the vs a in song lyrics

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ph0enix
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the vs a in song lyrics

Postby ph0enix » 2016-12-07, 17:57

In the song Forever Young by Alphaville there is the row:

"Some are a melody and some are the beat"

Why A melody but The beat? Shouldn't both be A ?

Thanks!

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Re: the vs a in song lyrics

Postby Osias » 2016-12-10, 16:31

I never noticed that! :shock:

I tried to think about some possible interpretations... but after spending a long minute over the subject, I think most probably the singer repeated the "the" from the previous verse without noticing.
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Re: the vs a in song lyrics

Postby Dormouse559 » 2016-12-10, 18:19

While I agree he repeated "the" from the previous line, I see no reason to say it was an accident. Might as well ask why he paired "water" (no article) with "the heat". That was for the meter, to make the song sound better. And I bet he repeated the definite article in the next line because to him it sounded better that way.
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Re: the vs a in song lyrics

Postby ph0enix » 2016-12-21, 17:47

Thanks for replies and especially to Dormouse for noticing missing article before water in previous line, I was wondering about that too.

I wonder if this is due to the fact that Alphaville is a German band? Does such usage of articles sound weird to native speaker's ear?

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Re: the vs a in song lyrics

Postby linguoboy » 2016-12-21, 18:13

ph0enix wrote:I wonder if this is due to the fact that Alphaville is a German band? Does such usage of articles sound weird to native speaker's ear?

Nope.

Most pop songs have only one beat but they can and do feature multiple melodies. (If I'm not mistaken, this is true of "Forever Young" itself.)
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Re: the vs a in song lyrics

Postby ph0enix » 2016-12-22, 6:00

linguoboy wrote:Most pop songs have only one beat but they can and do feature multiple melodies. (If I'm not mistaken, this is true of "Forever Young" itself.)


I get your explanation, thanks! What about previous line "some are like water some are like the heat"? Why water is missing THE? Was it sacrificed to save the beat?

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Re: the vs a in song lyrics

Postby vijayjohn » 2016-12-22, 6:34

ph0enix wrote:What about previous line "some are like water some are like the heat"? Why water is missing THE? Was it sacrificed to save the beat?

Maybe, but "some are like heat" would at least sound odd to me if by "heat," you meant 'hot weather'.

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Re: the vs a in song lyrics

Postby ph0enix » 2016-12-22, 6:43

vijayjohn wrote:
ph0enix wrote:What about previous line "some are like water some are like the heat"? Why water is missing THE? Was it sacrificed to save the beat?

Maybe, but "some are like heat" would at least sound odd to me if by "heat," you meant 'hot weather'.


Ah, so it is correct, that there is no THE in front of water, while the question is why there is THE in front of heat?

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Re: the vs a in song lyrics

Postby ph0enix » 2017-01-20, 9:05

Another question about the same song :)

"Sitting in a sandpit, life is a short trip
The music's for the sad man."

and

"Praising our leaders, we're getting in tune
The music's played by the, the madman."

The question is, why there is THE and not A in front of SAD MAN and MADMAN? Are there concrete men involved?

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Re: the vs a in song lyrics

Postby Dormouse559 » 2017-01-20, 15:15

No, not necessarily anyway. The lyrics are evoking proverbs and sayings. In the context of a proverb, you can sometimes use a singular definite noun to talk about a general category. An example with "the fool" is "What the wise do at once, the fool does at last." Or to quote Star Wars, "Who's the more foolish: the fool or the fool who follows him?"
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Re: the vs a in song lyrics

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-01-20, 16:52

I think of it as a way of referring to a specific category of individuals rather than to a specific person (e.g. "The seasoned traveler may be familiar with the following localities").

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Re: the vs a in song lyrics

Postby linguoboy » 2017-01-20, 16:58

vijayjohn wrote:I think of it as a way of referring to a specific category of individuals rather than to a specific person (e.g. "The seasoned traveler may be familiar with the following localities").

Sometimes called "the generic use of the definite article", it's also common in definitions, e.g. "The llama is a quadruped which lives in big rivers like the Amazon."

As a native speaker of English, I find the line "The music's for the sad man" awkward, since "sad man" isn't a generic designation in the same way that "madman" is.
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Re: the vs a in song lyrics

Postby Osias » 2017-01-20, 19:39

They had to rhyme somehow.
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Re: the vs a in song lyrics

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-01-20, 20:20

The music's for the bad man? :P
linguoboy wrote:"The llama is a quadruped which lives in big rivers like the Amazon."

lol

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Re: the vs a in song lyrics

Postby linguoboy » 2017-01-20, 20:34

Osias wrote:They had to rhyme somehow.

They are literally hundreds upon hundreds of other possibilities.
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Re: the vs a in song lyrics

Postby Osias » 2017-01-20, 21:55

Like the Batman.
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Re: the vs a in song lyrics

Postby ph0enix » 2017-01-21, 10:13

Thanks for explanations!

Seems like "the madman" equals "madmen" in this song?

Would it be weird if they sang

1. The music's for a madman (a instead of the)
2. The music's for madmen (plural)

Speaking of which, in case 2 should it be "the madmen"?


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