In Previous Eras, a Schism Like This Would Involve the Death of Millions

My wife and I have a disagreement about a line in the song “The Rainbow Connection.” The line is:

“Why are there so many songs about rainbows, and what’s on the other side?”

I am of the opinion the line is two independent ideas, i.e., Kermit asks why there are so many songs about rainbows; independently he muses about what’s on the other side of rainbows.

Krissy, on the other hand, believes the line asks about songs about rainbows and also what’s on the other side of the rainbows, i.e., that the songs in question must refer to both.

A lot of this comes down to how the comma (or in song lyric notation, the line break) is being used, and if you think the positioning of a particular comma is not important, please avail yourself of the legal scholarship regarding commas as they apply to the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution; which is to say, commas are more important than you think.

I pointed out to Krissy that, in fact, there seem to be very few songs about both rainbows and what’s on the other side of them, which seems, contextually speaking, suggestive that Kermit is addressing two separate issues. She pointed out that there are fewer songs about rainbows than Kermit seems to suggest anyway, casting doubt on the thesis in general, and also that Kermit is both a frog and lives in a swamp, so it’s entirely possible that his understanding of the frequency of rainbows and their associated phenomena as musical tropes may be colored by lack of data. This is a fair observation.

And in any event the actual frequency of songs about rainbows (or songs about rainbows and what’s on the other side of them) is neither here nor there regarding the lyrics, which, statistically factual or not, still seems ambiguous as regards the nature of its actual assertion.

So, a question for each of you: Who is correct? Am I correct that the song asks only about songs about rainbows? Or is Krissy correct that the song asks about rainbows and what’s on their other side?

This is, I believe, the meta-textual question of our age, which needs to be resolved one way or another.

Please give your answer in the comments. Please show your work.

297 thoughts on “In Previous Eras, a Schism Like This Would Involve the Death of Millions

  1. I will note that using the Second Amendment as an example of ambiguous comma use does not mean the comment thread should have any real discussion about the Second Amendment and/or gun control. Stick with songs about rainbows (and, if applicable, what’s on the other side).

  2. Gonna have to go with Krissy on this one. To divorce the two ideas from each other saps much of the emotional resonance of the line, and this song is all about emotional resonance.

  3. I’m gonna have to side with Krissy on this one. Otherwise it sounds like Kermit is asking about songs about death.

  4. I believe I have the Anglican “Via Media” to your Catholocism vs. Reformation schism here: I have always believed that this line refers to songs about rainbows, and songs about what’s on the other side of rainbows (gold, i.e. money). A single song need not refer to both the rainbows and the gold, but both these items may be referred to in separate songs.
    Yours in Piggy – Nerdycellist

  5. Unless Kermit is a fan of Ronnie James Dio, the only rainbow song I can think of is Somewhere Over the Rainbow, which seems to be about rainbows AND what’s on the other side. So, I’m going with spurious comma.

  6. Krissy is correct.

    As an experienced journalist (see his pioneering work as an amphibian embedded reporter in Sesame Street), Kermit knows that you need to present a single focused idea in every line of your story/song/whatever. Wondering about two independent questions in the same line of the song is vague and confusing. Wondering about songs that feature rainbows and the other sides of rainbows, on the other hand, is a nice simple concept.

    Your thesis requires us to assume Kermit is a bad writer and songwriter, and no one has ever accused him of that.

  7. It’s absolutely clear that Kermit has two different thoughts about rainbows. If you swap the ordering, it’s even more clear – “What’s on the other side and why are there so many songs about rainbows?”

  8. I think Paul Williams answers this question on the Nerdist podcast. As I recall it means “why are there so many songs about rainbows (including) what’s on the other side”, but he talks about it for several minutes, so you could listen and verify for yourselves.

  9. Having sung this song to my boys approximately 59,000 times, I consider myself something of an expert on this song. I believe that Krissy is correct, both about the clause in question, and the relative paucity of rainbow-themed songs. As evidence, see the introduction to the version from The Muppet Show, wherein Debbie Harry quite frankly struggles to name more than a couple such songs, despite the theme of the skit being “there are so many rainbow songs.”

    K

  10. **Clearly** since Kermit is a frog, the line refers to the songs he hears – on his lily pad – sung by other frogs. Therefore it is us who lack the proper data on the frequency of these tropes in frog song.

    This solves some of the issues Krissy raises, but doesn’t address the placement of the comma. Frog grammar is likely different from human grammar, and might not translate well into English.

    We might have to ask Kermit.

  11. The dearth of rainbow songs in general is not relevant to the discussion. The primary consideration must be the ONE song about rainbows and the farsides-thereof that relates: “Over the Rainbow” from /The Wizard of Oz/. This song represents the same things that one did: the spirited but circumscribed hero/heroine (Kermit/Dorothy) in their home environment (swamp/Kansas) expressing their emotional need for More.

    That “More” manifests as “somewhere over the rainbow”/”what’s on the other side” (pardon me flipping the sides of my divider in this paragraph). So I’d have to say that the weight of emotional evidence favors Krissy.

    Also, I think John is probably misreading a comma into the text where a line break appears. There should be no comma interpreted there, and thus the two ideas cannot be separated as John suggests.

  12. Of course the main result of this discussion is that I will now be going around and singing Rainbow Connection (badly) for the next 3 days.

  13. I’m with Krissy on this one; the rest of the song seems to be disinterested in what’s on the other side of a rainbow: he continues the point that there is nothing on the other side, and criticizes the focus on it.

    Also, I suspect that Kermit is referring specifically to “Over the Rainbow” which does indeed concern the other side; The Rainbow Connect is in some ways a response to that specific song (with its focus on wishing and wanting to be elsewhere), and the “what’s on the other side” part clarifies that.

  14. As a later line goes, “Have you been half-asleep, and have you heard voices?” I think I have to vote on the comma as merely a lyrical line break in one connected thought, because if you break that line into two separate thoughts, it almost sounds like a entrance interview question for a psychological institution.

    OT, I never realized before that Kermit is left-handed. I’m guessing that’s likely rare in the cartoon/puppet/muppet world.

  15. I would have to go with Krissy. If you take rainbows out and make this generic, the line becomes “Why are there so many songs about object A, and what’s on the other side of an A?” which are clearly two unrelated thoughts that don’t even belong in the same sentence.

    Typo alert: “what’s one the other side?” shouldn’t that be “what’s on the other side?”

  16. Totally with Krissy on this one, though I too wonder at the seemingly frequent songs of rainbows in general. In my head I’ve always managed to include this very song in the total count of…two.

  17. Krissy is right. Are there any known songs about rainbows that *don’t* speculate about what’s on the other side of them? I’m not aware of any rainbow songs that merely discuss the lovely prismatic effect.

  18. I’ve always viewed it as an allusion to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, as the Wizard of Oz and The Muppet Movie have many plot points in common. So Kermit is setting up the premise or theme of the movie in this song. The “so many” part refers to the lasting nature of “Somewhere…” and the various covers.

  19. I agree with David Gustafson – later verses definitely support Krissy in that the thesis of the song is clearly “why do we seek the numinous in everyday occurrences” not “why do we use cliches in art and also what’s the deal with rainbows anyway?”

  20. I’m with Krissy – I think the lyrics of Ranbow Connection are referring to those of Somewhere Over the Rainbow, which are way more about what’s past the rainbow than the rainbow itself, which is mentioned repeatedly (as it must be for location context, hence the “and” issue) but never described…
    Of course RC mentions “so many songs”, plural, and it may be that there are lots of songs I don’t know that are about either but not both (someone will doubtless make a list)…but even if my perspective is probably colored by lack of data, my first instinct says I’mma stand with Krissy on this one.

  21. To me this always seemed to reference “Somewhere over the Rainbow”, the ultimate song about both a) a rainbow, and b) what’s on the other side. Kermit was perhaps, confusing quantity with ubiquity. So, I’m with Krissy.

  22. Krissy is right. Kermit’s referring to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” which is very much about “what’s on the other side.”

    Kermit is wrong about there being “many” songs about rainbows. But the ubiquity of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” somewhat excuses his hyperbole.

  23. I interpreted the line the same way as Krissy.

    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.

    “What’s so amazing that keeps us star gazing
    and what do we think we might see?
    Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection.
    The lovers, the dreamers and me.”

    I think Kermit is wondering about this “other side” and what makes it so desirable.

  24. Well, my first instinct has always been to John’s interpretation, but putting the spotlight on Kermit’s frogness makes me realize that perhaps frogs have tons of songs dealing with both rainbows and their opposite side’s, so I guess the second interpretation is not entirely crazy, as far as singing puppet frogs’ songs analysis goes.

  25. 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.

  26. As a sentence, treating the two questions as independent doesn’t really make any sense. Clearly, the songs need to be about both the rainbows and their other sides.

  27. I must agree with Krissy, John. I will put on my grammar hat (issued by the University of North Carolina, so it’s a lovely shade of powder blue) in order to explain my thinking:

    Had the comma in question been a question mark, or had Paul Williams omitted the word “and,” you’d have had an unambiguous pair of separate questions, but alas, we live in an imperfect world.

    The rule about placing a comma between two independent clauses (as in “John asked for help, and the internet responded”) does appear as though it might apply here, but since we’re talking about a line break in a poem, which may or may not include actual punctuation, I’m leery of placing too much emphasis on it.

    In the end, it’s the “and” that makes me think we’re talking about a preposition (“about”) with a compound object (the noun “rainbows” and the noun clause “what’s on the other side”). Otherwise, we’re talking about two separate questions, one about why and one about what, and I see no reason why both of those questions should be included in a single sentence.

    Also: dude. Even if you WIN a grammar argument with your wife, you lose.

  28. Consider for a moment that you both might be too focused on the rainbow.

    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.

    That’s the rough part of it. Consider the rest of the song in which Kermit sings of some people choosing to believe, others not, and him waiting to see who is right. Kermit sings of wishing to the stars and wondering who ever suggested those wishes would be heard. “Have you heard voices?” he asks in the final verse. He suggests they might be sirens, but he also leaves open that they could be something else. He doesn’t know.

    Dammit, Kermit. The swamp is a rough place for this kind of musing.

  29. Without taking sides in the controversy, I would like to point out that “pot of gold” is what’s at the END of the rainbow, not what’s on the other side of the rainbow. On the other side of the rainbow is a different world, at least in the two canonical examples (this song and the Oz one).

  30. Excuse me, I have to disagree with many people here.

    Somewhere Over the Rainbow is ***not*** about what is on the other side of a rainbow. Those who think so are very directionally confused.

    We are on one side of the rainbow, something is on the other side. Whatever is over or below the rainbow is completely different from either one of the first two options. Completely Different.

    If you need me to create a diorama to explain this, I will.

  31. Going by the rest of the lyrics where ‘the rainbow’ is repeated when different properties are highlighted it seems the line in question should be read as one. So Krissy makes the best case.
    Also this does seem to fit closer to my reading on an emotional level, focussing on what makes rainbows so special.

  32. Normally I wouldn’t just comment to repeat another’s comments, but since this is a vote, I vote that nerdycellist has it right.

    IMO, this means Krissy is closer to right than you are, but neither is 100% correct.

  33. There only dafties and kids dreams on the other side
    Checkout Rainbow an old kids brittish tv program. Now they notice some songs are just innuendos
    :-D

  34. Totally stunned by the number of folks agreeing with Krissy. Ever since my fifth grade class sang this song, I’ve believed that it’s two separate ideas. Kermit’s alone, he’s musing about all the Big Questions that keep him up at night in list form. I also feel that the later line about being half asleep and hearing voices are also two separate, tho related, questions. Turns out even my hubby agrees with Krissy tho, so perhaps I just have an is mind.

  35. You have to consider this line in the full context of the entire first stanza of the song. Immediately after posing his initial question, Kermit goes on to itemize several generally-accepted “facts” pertaining to rainbows, including the claim they “have nothing to hide,” only to categorically state, “I know they’re wrong.” So Kermit is very plainly accusing rainbows of hiding something, and inquisitive amphibian that he is, he would of course question what it was these rainbows were concealing.

  36. I think that songs are ment to be interpreted as you want to, but to get a true interpretation, please ask Kenneth Ascher and Paul Williams, Kermit’s co-writers of the song.

  37. John, I think you lost this one. Just look at the Majority vote here…

    Moreover, if you are going to ask about what’s on the other side, there are only a few good lyrical choices: rainbows, mirrors, death…um…highways…

    Besides, you can’t ask what’s on the other side of the rainbow without the rainbow, so the song clearly has to be about both.

  38. Krissy is right. If you look at the full verse:

    Why are there so many songs about rainbows and what’s on the other side?
    Rainbows are visions, but only illusions, and rainbows have nothing to hide.
    So we’ve been told and some choose to believe it.
    I know they’re wrong wait and see.

    Kermit is specifically referring to whether rainbows have an “other side” and what would be there.

  39. Sorry, but you are wrong and your wife is correct. Not only that line, but in fact the entire song, is about the role rainbows play in the collective (human) psyche. The song is an exploration of what rainbows mean to “the lovers, the dreamers, and me,” and the opening line introduces that with a Socratic teaching question: “why is it, grasshopper, that so many people feel compelled to sing about rainbows, and specifically about what is on the other side(s) of them?” So in essence it’s a meta-song, a song about songs, a song about why we sing. Deep.

  40. I think Krissy is right, as well, but for a different reason. The “comma” issue seems irrelevant, it’s the “and” that catches my attention. He asks *why* are there so many songs about rainbows *and* what’s on the other side. If he didn’t have the “and” it could easily be two questions, “why” and “what’s”. However, he added “and”, so it’s only one question, “why”. Obviously, he is referring to the Bifrost. He has clearly heard the many Asgardian songs about Bifrost and Earth.

  41. I’ve always had Krissy’s interpretation. I just assumed when I was a kid that adults must know a lot more such songs. How sure are we that these songs don’t exist?

