The front page advertises man’s failures; the sports
pages report men’s achievements.”  

While I love the quote from Justice Warren, and admit to reading the sports pages first when I read the Philadelphia Inquirer, it is the second quote above that really caught my attention, the one that mentions dancing about architecture.

I had never heard that phrase, but it was intriguing enough to make me want to Google it.

I found, as with most Google searches, there were more than 100,000 results. Most of the results focused on the origin of the phrase. I checked a couple of the top results, and found that some people had devoted some serious time to researching to whom the quote should be attributed.

It seems like the most popular version of the quote is

writing about music is like dancing about architecture

and is often associated with Elvis Costello who is quoted in a 1983 interview saying,

“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture—it’s a really stupid thing to want to do.”

One of the comprehensive reviews of the origin of the quote was found at the Quote Investigator web site, and if that sort of thing interests you, then I can highly recommend the site. I am always fascinated by people who find a passion and share that passion with the world. This person is apparently passionate about the origin of quotes.

Anyway, while it was interesting to learn about the origin of the phrase, I was more curious as to what exactly it meant, and I really couldn’t find anything on the web to help me, so I’ll offer my own interpretation.

While I can guess from the way the phrase is used, that the user of such a saying is suggesting, like Elvis Costello did, that the first part of the phrase is a stupid thing to do because dancing about architecture is a stupid thing to do.

But what I don’t get is the comparison to “dancing about architecture”; was the originator just trying to make a nonsensical statement with such a phrase, and then use that nonsensical phrase to suggest that something else is nonsensical, such as reading about sports or writing about music?

That’s my best guess at what the phrase is attempting to do, but I have trouble buying into it.

I think of dancing as an activity that people do when they are in a great mood, and are moved by something so deeply that they have an urge to dance. And I can imagine some architects, who I would guess are more passionate about their job than the average person, creating a structure that they are so excited about that they could possibly do a little dance of joy when the structure is completed.

Creating a work of art, such as a building, is cause for joy, and it seems perfectly normal to express that joy through dancing.

So if you want to suggest something is stupid, then I think you need to come up with a better phrase than comparing that activity to dancing about architecture; you need to come up with something that everyone would immediately recognize as being stupid or a complete waste of a person’s time.

I’ve got a couple of suggestions:

Writing about music is like singing about accounting.


Writing about music is like reading Borden’s blog.

And by the way, to offer my disagreement with the Wall Street Journal comment shown earlier; I consider reading about sports to be one of life’s greatest pleasures, whether I witnessed the event or not.

So to create another new phrase:

Reading about sports is like finishing my blog for the day.

Thanks for reading.


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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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