General Question

wildflower's avatar

What does this mean and where did it come from?

Asked by wildflower (11152points) May 10th, 2008

“His/Her face is a map of the world”
This line appears in both KT Tunstall’s and 30 Seconds from Mars’ lyrics. Two very different songs, from very different artists…’s baffling!
And apparently I’m not the only one wondering about this. I googled the phrase and only found more questions.
Can someone enlighten me on this one? I would be so grateful :)

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7 Answers

janbb's avatar

I would take it to mean something similar to the phrase “it’s not the years, it’s the mileage” meaning it describes a person who has travelled and experienced much and this “worldliness” is reflected in his or her face. Anyway, that’s what it means to me.

scamp's avatar

I think it means that a person’s face shows the stress and/or happiness they have lived through. By looking at wrinkles or laughlines you can kind of read a person’s history, similar to reading a palm. When someone has a worried look on their face, people say they carry the weight of the world on their shoulders, so I think this phrase is saying something similar.

marinelife's avatar

This is, of course, open to interpretation. I think it could mean in this context that this person has come to mean so much to the singer (lyric writer) that their face is a map of the whole person’s world.

Bub's avatar

I like that song, Suddenly I See. I always inturpreted it to mean that she has been through and seen a lot.

whatthefluther's avatar

Looking at the 30 Seconds from Mars song in its entirety, I believe that the lines (wrinkles, creases, etc) on the subjects face represent everything in that persons past, including travels, experiences, events and deeds and that this person is avoiding his past and wrongful acts, despite their clarity on his very face.. His past haunts him but he refuses to face reality, recognize the results of his past actions and understand why they haunt him (head in the sand syndrome). And, I believe the subject actually represents society as a whole, and how we tend to quickly forget or choose to ignore the past and miss our lessons that should have been learned and that such a vision will result in past actions coming back to haunt us.

wildflower's avatar

Thanks for your input. I was thinking along similar lines (no pun intended…) too. I’ve listened to the 30 Seconds from Mars song quite a bit (yes, I listen to Emo, guilty!) and I’ve heard the KT Tunstall song before, but never realised she used that line too until the other day driving to work and it was on the radio and I was just baffled.

I wonder if there is another origin to that line or if it’s just a case of one inspired the other to use it.

janbb's avatar

Being a librarian, I searched Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations online and got these results. Not exactly the same, but along the same lines. It’s a powerful metaphor and probably has been used a number of times.

Search Results > 1–3 of 3 relevant results

Search Results for “Her face was a map of the world”

1) 51798. Shakespeare, William. The Columbia World of Quotations. 1996
...NUMBER:51798 QUOTATION:In thy face I seeThe map of honor, truth, and loyalty. ATTRIBUTION:William Shakespeare (1564–1616), British dramatist, poet. King Henry, in…

2) 52225. Shakespeare, William. The Columbia World of Quotations. 1996
...NUMBER:52225 QUOTATION:He does smile his face into more lines than is in the new map with the augmentation of the Indies. ATTRIBUTION:William Shakespeare (1564–1616),...

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