    The one example cited from the Wizard of Oz is from a huge outlier in the world of pop culture longevity. The fact that we know it doesn’t mean that we have an encyclopedic knowlege of the output of Tin Pan Alley between 1930 and the Muppet Movie. Maybe Kermit is an enthusiast; though if this were the case then the sketch on the Muppet show makes less sense.

  42. Krissy is wrong. The song is about wishes and reality and such-like; asking what’s on the other side of rainbows is clearly an entirely separate concept.

    The rest of the first verse has Kermit asserting that rainbows are non-illusory and have something to hide, so the question of what is on the other side of the rainbows is very important. Lumping this concept in with the “so many songs about” makes it clunky and inelegant.

  43. So, that thing yesterday … that doing nothing thing? Clearly you had some *difficulty* with that.

  44. @ David Gustafson: Actually, the left-handedness of stringed instrument playing Muppets is fairly common. From a technical standpoint, it’s because of the way the puppeteer underneath holds and works the puppet and control rods.

    For the general question, think I’m going to have to go with Krissy (and almost everybody else). The question is about songs that are both about rainbows and the other side.

  45. A GREP scan of available public sources including the Library of Congress and my son’s music collection shows there are 3,487 songs about or mentioning rainbows in a significant way (Note: this is derived from romance-based languages only). Of those, just 123 mention “the other side” or “at the end”. That means only 3.5% of rainbow songs include the follow-on (and separate) idea about what’s at the end or on the other side. Ergo, John is right; the majority of songs about rainbows are only about rainbows and rarely include the larger metaphysical question about the reward at the end, or alternate universe on the other side. (PS. Numbers used herein are rectal not fractal, er factual.)

  46. As a singer, and one who has sung this song more times than I can count, I am agreeing with Krissy. This line refers to the rainbows, and the vast unknown that lies on the other side of said rainbows.

  47. As lovely as Krissy is I’m going to have to side with you, John. The comma right after the ‘and’ means, to me, that what follows is an independent idea. Sometime, I use commas to let one catch ones brain-breath, but this sentence is too short to need that. Thus, it’s two separate, independent statements.

  48. I agree with Krissy- I have always heard this lyric as a question about the songs about rainbows and their other sides.

    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.

    The song is a statement of the major theme of the film – even though art lacks the concrete appeal of piles of money or delicious frog legs, it is far more important, and it’s worthwhile to risk everything else for an opportunity to create art that makes others’ lives happier.

    Taken in that context, the lyric isn’t really about rainbows- it’s about the songs about rainbows, and how those songs enhance what a rainbow means for the people who hear them. People imagine what’s on the other side of the rainbow because the song (“Over the Rainbow,” clearly) inspires them to do so. Without the song, a rainbow would be just water vapor and light- it’s the song that gives it its power, just as the artist makes a muppet mean much more than just felt and wire.

    “The Rainbow Connection,” and indeed the whole of “The Muppet Movie,” is a beautiful meditation on the importance of art in a world that’s too often concerned merely with money, and it is a metaphorical autobiography by Jim Henson, the story of how he went from being a simple frog with a dream to being an artist who touched the lives of millions.

  49. There are several dozen songs about rainbows (that I know of) but those specifically about what’s on the other side of them narrows the field considerably. This would suggest that John is more correct in his thinking than Krissy. HOWEVER – Anyone who truly immerses themselves in Muppet culture and psychology understands that Muppets generate their own reality, and in the Muppetverse – of which Kermit is undeniably the central figure – it is entirely possible that there are hundreds or even thousands of songs about rainbows AND what’s on the other side of them that we will never even hear. The comma is actually the biggest flaw in your argument, John. Song couplets, when quoted, are usually separated by a slash – “Why are there so many songs about rainbows/and what’s on the other side?” is the correct way to write it. Just because there is a short break between the two lines when they are sung does not mean a comma belongs there. I’m sure you could still develop a sophisticated argument defending your position in the absence of a comma, but I think it is more likely that Krissy is correct here, and her interpretation of the song agrees with my own.

  50. For crying out loud, commas do NOT matter here, number of rainbow songs do NOT matter here—the only thing that matters is that Krissy is right and you are wrong! Haven’t you learned that yet????

  51. I learned two different songs about rainbows when I was in Girl Scout Camp in the mid 1970s.

    “Red and Yellow and Pink and Green
    Purple and Orange and Blue
    I can sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow,
    Sing a rainbow too”

    was the chorus to one of them, about “listening with your eyes”. Nothing about over, around, behind, or through the rainbow, though.

    “We’re a rainbow made of children,
    We’re an army singing a song
    There’s no weapon that can stop us
    Rainbow love is much too strong”

    was the chorus to an anti-racism song. No prepositions there, either. Frogs must have a different playlist.

    For what it’s worth, though, I think that Kermit is singing about songs about rainbows which include what’s on the other side of the rainbow, just as later he’s talking about hearing voices while half-asleep.

  52. Maybe Kermit is talking about songs of rainbows and what’s on the other side of the vinyls or CDs on which those songs are recorded. Alternatively, perhaps he got bored and wondered what was on the other TV channels, perhaps doubting why anybody would want to watch him sing. Possibly he was referring to life after death. Maybe it would depend on whether or not a semicolon was used instead of a comma to link the clauses. Generally, clauses refer to the same subject of the sentence, the subject being songs in this case, so I think Kermit is really asking what is on the B-side of all those vinyls. By the way, I once stood in the end of a rainbow, and I found no pot of gold, only concrete.

  53. Can we talk about how there’s not that many songs about rainbows? I clearly don’t have enough to do or worry about because that line has always bothered me. The only ones that come to mind is “Over The Rainbow” and “Look to the Rainbow.” There’s bound to be more but it doesn’t come up as often as say, clouds, rain, or snow. As a meteorologic event, it is surprisingly underrepresented in lyrics.

    There’s certainly more songs about what’s on the other side. I will give Kermit that if it is two separate thoughts, but it’s not.

  54. Initially, I was with Krissy, but the more I look at it the more I like another interpretation. This line is setting up not just the first verse, but the entire song. Kermit is asking “Why are there so many songs about rainbows?” _and_ “Why are there so many songs about what’s on the other side?”. Not the other side of rainbows, but the other side of reality.

    This theme of “other side” is underlined in the third verse which begins “Have you been half asleep and have you heard voices? I’ve heard them calling my name.”

    Hence the title “Rainbow Connection”; someday, Kermit is saying, we will find the bridge to the other side, and he strongly suggests that rainbows are involved.

  55. To Dave Gustafson: actually most all of the Muppets were left-handed. That’s because the puppeteers such as Jim Henson were right handed and used their dominant hand to perform the head/mouth of the Muppet, leaving their left hands for things like the wires that moved Kermit’s left hand for strumming. I know too many items of useless information.

  56. Didn’t Heinlein once point out that rainbows are one of the few instances in nature of something that only has one side?

  57. It’s a fine point. Most writers will insist that what they wrote is sufficient for understanding, so there’s not much point in asking the authors of the song what they meant. From the song itself and its implications, I find the following. First, there are Norse sagas, which were sung. Some of those sagas included information about the Bifrost Bridge, which is a rainbow and leads to Valhalla. So even aside from Somewhere Over The Rainbow there is at least one other song about what is on the other side of the rainbow. Writers are allowed some stretching; Shakespeare referred to the eight thousand fighters at Agincourt as a “few,” so referring to at least three as “so many” is allowed. Second, the song is the The Rainbow _Connection_, which strongly indicates that the rainbow connects two things, thus this song, like the others, is discussing what is on the other side of the rainbow. Third, the song clearly indicates that the lovers, dreamers, and Kermit are searching for the connection; since it is probably not a drug connection and since it is fairly easy to find a rainbow, they must be searching not only for the rainbow itself but for what is on the other side. There are many searchers, which implies that the search for what is on the other side by so many people is the reason for there being so many songs about it. My conclusion is that Krissy is right, the songs are about the rainbow _and_ what’s on the other side, and Kermit’s question is about the songs that deal with both. (And anyway, how many songs are _just_ about rainbows? I can’t think of any. Even “Reading Rainbow” is about _reading_.)

  58. Team Krissy, here, strongly enough that I doubt I would even query it were I copyediting it. The parallel structure seems obvious to me.

    I can only think of one song about rainbows, and it’s ALL about what’s on the other side; to wit, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” I have always assumed that Jim Henson or whoever wrote the lyrics for Kermit was thinking about SOTR in that line. The whole thesis of “Rainbow Connection” is the same as SOTR: that you can wish upon a star or follow a rainbow and go to an amazing far-off dreamland.

  59. So I was reading comments and thinking that, despite what everyone was writing, I have always interpreted the lyric as John does, when I came across Pamela’s comment at 11:29am and had one of those Jungian synchronistic moments: the ONE person (at least before 11:30) who also agrees with John is named the SAME as me!!!!! What are the odds?

  60. I’ve always thought these were clearly 2 separate musings. I’m surprised so many people disagree.

  61. Have to go with Krissy, because the song is about the way that human beings make mysteries out of (perhaps) natural phenomena. Hence, Kermit is not asking about rainbows but rather why people musically speculate on a prismatic effect created by nature. The second verse doesn’t talk about balls of burning gas nor does it request statistics on wish fulfillment; it asks why we keep wishing on stars. On the other hand, if Krissy is correct, the comma isn’t, at least not according to my late lamented eighth grade teacher, because the second phrase could not stand alone as sentence in that interpretation.

  62. The writer of this song was interviewed by Chris Hardwick on his Nerdist podcast not too long ago. He actually talks about the process of writing it. Perhaps your answers are best found there?

  63. Before I start showing my “work,” I will indicate that I am in neither person’s camp here concerning grammar, as I believe the actual argument at play has nothing to do with the line break as comma – and the dissertation I’m about to deliver does get me there. Concerning the intention of the line? Scroll down if you don’t want to read. ;)

    I must start with disagreement that there is an implicit comma indicated via a line break. As someone who started her college writing program with extensives on poetry, I was taught that no assumption can be made concerning the presence or lack thereof of punctuation in a poem just because a line break was present. I was also taught that song lyrics are inherently poems and poems are inherently songs at their hearts, and the rules intertwine in such a way that one must account for those rules in both, to be truly good at it.

    That said, I have to point out that the sheet music that is out there for Rainbow Connection, which could clarify this point once and for all, actually indicates multiple kinds of punctuation depending upon those who are writing it. I have two different versions of Rainbow Connection sheet music, and one indicates a comma; one indicates a period. Some you can find on the web indicate no punctuation. The version that is in the official Muppet Movie songbook (which is one of the ones I have) indicates a comma for the “rainbows/other side” line break. It also has a comma for “rainbows are visions, but only illusions,” which is so patently illustrating Krissy’s point that it is difficult to argue… until you get to the fact that there is no comma for the two-line part that states “Have you been half asleep and have you heard voices.”

    I think in this case, the comma is there to demonstrate a desire to convey hesitation, and the point of the line is that even KERMIT doesn’t know whether they are related ideas of not, and that is what he is trying to resolve throughout the song, but he never quite gets there.

    Which means in my mind, both John & Krissy are right.

  64. As Connie Willis pointed out to me during a conversation last year at the Nebula autograph table, with you sitting right next to her, where you should have be able to pay attention, if you’d chosen to do so; the comma is often used incorrectly, and the semicolon underused. Check with her; but I have no doubt that Ms. Wilson would argue that if you were correct a semicolon should have been used.

    Point to Krissy,

  65. I believe we must treat the line as expressing two independent ideas, and the line itself formally mirroring it’s meaning by separating two independent clauses with a conjunction. That is unless Kermit is neglecting basic English parallelism in order to similarly avoid awkwardness in the sung line (about rainbows requires “about what’s”). But we all know awkwardness is cute, and not to be avoided. Hence, QED.

  66. I’ve always interpreted this as two separate questions: a “why” and a “what,” similar to a conversational construction like “Where are we going, and what time to we need to leave?” They’ve got a common topic – a destination – even if the questions address two distinct ideas. Siding with you, John.

  67. I actually found the Welbeck Music Corp. Easy Piano sheet music from 1979 in the depths of our piano bench, just for you, John. The line is (phrasing included), “Why are there so man-y songs a-bout rain-bows, and what’s on the oth-er side?” If I could post a photo of it here, I would.

    The irony being that there really weren’t that many songs about rainbows at the time (not so much true now), so you could easily conjecture that the song references “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in which case I’m with Krissy. The rainbow songs of the pre-70s era reference what you’d find on the other side. You could probably argue that cultural rainbow references at the time were influenced by stereotypes of leprechauns and Disney-fied Irish folk and fairy tales.

  68. If you do a Google search for “Rainbow Connection sheet music”, you will find more than one rendition. Some of them have an eighth rest after the word Rainbows and others don’t. If you listen to Paul Williams on the album “I’m Going Back There Someday”, the rest is very clear and the intonation suggests that “what’s on the other side,” is indeed further musing and a separate question.
    The Kermit rendition above does not have the rest. In that case, “what’s on the other side,” seems to modify first part of the question. There is the possibility that it refers to all songs about rainbows with special emphasis on those that ask about the other side, but in that rendition, I would agree more with Krissy.
    With multiple renditions out there, I suppose the only way to solve it is with the death of millions.

  69. I think the people who think that you will “lose” by winning an argument with Krissy have a really weird and depressing view of your marriage.

  70. I think that the songs are about rainbows and what is on the other side of rainbows. If you look at the rest of the lyrics, Kermit is talking about the importance of art in life. The “they” Kermit talks about who say rainbows are just visions are realists – science tells us that rainbows are only illusions, and therefore there can’t be anything on the other side of a rainbow. The lovers, the dreamers, and Kermit are the artists, who say that the realists are wrong and there IS something on the other side of the rainbow. The artists are the songwriters who write songs about rainbows and what’s on the the other side.

