Wednesday, March 13, 2013

rainbows and grammar

This might be the best discussion in the history of the Internet.

A science fiction author posts a question about a song in a cartoon, and the Internet responds by delving into an extremely academic linguistic analysis of said lyrics and the context that is being a self-aware Muppet frog with hopes and dreams.

Some favorites:

I’ve always thought the song was about discovering love and passion. The rainbow symbolizes the connection between two people (or maybe one person and their calling), and “the other side” symbolizes the state of the person after they have found the passion. --Laurel K. 

 I always assumed he was wondering about “the other side” from a theological/spiritual perspective. It’s a rather melancholy song, so wondering what happens after we die isn’t totally out of context. As someone upthread pointed out, “Have you been half asleep/And have you heard voices?/I’ve heard them calling my name/Are these the sweet sounds/That call the young sailors?/I think they’re one and the same…” seems to bear this out. “Sweet sounds that call the young sailors” is clearly a reference to the Sirens from Greek mythology, who would enchant sailors with their singing. The sailors, wanting to hear more of the lovely music, would sail ever closer to the shoreline, where their ships would come aground. We get the phrase “(singing a) siren song” from this tale.   --Jennifer R. Ewing

Kermit, alas, is, in fact, singing a song about death. Or, to put a finer point on it, life under the eye of a god or God he doesn’t quite grok. You’ll have to forgive me, but I’ve always thought it’s the song of a frustrated existentialist. It’s not rainbows and the other side. It’s rainbows….and The Other Side. How many songs (about rainbow or otherwise) is probably irrelevant outside of the song’s time and meter contexts.   --Brad

I disagree violently with Brad. This is NOT a song about death. It is a song about art. Rainbows are not tangible, says Kermit; they’re only illusions. And yet, they are of powerful significance to everyone who has every listened to a song about rainbows. “Somebody thought of that, and someone believed it, and look what it’s done so far.” he sings. He’s a frog with a banjo in a swamp, but he wonders if he could be something more- an artist, someone whose songs and stories would bring meaning and joy to others.  “There’s something that I’m supposed to be,” he concludes, just as an opportunity to go to Hollywood presents itself.   ---Contented Reader

I put this to my own wife, whose immediate response was “For all we know there are hundreds of frog songs about rainbows, as they would tend to be focused more on natural phenomena, and to assume that the one Kermit chose to share is the only one is culturally insensitive. For shame.”   ---C. A. Bridges

He’s a frog that lives in a swamp and knows it. And he’s making poetry.That said, with that line he’s clearly talking about the popularity of a song that muses about rainbows AND the other side all in one. But his overall theme is talking about illusions leading to fanciful dreaming. Maybe, just maybe, there’s something to all that dreaming. Is this a denial of reality or a new and more full understanding? Tough questions from the frog on the log in the swamp.   --Other Bill

Clearly what both you and your wife are missing is the crucial Swedish Chef element within the Muppets. 96.7% of all Swedish music relates directly to skaldic tradition and the Bifrost bridge. Thereby bringing in all the songs about rainbows and what is on the other side. The song Kermit is singing is really not about either of them, but questioning his apparent ability to understand the Swedish Chef despite being unable to speak Swedish. I would not know this myself, but I had a friend working for Google on their Translate function and he worked closely with Kermit on the Swedish Chef translate. There are also quite a few Klingon songs about rainbows (did you know bloodsplatter also can cause a rainbow if fine enough?), but I suspect Kermit might not be that into Klingon ethnomusicology.   --Rob Meyer

It also devolved into the classic Oxford Comma debate at one point.  Word-nerd squee.

EDIT: for what it's worth, I'm totally with Krissy on this one.

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