  71. I am siding with Krissy on this one. I have always been under the impression that Kermit was referencing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow;” the pause in the lyric is from having to drop to the lower note while singing it.

  72. I vote with Krissy. To get your reading, I think, it wouldn’t be a question of commas; the lyric would be:

    Why are there so many songs about rainbows?
    And what’s on the other side?

  73. I think both of you are missing the real point John, it all comes down to the lovers, the dreamers, and Me.

  74. Krissy is right. As Bill Leisner points out, the rest of the first verse bears her out. Its argument might be condensed thus:

    “Why are there so many songs about rainbows and what’s on the other side?
    We’ve been told, after all, that there is nothing on the other side of rainbows.
    Yet in spite of all this evidence, the lovers, the dreamers, and me continue to believe otherwise.”

  75. Why are there so many songs that have ranges
    That stretch out from basso to squeak?
    I don’t mind earworms that I sing along with
    And don’t cause my doggie to freak.
    Kermie could never reach all those high notes
    and, sadly, folks, neither can I.
    So that’s why we have it,
    This surrogate rainbow,
    The bathers, the peepers, and I.
    ***********
    You’re welcome.

  76. I’m just happy to see the term “meta-textual” and hope that it comes into more common and frequent usage.

  77. From the phrasing, it sounds like he means songs about what is on the other side of rainbows. This is supported by the by the most famous rainbow based song being “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” the song he is likely alluding to and how that is explicitly dicussing the blue birds flying, the skies that are blue and the dreams that you dare to dream really coming true that happens on the other side of said rainbow.

  78. Siding with Krissy on this one. If we were JUST looking at that one line, I could see your argument, but taken in the context of the rest of the piece, it’s very clear that it’s a single thought. It’s not uncommon for songs and poetry to play fast and loose with grammar for artistic effect. Given that, we can’t simply fall back on them being arguably independent clauses. You have to draw intent from the context of the surrounding content.

  79. I think you’re both bent on examining one tree to death while ignoring the whole forest. The song as a whole, like the movie for which it was written, is about the pursuit of improbable dreams and hopes- to use the metaphor, chasing rainbows to seek the pot of gold. The rainbow, by itself, is only half of the metaphor; people are fascinated by rainbows because of the idea that there IS something on the other side or at the end. Commas are irrelevant; statistics on rainbow-related songs are irrelevant; the song is about, and sung by, a person who refuses to allow cynicism to end their pursuit of their dreams, even if those dreams are as elusive as the rainbow’s end. In my opinion, you’re BOTH wrong.

  80. As the author of a doctoral dissertation on ambiguous language in connected discourse, I can see that the argument boils down to “what is the antecedent of, ‘what’s on the other side?'” Is it “songs” or, “rainbows”? As the theme is clearly rainbows, and not songs (rheme), it’s about the other side of rainbows and you’re right John, but you may want to gracefully concede.

  81. Team Krissy! As I learned in hebrew school, when interpreting the texts you need to understand the context. Context demands a single thought.

  82. Are there no choir members on this thread? In musical notation, a comma (or an eighth rest or whatever) can be used to indicate when a singer or a section is to inhale. Karen Carpenter clearly demonstrates this in her version.

    To me, the comma is irrelevant poetically. I am going to side with Krissy just because.

  83. I’m gonna have to go with Krissy on this one. Judging by the rest of the song, if they were two separate questions, Kermit would have left them as such. His lyrical style suggests he would not include the “and” unless it were necessary to join the two parts of topic in question, ‘songs about (rainbows and what’s on the other side)’. I think if he had meant it as you’re interpreting it, he would have sung, “Why are there so many songs about rainbows? What’s on the other side?”

  84. Krissy is right, because otherwise there is no referent for ‘other side’ (other side of what?). Also, what are the rainbows hiding, if not what’s on the other side of them?

  85. While I believe that Michael Cohen basically closed the thread at 10:58 AM (“Krissy is right. Krissy is ALWAYS right.”), as an engineer, I would expect a more analytic approach, similar to that suggested by MVS. Namely:

    1. Determine the number of songs extant about rainbows. I am not sure what would constitute an authoritative database of song topics to tabulate this.

    2. Of the songs extant about rainbows, identify the subset that are also about the subtopic of what’s on the other side of rainbows. The same data source would apply; a metric would be required to evaluate to what extent a song must be about the other side of rainbows to quality (i.e., is it sufficient that a song simply allude to the other side of one or more rainbows; must the song be entirely about the other side of rainbows; or is some percentage of content needed).

    3. Calculate the percentage of songs about rainbows that are determined to be also about the other side of rainbows, based on the data in (1) and (2).

    I think at this point some sort of Bayesian analysis would be required, taking into consideration the prior probability that Kermit is in fact musing about songs that deal with both rainbows and what is on the other side of rainbows given our knowledge of Kermit as a journalist and songwriter as referenced by katre, and the data above, but the margin of this post is insufficiently large to contain it. Someone call Nate Silver.

    Peter Cashwell: You can eliminate the word “grammar” from your statement without affecting its truthfulness.

  86. I’ve always interpreted it the same way Krissy does. He seems to be musing about songs in that lyric, and I can’t see any way to have a song about what’s on the other side of rainbows, without bringing rainbows into it.

    As to the lack of songs involving rainbows in general, judging from the lyrics, Kermit is hearing voices, so he might be hearing songs the rest of us aren’t.

    (I just watched this movie yesterday.)

  87. The song is about rainbows and what is on the other side of rainbows…on the surface. I think it could also have the double meaning that you suggest. So, you are both right, I was going to go with Krissy on this, but then I looked at the last verse:

    Have you been half asleep
    And have you heard voices
    I’ve heard them calling my name
    Are these the sweet sounds that called
    The young sailors
    I think they’re one and the same
    I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it
    There’s something that I’m supposed to be

    That sounds more like an allusion to “the other side” to me.

    If you consider that the Muppets’ primary target audience members are children, then “of course” it’s a song about rainbows. But we can’t forget that they have always brilliantly included many references that only the parents of the children would understand and appreciate, thus widening their target audience by making it more enjoyable for parents to be able watch with their kids rather than feel like they are being tortured …like if they had to watch an episode of Dora the Explorer….or twenty…

    Thank you for giving me a new perspective on this song.

  88. This is like that whole “farmer and dog” thing.

    When I originally heard the song, I… well, I was an autistic small child. I remember people being amazed at the scene where Kermit was on a bicyle and not understanding why this was weird, because I didn’t know how muippets normally worked. :)

    Anyway, up until about five minutes ago, I had your interpretation, because it was obvious that songs wouldn’t be that specific. Then I realized: You’re both wrong!

    John: (why are there so many songs about rainbows) and (what’s on the other side)
    Krissy: so many songs about (rainbows and what’s on the other side)
    Seebs: (songs about) ((rainbows) and (what’s on the other side))

    He is asking why there are so many songs which are about either rainbows or what’s on the other side — and through the rest of the song, we find that he’s using “what’s on the other side” as a metaphor for the things sought by “lovers and dreamers”. At which point, nearly all pop songs are about “what’s on the other side”, even if they do not specifically mention the rainbow.

    AGHH NO WHY AM I THINKING ABOUT A SONG SUNG BY A TALKING FROG.

  89. John is right, and those who disagree are overthinking it. It’s only the first stanza that deals with rainbows, and in that stanza they want to sort of cover the rainbow high points. “Songs about rainbows” is one; “what’s on the other side” is another. “Songs about what’s on the other side” isn’t anything.

  90. After rereading your post, I see that your restatement of your position in para 8 conflicts with your initial position in para 3. I therefore conclude that you are messing with us.

  91. I think that fundamentally, John (from March 3 at 11:00 am, not the John of this site) is correct. Kermit is talking about songs, sung by other (possibly muppet) frogs. Who knows what those songs are about? We don’t speak frog (well, at least **I** don’t speak frog, I won’t speak for all of you), so it’s quite likely that the subtleties of comma usage have been lost in the translation.

    Clearly, this can only be answered by an amphibialinguist. Is there an amphibialinguist in the house?

  92. 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.”

  93. Songs, and poetry in general, are wonderful because they can be about several complex, even competing, ideas all at once.

    However, in this case, as all long-married men know, the wife is correct, regardless of the debate.

  94. Paul Williams is STILL ALIVE. (great documentary) I suspect the degrees of separation between Scalzi and Williams are few and easily surmounted. Use your fame and position. Go to the source, please. Then report back. Because seeing 2 of my seemingly unrelated favorites connect would make me so happy!
    I agree with Krissy, BTW. For the simple reason that I think your argument implies Kermit is too easily distracted. Changing subjects mid sentence? Not likely. Kermit may be a dreamer, but his focus is undeniable. He chases his dream through that whole movie despite all kinds of mishaps and distractions.

  95. Krissy. The lyric sheet doesn’t matter, and in many cases is wrong anyway. The REAL key is to listen to who the singer is interpreting the song. Krissy FTW.

  96. 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.

  97. I’m going for option #3 – it means whatever Kermit wants it to mean. Because when it comes down to it, the little green guy KNOWS!!

  98. I’m going with the single thought, rainbows and the other side are connected. If you analyze the song in the entirety, the two thoughts are clearly related. All the other thoughts come in pairs of lines, so from a structural standpoint, Krissy’s right.

  99. I’ve found some evidence that supports Krissy’s position. Later in the song, Kermit uses a sentence with similar construction to ask:

    Have you been half asleep, and have you heard voices?

    These aren’t two separate thoughts. It would make no sense at all for Kermit to ask whether you’ve been half asleep; he’s asking whether you’ve heard voices while you’re half asleep. So we know that at least some of the time, when Kermit uses this particular sentence structure, the two parts are not independent.

  100. I’ll have to hear how Kermit sang the song before I can decide. Because if just going by reading the sentence, Krissy is right. But if Kermit sang it in a particular way….say a long pause where the comma is, then John, you are correct.

  101. I have no strong opinion on the specific question at hand (although I tend toward’s Krissy’s interpretation), but a little quick Googling suggests that there are not, in fact, “so many songs about” either rainbows OR what’s on the other side. One count suggests 42, total. (http://www.overthinkingit.com/2011/12/05/the-rainbow-connection-muppets-songs-about-rainbows/) One might ask oneself (if one were inclined to do so) why there are so FEW songs about rainbows, and why so many of them are the same? And, as long as we’re talking about rainbows, does the IZ version of _Somewhere Over the Rainbow_ keep popping up in my Pandora feeds, even when it should not do so?

  102. I was going to frame my comment as agreeing with Our Host rather than Krissy, but on reflection I think my answer is that they’re both right — and that the whole issue of “songs about rainbows” is a red herring. The key point is this: after the first line of “Rainbow Connection”, the subject of songs about rainbows never comes up again. (Songs, yes, but not songs about rainbows. Be patient, I’ll get there.)

    The key lies in whether one approaches the opening line word by word, or in the context of the phrase as a whole. From a strict word-by-word standpoint, Our Host makes a strong case: the line poses a specific, direct, self-contained question; the rest of the lyric goes off in what is mostly another direction. Textually speaking, the grammatical connection is superficial at best.

    But in practical terms, the word “song” is not at all integral to either that opening phrase or to the lyric as a whole. The purpose of Kermit’s opening question is not really to ask about “songs about rainbows”; rather, it’s to ask about humankind’s (and/or Muppetkind’s) obsession with said rainbows. One might replace “songs” in the lyric with “poems” or “books” or “films” or “documentaries” — except of course that “documentaries” totally fails to scan; OTOH, “paintings of rainbows” would do. And on that level, Krissy’s argument is likewise compelling: the opening couplet — and the song as a whole — is about the juxtaposition of two related facets of rainbow-lore. Thematically speaking, the two parts of the couplet definitely interact with and reinforce one another.

    Amusingly, the second and third verses can be used to support both the grammatical and the thematic viewpoints. On the grammatical side: the second verse makes no reference to music whatsoever, and while song is referenced in the third (“Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors?”), the song in question is that of the mythical siren, and entirely unconnected to rainbows per se. This lends credence to Our Host’s word-centric reading of the opening line. But all three verses are closely concerned with the thematic interaction Krissy points out — the equation of rainbows and dreams on one hand, and the matter of “what’s out there” on the other.

    So Our Host is clearly reading the line correctly, and Krissy is clearly reading the song correctly.

  103. The difficulty here is that when (many) people write poetry or lyrics they put a comma at the end of every line that doesn’t end with a period. Enjambment does not exist for them. So trying to decide if an end-line comma means what it would mean in (carefully-edited) prose is comparing your proverbial things that are not alike.

  104. I think I’ll have to come down on Krissy’s side. In the next line, Kermit muses that rainbows are odd things to be singing songs about in the first place, and that there’s clearly nothing on the “other side” of the rainbow for the song to consider.

    I’m not sure how to parse the third line, however. What have we been told exactly? That there is something there, or that there isn’t? Clearly Kermit himself has an opinion and thinks that those who “believe it” are wrong.

    As a side note, for most of my life the burning question of the ages revolved around the last line: I can understand how someone could be the wrong weight, but how can one be the wrong see? I can’t even make sense of the grammar in that. And what do body mass and visual acuity have to do with rainbows, anyway? These questions would keep me up at night. I’m not even kidding.

    I was a weird kid.

  105. I’m with Krissy on this.

    If, for the sake of discussion, we assume that the two topics are disconnected and describe different classes of songs, we end up with a class of songs about rainbows, and a class of songs about what is on the other side – but since the second class is disconnected from the first, there can be no conclusion drawn about the object defining the boundary between ‘this side’ and ‘the other side’.

    In short, you can’t have a song about what’s on the other side without some discussion of what forms the boundary. Since there’s no other boundary mentioned in the song (e.g., ‘this line in the sidewalk,’ ‘next week,’ ‘the 54th parallel,’ etc.), I can only conclude that the boundary between this side and the other side is the rainbow previously mentioned.

  106. “Krissy says, ‘I do not wish the death of millions. I would be satisfied with a couple hundred thousand.'”

    Now does this mean she’d be satisfied with the death of a couple hundred thousand, or is the second sentence independent of the first? In the latter interpretation, one would be less inclined to assume she wanted mass deaths, but rather it would make more sense to assume she wanted something like a nice six-figure cash present.

    Clearly once we finish resolving this first question, we must debate this new one… (ducks)

  107. To me, this line is Kermit’s musing about the actual absence of songs that are only about rainbows, which, I can believe, he finds a sad cultural norm.

    Why are humans, and perhaps frogs, so focused on what is on the other side? Can we not appreciate a wonderful weather event for itself, in the moment, without immediately jumping to some speculation of our own making? Why are we trapped in a cycle of imaginary longing for an unknowable, when here, right in front of us, is a spectacle of wonder? He is feeling his own inability to live freely in the now-moment, and he is acknowledging the cultural programming that makes real detachment nearly impossible. Though he might resist it, it is but a comma’s worth of pause before the question “what’s on the other side?” rushes in to any thought about rainbows.

    Clearly he is really raising a deeper question about “Why are there so FEW songs about rainbows qua rainbows?”

  108. My reading of that line matches Krissy’s, to the point that I’m scratching my head at John’s take on it. It just seems clumsily pedantic to me.

  109. Krissy is correct. Even if she is not factually correct, she’s correct. You should apologize immediately for even doubting her. Roses might not be amiss.

  110. Agree mostly with Kris Everstreet – ‘Commas are irrelevant; statistics on rainbow-related songs are irrelevant; the song is about, and sung by, a person who refuses to allow cynicism to end their pursuit of their dreams, even if those dreams are as elusive as the rainbow’s end.’

    Except, rather than cynicism, I’d say curiosity: being alive is to wonder about our world and to pursue our own answers, not just docilely accept what we’re told to believe.

  111. Gotta go with Krissy. And so should you unless you want to be sleeping on the porch . It’s all about 1 idea – rainbows. “What’s on the other side” refers to what you will find at the end of it.

  112. I am on Krissy’s side. It AND is not OR. It states a connection. Should I say a Rainbow Connection. The reference to the comma is irrelevant. You are missing out on listening to the words.

    Further, a look at the lyrics, references stars as a pointer a direction to go and in a wider sense something to dream on. A personal horizon to head towards.Then there are the voices calling in to the person towards action in a mystical sense. Again a pull.

    There are many songs about rainbows that don’t address this. They might address the beauty. They might have a “storm is over feeling”. But even the gold at the end of the rainbow ones go more for the directional sense, the dream sense. The thing is though- nothing in the song addresses rainbows in any other way. If the thoughts were separate, as you propose, wouldn’t Kermit (I could say the lyricist but I think the value of the fictional representation within a story is important.) refer to those other aspects where he really doesn’t.

    Taken into the larger contextual aspect of the Muppet Movie, isn’t the entire movie really based on what is on the other side of the Rainbow- not other interpretations? Again if they were two independent ideas wouldn’t they address the other idea somewhere? Either separately or in comparison? They don’t. The extended metaphor throughout the movie is that which Krissy goes with.

    What is the point of the song or the movie without the connection?

  113. I’m with you John. I’ve always thought they were two disparate ideas.

    You can (and some have) bring up the later line:
    “Have you been half asleep and have you heard voices?”
    I don’t think there’s a linebreak here like the line in question.

    But you also need to look at the lines:
    “What’s so amazing that keeps us star gazing,
    and what do we think we might see?”
    Which is definitely two separate questions and is written in a form similar to the rainbow questions.

    I think it’s clear that the questions are separate. Also, remember that at the end of the movie they find the ACTUAL end of the rainbow (and find that they and their movie are at the end), not a song about the end of a rainbow.

  114. I tend to agree with the “it’s a single thougt” camp. However, I refer you to this for additional info:

  115. @Eli 3:03

    Listened to it. It seems that paul seems to state that the Rainbow Connection is the missing link between the illusion of the rainbow, and the wrong way of seeing it- giving it another side. He also seems to address that it is meant to be a direct reference comment to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. Also he generally seems to quote it in full or, to me with a vocal ellipses. Seems to support Krissy.. I do think that Paul would be the authority to ask though.

  116. I vote Krissy. In the opening of the song, Kermit is asking, “Why do so many (human and, possibly, amphibian) people bother to write songs about what is on the other side of rainbows when we know that rainbows are merely straightforward meteorological phenomena?” Then, just when we are thinking how this cynicism seems uncharacteristic of the idealistic frog we know and love, he reveals that this question is only what “they” would ask. We’ve been told to believe what “they” would believe, but he knows better. He, along with the lovers and dreamers, will someday find the rainbow connection. The rainbow connection is what makes rainbows so compelling, what “keeps us stargazing,” what propels us to stay true to our dreams as Kermit eventually does

    Cally @ 11:52, I remember having a discussion with several Girl Scouts in my troop, all of us puzzled as to why “pink” was in a rainbow song when there is no pink in an actual rainbow.

  117. @wonderbink: our host is a writer, pedantry is part of the skill set, and may become a habit after a while.

    I don’t know that I agree with the “clumsy” though and as far as interpreting the song goes: Krissy for the win.

  118. You are both wrong. The song isn’t about rainbows. It is about what is on the other side. The rainbow is the connection to the other side. The rainbow is all that we can see of the other side. Stargazing and the voices are other metaphors for that same longing.

  119. As usual, the distaff side is correct. I sang that song for my son many times, and I always sang it as though it were a direct corollary to Over the Rainbow. Somewhere over the rainbow gets you to the other side. Right?

    Does it ever make sense to argue with Krissy. As I was once told by a Master Chief when I was a new Naval Officer, “I may not be right, but I’m never wrong.”

  120. Speaking from the POV of a local amphibian . . . it’s my belief that you are both mistaken.

    Kermit’s musing regarding songs about rainbows is clearly interrupted by subtle movement behind the log upon which he perches. Given the possibility that some predator may be sneaking up on him — his survival instincts interrupt the ongoing semi-musical dialog with the sudden and potentially life changing (to a frog) question – “what’s (creeping) on the other side (of this log)?”

    Glad I could be of service.

  121. Krissy is mostly right. Sorry for whatever you lost.

    While the comma is technically superfluous, two fully unrelated clauses should be separated by a semicolon, which seems to be going the way of the spittoon, alas…which is why I say mostly given that commas seem to be mutating to take their place in this age of internet quasi-literacy. However, the stresses in Kermit’s speech cadence strongly suggest that the second clause is dependent on the first. Spoken language predates written language. If there were soundbites of the American Founders, you can be sure they’d be brought into constitutional discussions. In the future, all song lyrics must be formatted as phrase structure trees; it’s the only way to be sure.

    I doubt these points have not been made already in 151 comments, but you did ask each of us to weigh in.

    Stick with songs about rainbows (and, if applicable, what’s on the other side).

    Ammo? (apologies if this joke has been made already; I lack the time to read the doubtless hilarious thread)

    Always best to remember that the correct answer to any disagreement with your partner is sweets.

  122. Contributing to the Index Cantorum Iridibus:

    Don McLean, Magdalene Lane (2nd verse, anyway, which in fact is mostly about what’s over the rainbow.)
    Look to the Rainbow (from Finian’s Rainbow) (which is about following rainbows but says nothing about what you’d do if you caught one)
    “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” which stays on this side but not through lack of effort
    Rainbow Round My Shoulder (also called “The Polychrome Dandruff Song”), which stays firmly on this side
    Rainbow Around the Moon (more about the other side invading this side)
    Colbie Caillat, Rainbow (which is about rainbows, what’s on the other side, and what’s exactly in the middle (the bridge talks about stopping in the middle and hanging her feet off the edge)). Be sure to scrape the syrup out of your speakers if you play this one.

  123. I haven’t gottent through all the comments, so I hope this point has not been made already. In response to James Caplan’s comment about what is the antecedant of “what’s on the other side”: Conjunctions usually link two or more complementary (or grammatically equal) phrases. “Rainbows” is in a prepositional phrase that modifies “songs,” and so “what’s on the other side” does not modify either noun as much as it complements the preceding structure, the main part of which is “songs.” Connecting phrases and clauses with conjunctions often means there is a thematic connection as well, and so the thematic connection of “songs about rainbows” and also “what’s on the other side” makes more linguistic and grammatical sense. In my way of thinking here, the comma is not as important as the complementary structure of the entire thought (I am not at all implying the comma is not important).

    Short answer: Krissy’s viewpoint makes more grammatical and linguistic sense than yours.

    I hope I am not being too pedantic. I teach linguistics and I am a grammar geek, which does not make me exceptionally popular at parties.

  124. No time to read the comments. English teacher here. You are looking at two independent clauses glued together with a comma and cooordinating conjunction. Thus, there are two sentences properly joined into this one sentence, each with their own subject and predicate. Bottom line: Krissy is right. Kermit muses about songs concerning rainbows and he muses about what is on the other side of the rainbow. The two are related only in the word “rainbow.” He asks two different questions. Enough said. Leave out the “and” and you have the evil, evil comma splice and score zero.

  125. For those of you who are interested, songwriter Paul Williams offers a perspective via Twitter:

  126. You need to look at this in context
    “Why are there so many songs about rainbows
    and what’s on the other side?”
    The source of our conflict.
    “Rainbows are visions, but only illusions,
    and rainbows have nothing to hide.”
    Okay, here he seems to be declaring his belief that there is nothing on the other side, as in “why are these songs bothering to ask about the other side of the rainbow? There’s nothing there.” This clearly supports Krissy. BUT THEN:
    “So we’ve been told and some choose to believe it.
    I know they’re wrong, wait and see.”
    Crap, so the previous line was just him quoting other people’s beliefs about the rainbow having nothing beyond it. But what if the first line was also him quoting other people’s asking the question of why so many songs and the other side? I still side with Krissy, if said casually and without the pregnant pause where the comma is (which is forced there by the pace of the song) I would believe her interpretation. Somebody who knows more about lyrics than me should probably look at this angle..

  127. John, you’re using what a felt frog means when he sings a song as a seed for a “meta” question?

    What next? Physics as interpreted by Gonzo the Great?

  128. For years I agreed with you John, that there were two separate and distinct questions being raised. After reviewing a few of your commenters, I started to think that maybe I was just a empty hull of a man incapable of putting a sentence together in a proper way. Now I have to take the third approach: Both of you are correct. Why are there so many songs about rainbows is itself a question, what’s on the other side of rainbows is a question, and the two together are a question. the song leaves all interpretations open, and the AWESOME comment of the writer himself (big fan Paul, for YEARS) suggests the same thing. To paraphrase Stephenson in Anathem, the question(s) raised here only need a straightforward answer if you have to adhere to a mystic frame of mind; the poetic mind realizes that the questions are in flux and that singular correct answers to questions are fleeting.

  129. I haven’t listened to the clip, because just reading the name is enough to get the song stuck in my head for at least 24 hours. However from what I remember, Kermit has a definite melancholy inflection in his voice for the second part of the line, which is definitely not consistent with Krissy’s theory. This isn’t just a frog asking about rainbow songs; he’s pondering the deep questions of life.

  130. I’m with nerdycellist, above. To me it’s always meant:

    “There are many songs about rainbows. There are many songs about what’s on the other side. Why is that?”

  131. Like all good poets and philosophers, Paul Williams’s answer is really just another insightful question.

    Which is worse, the impending loss of a friend or the loss of an impending friend? The answer seems obvious until you realize that it’s different in the past and present than it is in the future, and even depends on what future you choose.

    @ Brian (off the clock)

    To paraphrase Stephenson in Anathem, the question(s) raised here only need a straightforward answer if you have to adhere to a mystic frame of mind; the poetic mind realizes that the questions are in flux and that singular correct answers to questions are fleeting.

    Yes, but while the characters in Anathem recognize that there is rarely a single correct fixed answer, they also acknowledge that there are still wrong answers and impossible geometries.

  132. I saw an interview years ago with the writers of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”, where they talked about working on the lyrics and the music separately. They had originally written it as “Somewhere on the other side of the rainbow”, but they couldn’t get the words and the music to fit together, until they changed it to “over”.

    I can’t find a link to that interview. It’s probably on the DVD-extras of some deluxe boxed edition of The Wizard of Oz. I did find this comment on another site by someone named Phil Berardelli:

    “Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg once told a delightful story about writing this song. They said they labored weeks to come up with that first, now immortal line. They wanted to convey the idea of reaching the end of the rainbow but just couldn’t find the right word — they had gotten stuck “on the other side of the rainbow” and then “at the end of the rainbow.” Finally, they realized that “over” fit both the bill and the song’s meter, and the rest, as they say, is history. It’s a wonderful lesson on how even the simplest form of genius sometimes requires you to struggle endless to reach it.”

  133. Kermit is clearly concerned with any notes of genius that have been scribbled on the back of the sheet music for the referenced rainbow referring songs.

  134. I first heard this song in the theater when the movie first came out. When I heard Kermit sing the above mentioned line, I immediately thought of the song “Over the Rainbow” from the “Wizard of Oz”. Since that song is about both rainbows and what is over them, I immediately thought that his question was indeed about rainbows AND what’s over them.

    Long story short, I’m with Krissie.

    BTW, I’m typing this while wearing a red T-shirt. I hope I don’t die. (It says “Taos” on it; does that improve my odds?).

  135. I also must side with Krissy. If it were two separate questions, wouldn’t the lyricist have added a question mark after each clause? Personally, I don’t think there should be a comma at all. Kermit is clearly referring to songs with the following subject matter: rainbows and what is on the other side of them. He immediately follows up with the line about “…only illusions,” in which he’s clearly refuting the idea of a rainbow having an “other side.”

  136. Definition: We define a KT1 (Kermit Type 1) song as being about rainbows and what is on the other side of them.

    Lemma: “The Rainbow Connection” (TRC) is a KT1 song.

    Proof: TRC is at least partially about rainbows (next line: “Rainbows are visions”), and metaphorically what is on the “other side” of them (“What’s so amazing that keeps us star gazing and what do we think we might see?”) If John’s statement is correct, it is explicitly about what is on the other side of rainbows, but the proof does not require assuming this fact (important later on!)

    This lemma allows us to classify the interpretations:

    John’s interpretation: TRC is a KT1 song (and also, perhaps tangentially, about songs about rainbows which are not KT1 songs, but that is not germane to the present analysis).
    Krissy’s interpretation: TRC is a KT1 song about KT1 songs.

    The latter interpretation is favored, because it leads naturally to the definition:

    Definition: A “Kermit Type 2″ song is a KT1 song about KT1 songs.

    Under Krissy’s interpretation, TRC can therefore be identified a KT2 song.

    The logical implication of this construction is, of course, that Jonathan Coulton needs to write a KT3 song, a song about songs about songs about rainbows, and importantly whether or not such songs discuss whether songs are about what is on the other side of said rainbows, or are merely themselves about the other side. Such as song would most likely be titled the Rainbow Connection Connection, or The Rainbow “Rainbow Connection” Connection.

    The identification of the rainbow connection with its corresponding covariant derivative is left as an exercise to the more mathematically inclined reader.

  137. Two separate questions: 1) why are their so many songs about rainbows. 2) what’s on the other side. If there was just one question, there would be no need for a comma.

  138. Let’s parse the sentence. It seems to be asking two questions: “Why are there so many songs about rainbows?” and “Why are there so many songs about what’s on the other side?”

    But note that the “other side” in question is the other side OF RAINBOWS. Therefore any song about “what’s on the other side” MUST also be a song about rainbows.

    QED: Kermit is asking a single question: why are there so many songs about rainbows and what’s on the other side of rainbows? Because you can’t have a song about things on the other side of a rainbow without the song being about rainbows as well.

  139. Allow me to disagree with you a bit here, John: there aren’t that many distinct songs about rainbows, and this fact actually IS important to help us understand Kermit’s song. From this article in Overthinking It:

    It’s not that there are so many unique, individual songs about rainbows out there. It’s that “Over the Rainbow” is so insanely popular and is performed or played so frequently that we get the impression that there are in fact “so many songs about rainbows.”

    In other words, Kermit probably isn’t talking about a lot of disparate songs about rainbows. He’s talking about that ONE song we’ve all heard so much, and that particular song is very explicitly about what’s on the other side of the rainbow.

    Consider what Kermit sings immediately after: “Rainbows are visions, but only illusions,/ And rainbows have nothing to hide.”
    In other words, there is nothing on the other side of the rainbow. So Kermit is asking, “Why are we all singing about what’s over the rainbow when there isn’t anything there?”

    Of course, Kermit immediately refutes this position, and declares that someday, the lovers, the dreamers, and Kermit will one day find the Rainbow Connection. THAT is why people keep singing about what’s over the rainbow: there is something there, drawing us upward, and Kermit is declaring that he will pursue it.

    In short, Krissy is correct: the question Kermit is asking ties both ideas together.

  140. In order to resolve the issue I find it necessary to ask whether the invocation of rainbow-as-symbol may be made without reference to the “pot of gold” with which it is so commonly associated. As the song is not discussing any rainbow in particular – i.e., does not call one’s attention to a rainbow as viewed from a particular place and at a particular time – it is clearly meant to invoke rainbow-as-symbol.

    It is clear that this song is calling attention to the metaphorical rainbow, particularly as rainbows are temporally and spatially isolated objects. The comma is used merely to separate two connected thoughts, to call particular attention to the deeper symbolism of “rainbow” and to cause us to actively consider our metaphorical understanding of “the other side”.

    Of course, we both have degrees in philosophy, so I’m not certain that we’re going to win this one.

  141. First of all, I’m here because I just finished Redshirts, which I really enjoyed. So thanks for that. To the point, then.
    As a kid, I always separated the two assuming that it was asking “What’s on the other side?”. I was never sure what “the other side” meant: rainbows? death?
    But like most song lyrics, I didn’t think about them too much and just accepted that they often don’t make sense.
    After a recent attack of nostalgia, I ended up listening to the song several times and that was when your wife’s interpretation slammed me in the head. The way the song is sung, it “sounds” like a comma should be there seperating the ideas, but when thinking about rainbow songs such as “Somewhere over…” Or “”I’m always chasing…”, they are almost always about what’s at the end of or on the other side of rainbows. Therefore, score one for the wife.

  142. @ David T Macknet

    In order to resolve the issue I find it necessary to ask whether the invocation of rainbow-as-symbol may be made without reference to the “pot of gold” with which it is so commonly associated.

    Certainly. Vinge even got a whole book out of it:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbows_End

  143. I agree with John first because that’s always been my understanding of the song. And that understanding stems from it being a song about rainbows and the meaning of rainbows and mystery in life connected to the mysteries of rainbows (the rainbow connection,) not a song about songs about rainbows. It stems from how Kermit sings the song, as Farley notes — Kermit does a long pause between the two lines. If it were one sentence, the pause for breath would be shorter to have the more fluid sentence: Why are there so many songs about rainbows and what’s on the other side? Instead, it’s Why are there so many songs about rainbows (pause) and what’s on the other side? with a bit of a dip. In contrast, the line “Have you been half asleep and have you hear voices?” has a shorter pause. Kermit is singing about things he wonders about, in regards to rainbows and life in general. So it’s why are there so many songs about rainbows, and what’s on the other side of rainbows, and have you heard voices in your dreams, who said that every wish would be answered wished on the morning star, etc.

    But finally, that link to the interview with Paul Williams, who wrote the song, shows that he expresses the lines as two separate ideas and two separate lines: “The thing I love best about the lyric, I think, is that in the first two lines, you know that he’s been to the movies. “Why are there so many songs about rainbows? And what’s on the other side?” It tells you that he’s been exposed to culture. ” This is indeed a reference to The Wizard of Oz. Williams is saying Kermit has been to see The Wizard of Oz, which does indeed have the most famous song about rainbows, but the story of the movie itself is Dorothy visiting what is on the other side of the rainbow — Oz. So Kermit is not really looking at a preponderance of songs about rainbows and what’s on the other side of rainbows. He’s looking at the ideas and music of the movie The Wizard of Oz, and things that he wonders about in life in his song about rainbows. So John is right, because conceptually and in the performance, Krissy’s theory doesn’t make a great deal of sense to me.

    (This may be the silliest post I’ve ever written, but I did show my work.)

  144. I’ll go even farther than Krissy to say that, despite the literal lyric, “Rainbow Connection” is really only referring to one song: “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz (to which, of course, The Muppet Movie owes a great deal of its themes and structure).

    The song is basically Kermit saying, “All these great things happen to people in movies, why can’t they happen to me? Why am I stuck here in this swamp?” It’s not that there are so many songs, but that KERMIT FEELS LIKE THERE ARE, at that point in his life.

    If pressed, I would go with Krissy, because there referent (grammatically speaking) of “the other side” is not “rainbows” but “SONGS”, and what’s on the other side of a song doesn’t make much sense.

    Or maybe it does, since in a musical, what’s on the other side of a song can actually be part of the dramatic tension.

  145. @ Kat Goodwin

    Okay, your answer makes the most sense so far. But I maintain that, if independent clauses were Kermit’s original intent, he should have employed a semicolon. I assume any forthcoming Muppet reboot will be titled The Muppets Defeat Grammar Nazis.

  146. I think it’s pretty clear that ‘the other side’ refers to the other side of the rainbow. If there are two categories of songs, they are

    1. Songs about rainbows and
    2. Songs about what’s on the other side of the rainbow, or rainbows.

    [BOY I wish your html screen allowed list tags.] But I think it’s pretty clear that what Kermit means here is “songs about (rainbows and things on the other side of rainbows).” The other interpretation never occurred to me, and after due consideration I think it’s a stretch.

    On the importance of commas, I draw your attention to the following:

    Let’s eat, Grandma!
    Let’s eat Grandma!

    (This usually appears over the motto ‘Commas save lives.’) And for those of you who do not approve of the serial (or Oxford) comma, think what hilarious misunderstandings of authorial intent could be avoided by inserting one in

    This book is dedicated to my parents, Ayn Rand and God.

    And this, appearing in a newspaper in 2010:

    MERLE HAGGARD: The documentary was filmed over three years. Among those interviewed were his two ex-wives, Kris Kristofferson and Robert Duvall.

    Now that’s sloppy, to be sure, and there are other ways to avoid it, like putting the ex-wives last. But if you stay in the habit of using the Oxford comma, when the occasional list has three items the first of which could be a category to which the others belong, you won’t fall into this embarrassing (and worse, uncommunicative) trap.

  147. Inasmuch as it is impossible for a song to be about “what is on the other side of a rainbow” WITHOUT also being about “rainbows”, Krissy is right.

  148. To be fair, John, at least one person in this conversation has claimed that the reference is to The Other Side† and that therefore Kermit is speaking of Spritualist songs.

    †That is, the Afterlife or Otherworld as referred to in Spirtualism, not the Gary Larson cartoon strip‡ of beloved memory.
    ‡Though songs about the comic strip are certainly possible, it seems unlikely Kermit would know about the strip, much less any such songs.

    [OK, I can see why you might not want to allow list tags, but ¹ and ² seem harmless.]

  149. Perhaps you should make a poll. But I’ve always interpreted the lyrics as Krissy does: “songs about (rainbows and what’s on the other side)”, vs. “(Why are there so many songs about rainbows?) and (What’s on the other side?)”.

  150. @ Xopher Halftongue

    Yes, but if you put them in the right order, you don’t need the Oxford comma. So thank you for pointing out what an inefficient waste the Oxford comma really is :-D

    think what hilarious misunderstandings of authorial intent could be avoided

    Hah! Another argument against serial commas…their absence can be hi-larious.

  151. Since I always thought the song is a reference to Somewhere Over the Rainbow, I’m on Krissy’s side of this debate.

  152. Nonsense, Gulliver. That’s only true of that second example. In the first (Ayn Rand) example, it’s a dedication…and the order has a significance that can’t take a back seat to mere grammatical convenience. The serial comma is the correct solution there.

    The idea that commas mean “and” is, and always has been, utter nonsense. Try putting ‘and’s in for the commas in the previous sentence, or this one, and you’ll see what I mean.

  153. Here’s another thought: the comma was originally used only to indicate a pause in stage direction (I learned that from That Was the Millenium That Was). It could be that in this case, the comma only indicates the pause in Kermit’s singing. I’ve previously stated my reasons for taking Krissy’s position, but I feel that this strengthens her position; the comma is simply an artifact of the musical rhythm.

  154. A quick search of songs about rainbows in the music database at the radio station where I volunteer (KLCC, in Eugene, OR) comes up with 485 hits for songs about Rainbows (well, songs with “Rainbow” in the title), including “Look To The Rainbow” (from Finian’s Wake), the Carter Family’s “God Gave Noah the Rainbow Sign,” and Pete Seeger’s “My Rainbow Race.”

    While there are many duplications (the list of jazz covers of “Over the Rainbow” is kinda frightening), that still qualifies as “so many.”

    Oh, and Krissy is totally right.

  155. “This book is dedicated to God, my parents and Ayn Rand.”
    I doubt many people would be confused into thinking the author thought her or his parents were God.

    It’s actually more problematic on the second example.
    “The documentary was filmed over three years. Among those interviewed were Kris Kristofferson, Robert Duvall and his two ex-wives.”
    Whose ex-wives? Robert Duvall’s? Kris Kristofferson’s? I would write it:
    “The documentary was filmed over three years. Among those interviewed were Kris Kristofferson, Robert Duvall and Haggard’s two ex-wives.” Yes, it’s a modicum more ink and slightly less lexemically compact, but it’s way more aesthetically pleasing and less redundant to a mind for which a comma can, under the right circumstances, signify an “and”…and the voices in my head assure me that my way of thinking is the right way of thinking. Why would I lie to myself?

  156. So I went back and weeded out the duplications by hand. There are 177 songs about rainbows. Minimum, ‘cuz some title duplication may have occurred.

    Oh, and Kermit? Totally streamed KLCC in the swamp.

  157. To me, Kermit was singing of JUST ONE SONG, “Over the Rainbow”. It’s the only song about rainbows I know of, until “Rainbow Connection” came along. It is a song that EVERYONE knows, and probably covered by more people than any song other than the Beatles “Michelle”

  158. I refer you to the late, great R.A.H. as republished in The Notebooks of Lazarus Long: “If you find yourself winning an argument with your wife, apologize immediately. “

  159. John, Krissy has the correct interpretation. The evidence:

    1. The written line break does not match the sung phrasing. It is clear from the definitive rendition (Kermit with banjo during the opening of THE MUPPET MOVIE) that “Why are there so many songs about rainbows and what’s on the other side?” is sung as one long phrase. Kermit does use pauses of variable length within this line. However, the longer breath pauses are in different spots than you imply. Specifically “Why are there so many songs about rainbows and what’s on the other side?” Clearly the regular pause indicates that the thought is tied to the opening question “Why are”, and that “songs about rainbows and what’s on the other side” is a single cohesive thought.

    2. Later lines support Krissy’s interpretation. “Rainbows are visions, but only illusions, and rainbows have nothing to hide. So we’ve been told and some choose to believe it. I know they’re wrong, wait and see” is clearly referring to the idea that some people disagree that there is an “other side” to rainbows. That Kermit states “I know they’re wrong” shows his belief in the idea that the purely physical explanation of rainbows is incorrect.

    3. The written lyrics include no comma between “songs about rainbows” and “and what’s on the other side”. There are however written commas on many of the following lines. Clearly the song writer intended those phrases to be independent, if sometimes complementary or contrasting, ideas. Source here.

    4. The entire movie is a metaphor about finding what is on the other side of the rainbow, in other words about pursuing one’s dreams. Your interpretation does not support this premise. Krissy’s interpretation does.

    In short, there is no evidence to support your position. Krissy’s belief that the songs in question refer to both songs about rainbows and also what’s on the other side is fully supported.

    Give up while you still can.

  160. Is this an “either/or” question? Could it not be possible that both interpretations are correct? Great literature and songs are rarely limited to single-valued statements (e.g., “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times”). In this case, Kermit could be referencing both “Over The Rainbow” and the metaphysical question implied by the succeeding lines.

  161. Rats. I accidentally used tagging symbols and it ate the “long pause” and “pause” from this sentence:
    “Why are (long pause) there so many (long pause) songs about rainbows (pause) and what’s on the other side?”

  162. Having just sung a concert today filled with rather deep poetry, I’m reminded that the beauty of poetry is that it requires the reader/listener to interpret it for him- or herself. No single interpretation is the correct one, not even that of the composer.

  163. Scalzi: The line is: “Why are there so many songs about rainbows, and what’s on the other side?”

    Wait, wait, wait…. wait. that comma? That comma right there———-^ ?

    Kermit doesn’t sing a comma. That comma is a possible transcription OF what Kermit is singing. Kermit may very well pause, but that pause does not require a comma.

    And any lyrical transcription, I would argue, is both heresay and non-canonical. Even if said transcription came from the song writer, Kermit isn’t required to sing that particular interpretation. He’s a musician and an entertainer, man. He could very well be riffing on the words.

    Whether or not there is a comma in Kermit’s actual singing, whether he intended a comma or not, could actually be changing from one vocal performance to the next.

    If you want to be pedantic about it, then I would say you guys haven’t even begun to get pedantic about it.

  164. I’m Team Krissy. :) Sorry, John, but Kermit’s mention of rainbows and what’s on the other side are related. Yes – Somewhere Over the Rainbow, as many people have said.

    Also, to those who are splitting hairs about “over” vs “the end of the rainbow” etc…generally the “end of the rainbow” would be opposite the person referring to it. One end of the rainbow would be on one “side”, the rainbow is a bridge, and on the other “side” a pot of gold (or whatever). The point is, no one has ever wanted to go UNDER a rainbow to what’s on the other side of that. I think the “end” of the rainbow BEING the other “side” is generally understood. :)

  165. Having Paul Williams chime in on your personal debate about the meaning of The Rainbow Connections seems to be worthy of a bit of squee.

  166. Gotta say, John, I think you’re right. Kermit speaks best to kids, and your interpretation is what I thought he was saying (well, singing) when I was a kid. But for the sake of family harmony, let’s say you’re both right, because songs are art, and isn’t art meant to be interpreted and given meaning by each person who experiences it?

  167. Gulliver, the order of a dedication is significant. The parents come first because they’re most important. So you can’t solve that one by reordering because it means something different.

    Also, the point is that it sounds stupid. The original sounds like the guy is claiming that his parents are Ayn Rand and God, and even if you realize in 2 seconds that he couldn’t have meant that, you still laugh…and you’re laughing AT the incompetence of the writer whose book you’ve just picked up. Not good for him.

    Also, a guy crazy enough to dedicate a book to Ayn Rand (a notorious atheist) and God might be crazy enough to think he’s a hybrid of the divine and the selfish.

  168. The first line sets up an if/then musing that repeats later on. People see rainbows, which are just illusions after all, and then muse about what must be on the OTHER side of the rainbow. Why? Later he notes people see stars, even shooting stars, and then someone muses perhaps if I made a wish! And then other people buy into that. But, it isn’t real. Is it? No. Couldn’t be.

    Why do people make so much fuss out of something grounded in an illusion? But, even Kermit must admit he’s seen more to those illusions than he feels comfortable with given his reluctance to indulge in fanciful dreaming. So, the lovers and the dreamers (both clearly engrossed in fanciful illusion) and Kermit may hopefully one day figure out the secret.

    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.

  169. He’s really somebody, that Kermit. And his life is dreary, and public. He tells his name the livelong day to an admiring bog.

  170. Krissy wins. Kermit wouldn’t argue whether they are illusions or not if the songs didn’t question what might be over there. And don’t churro waffles give weight to her argument?

  171. Difficat, I think you’ve just said a mouthful. Or written a handful, or something.

    We’ve ALL been overthinking this. It’s really this simple:

    Churro waffles.
    Krissy is right.
    Q.E.D.

    Anyone who argues, on any grounds, that John is right, should simply be told

    Churro waffles. Your argument is invalid.

  172. I disagree with TurboNerd about the pauses. If you listen to the original recording in the movie, you’ll hear a longer pause. Further, the concern over commas or lack thereof in song lyrics seems strange to me. Song lyric lines are broken down in print to be short lines of text, not whole sentences. They don’t use regular grammar and it’s normal for there to be no commas at the end of a line, whether or not it is a phrase and you would normally use a comma in narrative text. The argument that the song only refers to “Over the Rainbow” doesn’t make sense with the line being “why are there so many songs about rainbows.” Further, most of the songs that involve rainbows don’t talk about what’s on the other side of the rainbow. If only “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was wanted, why wouldn’t Williams have tailored the line to reflect that instead of having Kermit talk about how so many dreaming songwriters are fascinated with the image of the rainbow? Now granted, if Williams came forward and said the two phrases are not two phrases, I would be fine with that. But so far, I’m not seeing much evidence for it and his quote says the opposite. (Is the guy on Twitter?) Again, the whole song is about Kermit pondering life, not just rainbows. The song is not just about “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

    It seems like people are saying that if the lines read: “Why are there so many songs about rainbows and what is on the other side of rainbows, that this would be more clear (though it could still be argued that it’s all one phrase grammatically.) But repeating the word rainbows would not have worked for rhyming and rhythm, and wasn’t necessary grammatically: Why are there so many song about rainbows? And what’s on the other side? is perfectly understandable.

    If the lines are one phrase, then Kermit is wondering why songwriters are fascinated with rainbows and what’s on the other side of them, meaning that Kermit himself finds this idea strange and doesn’t understand why the songwriters care about and write about what’s on the other side of the rainbow. Why are they doing this? Kermit doesn’t get it. But the rest of the verse is all about how, despite the science explanation of rainbows having nothing on the other side of them, Kermit doesn’t choose to believe it. He thinks he’ll find a mysterious meaning on the other side of the rainbow, the rainbow connection, along with the lovers and the dreamers. If Kermit wonders about the power of the rainbow to attract songwriters and then wonders about what’s on the other side of the rainbow, the verse makes more sense. If the lines are just one phrase, Kermit is perplexed that others believe something he also believes, which doesn’t fit the whole tenor of the song. If the song meant them not to be separate in meaning, why wouldn’t the line have been: “Why are there so many songs about the other side of the rainbow?” If you want proper grammar, there it is. And you could still rhyme bow pretty easily — I don’t know, I don’t think that’s so, etc. But Williams has Kermit ponder mystery after mystery. There’s definitely reference to both Oz and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in the song, but “The Rainbow Connection” is also about everyone’s dreams and wishes, using the rainbow as a metaphor, just as the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” does.

    (I do not understand why I’m spending time on this. Scalzi is evil.)

  173. Xopher Halftongue

    Gulliver, the order of a dedication is significant. The parents come first because they’re most important.

    Parents > Fictional Creator of Existence?

    Also, the point is that it sounds stupid.

    Okay, this is the point where I admit defeat but don’t admit defeat. I concede that Oxford quotes are sparingly handy – I’ve even used them on rare occasion – but I still think they should only be used if their absence will really confuse matters. Strunk & White agrees with me on this point. So yes, if the dedication must be in order of importance, then the Oxford comma is a reluctant resort. But I would argue that the importance could just as easily be ascending, e.g. “God, Ayn Rand and my parents” or, in true Randian pecking order “God, my parents and Ayn Rand”, and that any convention dictating descending order of importance is totally arbitrary and therefore less critical than clear, efficient prose…or clear and efficient prose :)

    Also, a guy crazy enough to dedicate a book to Ayn Rand (a notorious atheist) and God might be crazy enough to think he’s a hybrid of the divine and the selfish.

    I kinda wondered about that, but I assumed you’d pick an example of an actual dedication.

    This thread must keep going. The aliens are probably reopening the case of our quarantine status as we type!
    “Those humans, we obviously underestimated them.”
    “What are churro waffles?”
    “Beats me. Perhaps it’s related to the Corbomite device?”

  174. You’re both wrong, but she is closer to correct.
    While you argue (for her) that the line refers to the INTERSECTION of songs about rainbows AND the other side, the line in fact refers to the UNION of songs pertaining to EITHER aspect OR both. It still may not make a vast set, but obviously larger than if handled separately. Basically, there is no comma at all.

  175. The question “what’s on the other side” is unreferenced, except to “songs about rainbows.” This lends support to Krissy.

  176. @Kat 12:16: I don’t think Kermit’s really wondering anything. The question is rhetorical. The first stanza could be parsed roughly as: “You may ask: ‘Why are there so many songs about rainbows and the other sides thereof? After all, rainbows, while pretty, are merely illusory tricks of light and vapor, nothing more.’ Some people do indeed say such a thing, and some choose to believe it, but I know better, and shall be proven right in time. Someday, the lovers, the dreamers, and I shall find the Rainbow Connection.”

    (Also, Williams is indeed on Twitter. See John’s comment at 5:36 pm yesterday. There was also a followup tweet at https://twitter.com/IMPaulWilliams/status/308346993099546624 )

  177. I agree with John on this philosophical, more-important-than-global warming, soul-searching question–unless it is Mrs. Scalzi cooking the dinner, in which case: anything she says about rainbows or the other side is what I think.

  178. Putting the comma controversy aside, I’ll concentrate on the main question in this line: What’s on the other side? There’s no single answer. Every song that is recorded has an “A” side and a “B” side. The major song, of course, is the “A” side. Once that’s done, they take whatever song happens to be lying around the studio and record it on the “B” side. Apparently, even Kermit doesn’t remember what he recorded on the other side of “The Rainbow Connection.” Similarly, you have to wonder what’s on the other side of “Over the Rainbow.” Most likely, even Judy Garland couldn’t remember.

  179. “Why are there so many songs about rainbows, and what’s on the other side?”

    He’s singing about hope and how beautiful and scary it can be. And, when you’re really focused on finding the magic of the other side of the rainbow how exposed you leave yourself for the siren song: a destructive event masquerading as hope.

    In that context, he’s clearly commenting on songs about rainbows AND the mystery of the other side. His underlying point is that you don’t really have one without the other. We see magic and we look for the promise of better. And why? Because people told us, or because that’s what we do?

    He wants to be a lover and a dreamer, but he’s worried about leaving himself unguarded to the danger of false hope. So, even in his personal musings he keeps himself separated from the lovers and the dreams. Another pointed use of AND in his song.

    It’s easy to understand the confusion with the one true doctrine.

  180. I was going to side with you, John, but commenters are against you in such an overwhelming majority, that now I’m afraid to speak up.

  181. I’ve viewed several postings of the lyrics for the song in question, and 9 out of 10 versions do not have a comma in the first line. What is the source of your comma John? Did you insert based on your interpretation of the line? If so, shame on you. I believe Krissy is correct based on my less than adequate investigation.

  182. I’m with Krissy, and Bob Portnell. While there may be few songs about rainbows and what’s on the other side, one of those songs, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”, is an extremely famous and familiar song from a movie everyone knows well.

    Furthermore, that song appears in a movie scene thematically identical to the one we are watching: the protagonist in what for her is a mundane, homely surrounding, wistfully dreaming of a larger destiny in a far-off place, near the beginning of a story that will provide that adventure. Both interpretations of the line work with that connection (a rainbow connection, as it were), but Krissy’s references it more directly.

  183. It’s a poem. It’s phrased ambiguously to make the listener think different things at each new listening. You’re both right. The punctuation is irrelevant, because it would fix only one meaning to the song.

  184. The question is really about the music industry and how they package songs. The answer to “What’s on the other side?” is ” I Hope That Somethin’ Better Comes Along” sung by Kermit and Rowlf.
    For “Over the Rainbow” it is “You Made Me Love You” (assuming rereleased singles have the same flip side).

  185. With respect and love for Mr. Williams and his undisputed genius, his own comment on the topic reveals another angle to the question:

    “A humble thanks to all who discuss my songs. For Kenny Ascher & I Kermit was the best boss ever. His genius touched us all. #Gratitude”

    Since the pronouns are the subject here, it should have read “For Kenny Ascher and me,” which calls into question Mr. Williams’ use of grammar and makes any questions about his comma placement suspect.

  186. Aren’t there 4 interpretations, though?
    1. Why are there so many songs about “rainbows and what’s on the other side of said rainbows”
    2. Why are there so many songs about rainbows? What’s on the other side of said rainbows? In this one Kermit is first asking about the prevalence of songs about rainbows and then wondering what is on the other side.
    3. Is a variation of #1, except “what’s on the other side” refers to a question of what happens after death. This one is most likely to not be what he’s talking about. I mean, are there really a lot of songs about rainbows and death?
    4. Is a variation of #2, asking about the rainbows, then wondering about death. Kermit is really jumping around in this one.

    I’ve always interpreted it as #2.

    Paul (paulliadis.com/blog)

  187. No, no, no. That’s the wrong question entirely. This is like the Dancing Bear – it’s not how well the bear dances, it’s that he dances at all. Here, we have a frog singing so I’ll contend that it’s not so much what the frog sings about (or, for that matter, how he sings it), it’s that the frog sings at all!

  188. Wouldn’t your version have to punctuated this way: Why are there so many songs about rainbows? And, what’s on the other side?
    It just seems like a stretch. So I’m with Krissy.
    As for how many songs there actually are, I’m having trouble thinking of examples. The obvious one is Somewhere Over the Rainbow (both rainbow and beyond). The only other one coming to mind is She Brakes for Rainbows (rainbow only). So that makes the two categories even.
    You knew Krissy was going to win this, right?

  189. Excellent discussion, I have to admit that I always thought the rainbow itself was a metaphor for love vs lust, optimism vs pragmatism, life after death etc (afterall, isn’t being by yourself in a swamp the best spot to ponder life’s deeper meanings?). Therefore, the whole thing was artistic license with regards to the wording and had nothing to do with rainbows at all. So, neither wins.

  190. It’s Krissy.
    You fail to take into account the theorem of “Wife in relation to being correct = Always”.

  191. Clearly it’s about songs about rainbows and why those songs about rainbows are always concerned with the other side of them. I never even questioned it until now. Thanks for confusing my world view. And I could only ever come up with one other song about rainbows anyway, and that being ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’.. well, my data set is pretty much. 1 song about rainbows = 1 song about what’s on the other side of rainbows. (Not counting the song itself.)

  192. I explained this dilemma to my wife in the car yesterday, and her response rapidly mutated from “that’s stupid, why would anyone ask that” to “huh, I never thought of it like that” to “well, now I’m confused, I could go either way,” and ultimately to “my entire Weltanschauung is built upon a foundation of half-truths, and now I hate you,” which is really where any conversation in the car ought to end up.

  193. The entire question is based on a faulty premise to begin with. There really aren’t that many rainbow songs. I mean, there’s “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”, and then there’s…. Well, that’s the only one I can think of.

    Clearly, Kermit is delusional and can not be trusted to discuss philosophy either in song or in normal conversation.

  194. Songs about rainbows:

    Somewhere Over the Rainbow (and yes “over” is the other side of a rainbow, because, if you are on the ground, you are on the bottom side).
    She Talks to Rainbows – The “she” of the title being on the “other side” of the “me” singer.
    Homo Rainbow – About the pot of gold on the other side if you let the rainbow shine.
    Paint A Rainbow – If that’s “this side” of the rainbow material, sign me up for a rubber room.
    Reading Rainbow – You can go anywhere in a reading rainbow (book) – including the other side. This whole song is about going to the other side through books.
    She’s a Rainbow – She comes in colors…everywhere. Everywhere includes the other side.
    A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow – If an ocean of tears divides us, then the kiss is on the other side.
    Rainbow in the Dark – There’s nothing on the other side. Suck it.

    Also there’s a movie called Rainbow Song and the entire thing is about what is on the other side of death.

    So, why are there so many songs about rainbows and what’s on the other side?

    Because there’s a connection to be made.

    Or, in Mr. Scalzi’s case, missed.

  195. To those who believe rainbows are only illusions, having nothing to hide, even one song is too many!

    (Especially if that song and its film airs every single year on television, as it did when this song was written and performed…)

  196. Blue-Jay @11:23: The entire question is based on a faulty premise to begin with. There really aren’t that many rainbow songs.

    There are entire sagas (alliterative poems that were probably also sung) about what’s on the other side of Bifrost (the rainbow bridge between Asgard and Midgard in Norse mythology). See the Poetic Edda. I’m afraid that’s another point for Krissy’s interpretation.

  197. I’m siding with Krissy, and other commenters who believe Kermit’s making a ‘somewhere over the rainbow’ allusion. Both because his audience is likely to be familiar with that particular rainbow song, and on the strength of the ‘half asleep/heard voices’ parallel.

  198. John may have a point. Heck, John may even be right! But it appears that Krissy has more support.

    I would ask that before we deliberate that we consider that we are now involving denizens of unimaginable power thanks to @ULTRAGOTHA. John, you may be correct but look at what happened in Pyrrhus. We have entered into a Cold shoulder War… with the strategy of Mutual Assured Destruction (hopefully of tasty confections).

    Avoid Rainbow Connections, Eat Rainbow Confections!

    This Advertisement was brought to you by the Slow Day Super PAC(man)

  199. Maybe it`s a question about B-sides?

    On a related discussion, I firmly believe that the guy in that America song is not in fact going through the desert alone but for his horse – he`s with the Man With No Name. “I’ve been through the desert, on a horse, with No Name.”

  200. Of course you’re assuming that “What’s on the other side” means the other side of rainbows, and not Kermit just tackling his own mortality issues.

  201. Even if there aren’t a tremendous number of songs about rainbows, there are even fewer about equally amazing visual phenomena. The only song I can think of featuring auroras is also from The Muppet Movie, and I don’t know any about bioluminescent algal blooms. So rainbows are actually covered pretty well, I think.

  202. Does this also involve a bet with Wil Wheaton and how many replies you can get on Rainbow songs? Oh yeah, Krissy’s right.

  203. Wow – 250+ comments and no one hit upon the way I’ve always interpreted it.

    Let’s define our terms, people:
    “Rainbows,” as per the rest of the song, are visions. Only illusions.
    “The other side” of the rainbow is the pot of gold. The reward. The unattainable prize.

    So: “Why are there so many songs about rainbows, and what’s on the other side?” translates to:

    “Why are there so many songs about hopes & dreams (the rainbow) and the unattainable rewards that they represent (“what’s on the other side”)”

    Taken that way, heck – almost *EVERY* song is about rainbows and/or what’s on the other side.

    Also: Mr. Williams tweet seems consistent with this interpretation (at least it does to me…)

  204. There’s also “If You Want The Rainbow,” a depressing jazz standard that could be used to justify everything from the Great Depression to spousal abuse, and “Rainbow Ride,” which is about drugs. Neither of these examples are particularly, uh, illuminating to the case at hand, except to say that there actually are a fair number of songs more or less about rainbows.

  205. Krissy is right. Why is she right? I’m going to list all the reasons that have already been stated that i agree with.

    A: She’s Krissy.
    B: Churro Waffles.
    C: Rainbow Connection is clearly related to (Somewhere) Over the Rainbow, which is a song that is both about rainbows _and_ what’s on the other side. This is supported both by comments by the artists and the thematic content of both songs. (Along with the obvious connection (ha) SOtR references something “heard once in a lullaby” which thematically links to hearing voices while half asleep, and also both songs refer directly to wishing on a star.)
    D: Trying to draw conclusions about the thematic content of a song based on punctuation used in the lyrics, especially punctuation used at line breaks, just doesn’t make any sense.
    E: Trying to insert punctuation based solely on the pauses in the music is equally nonsensical. If i were to punctuate the first stanza based on my own interpretation of the pauses it would end up as “Why are, there so many, songs about rainbows, and what’s on the other side?” which from a grammatical perspective makes no sense at all. Song lyrics usually end up slightly contorted in order to fit the music and trying to draw some kind of deeper meaning from that contortion is usually fruitless.
    F: If one were to take a strict interpretation of Scalzi’s view, Kermit is wondering about why there are so many songs about rainbows, and why there are so many songs about what’s on the other side. It’s really hard to argue that “what’s on the other side” isn’t being applied to rainbows. The only other interpretation that makes any sense is the other side of death/loss. I think that’s kinda dark and morbid, but i’ll accept it might be an underlying meaning. But i agree with Paul Williams that even if so it’s only an underlying subconscious theme, and the forward facing metaphor applies to the other side of rainbows. But in any case, the rest of the song does not refer to the basic characteristics of rainbows at all, only to whether or not they actually contain/hide what some people believe may be found on the other side of them. So if you insist that the opening verse refers to two separate things, songs about rainbows and songs about what’s on the other side, then you’re also arguing that the rest of the song fails to follow through completely on that initial premise. Are you saying that Kermit and/or Paul Williams dropped the ball here?
    G: The Muppet Movie is pretty much entirely about chasing dreams, ie what people often consider to be on the other side of rainbows. When rainbows do show up in the movie it’s generally in support of that metaphor.

    So in short, in order to argue that Krissy is wrong (mistake #1) you would have to argue that a particular interpretation of the punctuation of the lyrics is grammatically significant (mistake #2) while ignoring the entire thematic content of both the rest of the song and the movie that the song is most famously the opening for (mistake #3).

    Finally, every time i see “SOtR” my brain tries to pronounce it as “SotOR”, which inevitably leads to the the notion that someone ought to produce a Star Wars filk album titled “Songs of the Old Republic”. (Perhaps it would feature a song about what’s on the other side of the Force. Or a song about songs about the Force, and also about songs about what’s on the other side.)

  206. I can’t believe nobody has mentioned Double Rainbow by The Gregory Brothers in their tally of Rainbow songs. Sure there isn’t a mention of “the other side”, but plenty of awe and seeking for meaning. “What does it mean”

    How long must we wait until the internet gives us Kermit singing with the Double Rainbow guy? Oh wait, thanks internet:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/06/double-rainbow-guy-meets_n_636926.html

    For the record, I agree with Krissy. Sorry John.

  207. Haha, ha ha hah!

    First, it’s a comment, meant in camaraderie. Second, notice how I had to breathe after the first outburst, but after the second outburst I would probably have had to be picked up off the floor, at least by folks who accept exclamation marks. Oooooh, and then I made a compound of the first two laughs but left the next laughs separated (maybe indicating relaxation), but had a third added as something of an expiration. English appears all about order. In Hebrew we could use something like an “et” to identify all direct objects and some such, and understand parallel clauses, especially where visible word order wouldn’t matter so much. I’m thinking in terms of this query that wifey has rights of throne and word order is the reason.

  208. I don’t know, but I just spent my evening watching The Muppet Movie on Youtube.

    Now I’m off to check out Muppet Wizard of Oz…

  209. And this is what finally drives me to comment ;). I agree with you–and mainly for grammatical reasons. My husband backs Krissy–he says that he always thought the song referred to “Over the Rainbow” and hence both apply back to said song.

  210. This is insane. Had I written such a lyric, I would’ve meant one thing when first writing it, later (while refining the thing) realized it could mean other things, been pleased about that, and tried not to close off any possible additional meanings that still remained true to the central ideas of the song. So, it can mean both things at once, and that’s good. I also assume this is your (and your wife’s) real conclusion as well, and you’re just watching all us monkeys jump for your entertainment.

  211. Shmuel: “I don’t think Kermit’s really wondering anything. The question is rhetorical.”

    It’s really not rhetorical. The entire song is about Kermit wondering about things, wondering about meanings, magic and dreams — wishes on stars, voices when sleeping, Kermit believes that when they find the rainbow connection — the source of wonder and meaning — they’ll have the answers to these non-rhetorical questions. The entire rest of the verse in question is about the issue of what’s on the other side of rainbows. Not about the songs about rainbows — that first line (which again Somewhere Over people is about “so many songs” not one song,) is about our fascination with rainbows that leads to so many songs about them, which does not actually consist entirely of what may be on the other side of them, but also about what’s at the end of them, what makes them, whether it’s lucky to see one or a double one, whether they have leprechauns and pots of gold, etc. — all sorts of creativity and magical beliefs about rainbows. So the next question, besides why are there so many songs, is what is on the other side of rainbows. And then Kermit spends the rest of the verse speculating about what’s on the other side of the rainbows — nothing or something. If the rest of the verse were about the songs, then okay. If the rest of the song were only about rainbows and songs, okay. But that’s not what the song is about — it’s about mystery, creativity, magic and seeking meaning. It’s a seeking song. Kermit wants to find out someday what is on the other side of the rainbow — the connection to meaning. He doesn’t know, he has beliefs, but he isn’t making a statement, as in a rhetorical question.

    If Williams came in and said, I parsed it this way, then I’d go with that. But he’s Paul Williams, so he’s just going to smile and say it’s great we’re talking about his song and not resolve the issue. Which is wonderfully him. But there is that earlier quote of his in the interview, and that quote quite clearly supports Scalzi’s theory.

  212. All right, I think John Scalzi is probably more right. Think about how many songs there are about rainbows. In those songs you go beyond the rainbow, yes, so sometimes it’s the case that the songs are about the other side of the rainbow. But other songs would have us finding the end of the rainbow, or sitting on top of the rainbow.
    So why are there so many songs about rainbows? Because there are so many different elements to consider. It’s a magical boundary. It’s a high point. It’s a forever receding horizon that moves away as fast we do. It’s an arc with tomorrow promised at one end and yesterday guaranteed at the other, but yet only exists in the present moment, leaves no traces when it’s gone, nor has any warning before it appears. We can never touch it no matter how hard we try. Why are there so many songs? Heck, why aren’t there more, still? But consider the rest of the song, it’s not really about rainbow songs expounding upon the other side.
    I wouldn’t say someone is wrong to think about the introductory lyrics referencing “over the rainbow” songs. It’s an allusion that is easily picked up, but..it’s not really what the song is about. In fact, I think it adds a resonance that adds to the emotive power of the song. Nevertheless, the Rainbow Connection is about a call. A call that, if you answer it, you find out what happens next. What’s on the other side of that dream? What happens when we say either yes, or no? What’s on that other side? The song isn’t asking what the heck is up with all the songs about rainbows’ other sides. It’s asking us to consider all the possibilities of exploring that end that lies in tomorrow. What happens when we choose to say yes to that call that goes out? What will we find on the other side of that answer?
    The rainbow is the starting point. It’s something beautiful as a vision that causes us to look up marvel at it. And then we wonder, what would it be like to see it from the other side? Why do so many people have an inspiration, and what will we find on the other side of the perspiration to make it come true?
    This is why I think it’s two separate thoughts. I’d refine this more, and I’d probably find myself changing my mind at least twice, but…it’s time to go to bed. And really, it’s just a comment! But, in a nutshell, that’s why I think it’s arguably the case that there are two separate, though related thoughts in the first lyrics of the song.

  213. Holy crap I’ve always had a problem with this f*ing song. Internet I love how you always know what’s pissing me off in the 80’s.

  214. I vote for one from column A and one from column B. Just like Don McLean’s “American Pie”, the songwriter is best served by allowing the listeners each interpret and appreciate the song in their interpretation of the song. Krissy is right, and you are right. It is not “either/or” but “both/and”, even meta-textually.

  215. I don’t think that I’m the first to suggest this, so I’m agreeing with those that have, but I don’t think EITHER of you are correct, John. Kermit is asking why there are so many songs about rainbows and why there are so many songs about what’s on the other side of rainbows. Not songs about both, and not two entirely unrelated questions.

  216. I can’t believe I read this whole thread of comments. Clearly John was not merely honing his own Doing Nothing skills, but calculating how best to rope his hapless blog readers into Doing Nothing themselves for long stretches of time.

    Oh, and I’m with Krissy.

  217. I’m with Krissy.
    Joi from 3/3 at 11:08 – according to my toddler, who demands them nightly at lullaby time, there are THREE rainbow songs. Rainbow Connection, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, and TMBG’s rendition of ROY G. BIV – which is all about the lovely prismatic effect.

  218. I pointed out to Krissy that, in fact, there seem to be very few songs about both rainbows and what’s on the other side of them,

    “Dark Side of the Moon” is one of the best selling albums of all time. And apparently what’s on the other side of the rainbow is war, greed, time, insanity, and… death.

  219. I have always heard the Krissian interpretation and not the Johanine. Nice to know that the Word of God (Paul Williams) confirms this interpretation as well.

  220. I’m with the neither-but-Krissy-is-closer faction. Next question: is the song deliberately evoking Shakespeare (Midsummer Night’s Dream Act 5 Scene 1) at the end of the chorus, and if so, from which point of view? (Is it just Williams, or also Kermit who is equating Kermit with ‘the lunatic’?)

  221. Mentalkibble has more clearly articulated what I was in a rush to say the other morning. Thanks. So ultimately I think I interpret it John’s way first, and then think of Krissie’s way.
    My daughter, who knows more about music, says the “and” is a pick-up, so if they were two separate questions – the first one being why are there so many songs about rainbows, the second one being what’s on the other side – the “and” wouldn’t be there because it’s rhythmically unnecessary.
    She says the “and” aids in the ambiguity because without it, you’d _have to_ interpret it John’s way, but with it you can see it either way.

  222. mentalkibbel (and Kat and JulieB):

    No. No no no and no. Your homework clearly demonstrates you are on Krissy’s side of the schism. The reference, as you clearly demonstrate, is intended to point out that they are linked. These magical moments compel us to ponder something outside of our grasp. Given that they compel us to do so, there clearly can be no other meaning to a reference to songs about rainbows AND wondering as to what’s on the other side.

    If people we’re singing about rainbows without wondering about what was on the other side, it would defeat Kermit’s point. Even he, who is somewhat reserved in his willingness to engage in that sort of fanciful speculation, is compelled to sing about it. If it could be done without wondering about the other side, Kermit wouldn’t even be singing the song.

    I’m sorry that we are on opposing sides of this schism. The interpretation of verse is a heavy affair. It pains me to know that you’ve separated yourself from Chair of Williams. In fact, let me sing this song for you…

  223. Thom M.: “Nice to know that the Word of God (Paul Williams) confirms this interpretation as well.”

    Did he? Was there something new that he said on Twitter? Because he did not answer the question on Twitter previously and in the interview that was linked to and I quoted from up the thread, his comments clearly supported Scalzi’s interpretation, not his wife’s. (Though we all agree that Krissy is a superlative female.) So the Word of God so far goes for it as separate lines.

    Julie B.: “the “and” wouldn’t be there because it’s rhythmically unnecessary.”

    I disagree. The only reason the “and” seems to be there is the rhythm. The second line in each verse is seven syllables. If you take the “and” out of the second line: “Why are there so many songs about rainbows? What’s on the other side?” — the second line is then only six syllables and doesn’t match the notes of the line and the other second lines: “when wished on the morning star” — 7 syllables and “I’ve heard them calling my name” — 7 syllables. Leaving out the “and” of the line drops a beat in the music, which is why it’s thrown in, because it is rhythmically necessary to keep the lines measured the same.

    But again, the main reason I’m a Scalzian? here is that if Kermit is then questioning why are there songs about the other side of the rainbow — he is then arguing against it and the supposed songs about the other side, and then reverses to argue for it. It doesn’t fit the whole rest of the theme of the song or create a line of logic. If instead he ponders why rainbows fascinate us, and then wonders what’s on the other side of them, he then presents one argument people propose that nothing is there, and then says that he believes the opposite. If Williams says it’s wrong, I will be forced to convert. But so far, the logic of the verse seems to indicate that the “and” is simply a beat throw in while setting up the main meaning of the verse, not a grouping phrase. And the indication that most rainbow songs are about the other side of it has not been very well supported here, I feel.

  224. Kat Goodwin:
    Paul Williams ‏@IMPaulWilliams
    @scalzi While Kermit wonders only about the other side of the rainbow, perhaps his unconscious fears the impending loss of a friend.

    Scalzi:
    Just came here to say, this song is STILL going through my head!

  225. There may or may not be a lot of songs about rainbows, but there’s one big one: “Somewhere OVER the Rainbow.” It’s a song about rainbows AND what’s on the other side of them, and I think it’s pretty clear that’s the song to which Kermit is referring.

    Q. E. D. Krissy is correct.

  226. Kat Goodwin: (And anyone else still here) You said
    “But so far, the logic of the verse seems to indicate that the “and” is simply a beat throw in while setting up the main meaning of the verse, not a grouping phrase. And the indication that most rainbow songs are about the other side of it has not been very well supported here, I feel.”
    and I think, actually, we are agreeing with each other. I may have typed my daughter’s points poorly last night. I think the focus should be looking at this as a song lyric, not as a written work.
    Please consider it this way:

    Why are there so many
    Songs about rainbows
    And what’s on the other side

    Rainbows are visions
    But only illusions
    And rainbows have nothing to hide

    If you read the lyrics and count it out syllabically you have
    Syllables stanza/verse 1, 6-5-7
    Syllables stanza/verse 2, 5-6-8

    But my daughter was talking about the structure of the song as a whole – the lyrics with the melody and rhythm. She was arguing that the “and” was a pick-up, a half-beat, not a main beat, and musical. In other words, the song could be sung without the “and,” and the tempo for the stanza would still work.
    But the “and” is there, so she believes it was added for lyrical depth, rather than out of necessity for the tempo.

    Neither she nor I disagree with John. We think the “and” adds to the ambiguity and layers on another meaning. Personally, I think I always hear it John’s way first because of the phrasing of the beginning of the question,

    Why are there so many songs about rainbows
    and what’s on the other side

    then I think about the added meanings. For me, because “and what’s on the other side?” flows so smoothly, it seems like it’s own unit. So by singing it, rather than reading it, or adding the limits of punctuation, the “and” has it’s own special place in the song. It_could_ be sung on the main beat, which would, I think, give Krissie the argument. But it is on that tiny beat at the beginning of the phrase to add to the mystery.

  227. Huh. My spacing to demonstrate the phrasing didn’t work.
    Why are……… there so many……….. songs… about rainbows
    and what’s on the other side

  228. Krissy is definitely right. “And what’s on the other side” must related to the songs about rainbows, otherwise the phrase is a non sequitur to the rest of the song. The issue of what is on the other side, either of rainbows or of death is not explored in the rest of the piece, while the issue of fascination with rainbows, as exemplified by the an apparent excess of songs on the subject, is the overall subject of the song.
    True Kermit seems to be extrapolating based on a relatively small sample size, either because his situation and environment have biased his worldview or because poetic license, bitches (as Kermit no doubt would say if there weren’t cameras on him all the time).

  229. Actually, neither one of you is correct, so your argument is moot. As Kermit goes on to point out, “rainbows are visions, but only illusions, and rainbows have nothing to hide”. So if rainbows have nothing to hide, there can be no sides. Besides, how does one determine if there are actual sides to an illusion, thus to a rainbow?

  230. I’m going with the idea that the songs are about (rainbows and what’s on the other side). The key, it seems to me, is a line that comes much later about every wish wished on the morning star being heard and answered: “So we’ve been told and some choose to believe it; I know they’re wrong, wait and see.” The song as a whole seems to be driving at the notion that there’s something more important than merely wishing: Having the bravery to act on your wishes. And what he hopes, for the lovers, the dreamers, and himself, is that they’ll find whatever it is that makes people act on their dreams instead of just dreaming about them.

    Krissy is correct.

  231. This isn’t a sentence, or even a line in a poem. It’s lyrics of a song. And there is a comma there to indicate a breath, because few people have the breath control to manage the whole line without a breath, and if you are going to take a breath, that’s the right place to do it, both in terms of the melody and in terms of the lyrics. If I was reading a musical score, I’d expect to see the lyrics written without a comma, but to have a mark for a breath in the musical staff, either printed or written in as notes when rehearsing. If this was sung by a choir, the director would tell the choir to mark a breath there (if it wasn’t printed) so that everyone stayed together.

    If you’re writing just the lyrics, without the music, it makes some sense, artistically, to put a comma there to indicate a pause, so that someone reading the line out loud would pause at the right point, so their reading would share the rhythm of the song.

    In this context, a comma is more of a performance cue than a grammatical tool. The same mark on a page changes its purpose depending on the context in which it is used. And the context in which this line was written is song lyrics, not prose.

  232. Yes! to what Ursula just said. And in response to histrogreek: “And what’s on the other side” is not a non sequitur, it is the _essence_ of the song.

    ‘Rainbows are visions…..but only illusions….and rainbows have nothing to hide’
    So we’ve been told and some choose to believe it
    I know they’re wrong wait and see
    Someday….. we’ll find it
    The Rainbow Connection
    The lovers… the dreamers… and me

    Also, in the next line the phrasing has an “and” but that does not necessarily tie the two questions together semantically. Rather, it’s there for the music. It is also pick-up beat

    Have you been half-asleep….and have you heard voices….I’ve heard them calling my name

    Either question can stand alone. The are part of the same idea, but they are two independant questions.

  233. The Rainbow Connection song is about there being something out there in the feelings inspired by rainbows, stars, mysterious voices. The singer is pushing back against those who say rainbows are only illusions with nothing hiding behind them. It’s the singer who’s interested in what’s on the other side of the rainbow.

  234. I think what supports Krissy’s argument best is the existance of the “and”. If those two lines were supposed to be seperate questions entirely, an “and” would be terribly awkward because the questions are so different from each other–one about songs and another about rainbow geography. “What is on the other side?” doesn’t make sense as it’s own question because “rainbows” isn’t established as the thing referenced (it could be “songs”, gramatically). If I asked, “What is a rainbow and what is on the other side?” that would work better. Krissy is right.

  235. I’m with John.
    I was able to come up with 6 ways of interpreting it, and I think it’s number 2
    (1 works for me too, but I’m feeling more like rainbows than death today)

    1. (why are there so many songs about rainbows) and (what’s on the other side death implied)
    2. (why are there so many songs about rainbows) and (what’s on the other side rainbows implied)
    3. why are there so many songs (about rainbows AND what’s on the other side death implied)
    4. why are there so many songs (about rainbows AND what’s on the other side rainbows implied)
    5. why are there so many songs about either (rainbows) and -meaning OR- (what’s on the other side rainbows implied)
    6. why are there so many songs about either (about rainbows) and -meaning OR- (what’s on the other side death implied)

  236. Hmm. Considering this new, and before seeing @Kristina’s approach, I came up with:

    7. (why are there so many songs about rainbows) and (what’s on the other side of the songs)

    After all, “about rainbows” describes “songs”, and therefore our subject is still “songs”, not rainbows.

  237. While I appreciate Steven Edward Ehrbar’s interpretation, I am with John and Kristina. :)

  238. I agree with Krissy, and I think this becomes even clearer in the context of the rest of the song. Immediately after asking the question, Kermit introduces the idea that rainbows are “illusions” with ”nothing to hide.” Kermit does not simply assume without examination that rainbows have another side; his position is more nuanced and examined than that. Therefore, if he were asking a separate question of his own, linking the first and third verses, it would have been something like, “and is there another side?”

  239. 295 comments and – to the best of my knowledge ~ which is, let’s face it, threadbare ~ not ONE mention of Genesis 9, viii-xvii in which, having wiped out every vestige of life upon the face of the earth – with the exception of Noah & Sons – oh yes and the fishes, because it doesn’t matter how big the deluge, you can’t drown a damsel, dart, dory or dogfish. You can’t even drown a drab crab. Nor can Yahweh (or Di, if the Supreme Being was incarnated as lead singer of the Supremes) BE…CAUSE if you could drown a Dorippoidean, it would clearly not be classifiable AS a Dorippoidean and it would have to wait to be discovered by Walter Matthau (in the sadly underrated 1971 black comedy “A New Leaf” Matthau inadvertently discovers a new type of fern whilst letting Elaine May drown in nearby rapids) ~ and so this faux-crab would have to be declassified and newly named ~ Pseudocarcinucoidea Titanica, for example.
    Nor can one (or Yahweh) easily drown birds.
    But I digress.
    You will recall that H/She having spectacularly demonstrated His/Her omnipotence by inventing Genocide, makes it all touchy-feely better by creating the rainbow, which S/He refers to as a “covenant” (the equivalent in 1611 of an electric waffle toaster warranty today) guaranteeing the abolition, forever, of flood. Ha ha ha ha ha ha.
    To add insult to injury, we now celebrate this broken promise with a plethora of wet, soggy songs about rainbows. What a piece of work is man!

  240. Well, I was going to say “Well you’re just wrong then, aren’t you.” and note that the only work I put into that was typing this, which shows itself.

    But then I had the work of reading the comments (which I hasten to say was work well-rewarded), so I’ll show that work by mentioning that most Muppets are left-handed, because most Muppeteers are right-handed. (I don’t know about other puppets and puppeteers.)
    And to Scorpius at 5:47pm, Don’t be dissing the great Gonzo the Great!

Comments are closed.