The Following question was closed as off topic:

What's the difference between “get up” and “stand up”? [closed]
I'm translating Bob Marley's song "Get up, stand up" and, consulting my dictonary, I can't understand the difference between these two verbs. I have understood the meaning of this song, of course, but I'd like to understand why Bob Marley chose these two verbs rather than repeating one of them.

The answer (my answer) discussed the difference between the denotation and connotation of the phrases at issue. I am not clear as to why the connotative meaning of terms is off topic. If the cited source were poetry, would it have been closed?

3 Answers 3


I haven't been here long enough to say why this is off-topic, but I can, as an erstwhile professional in the lit-crit biz, with union card (PhD) to prove it, say why it should be.

This falls, I take it, under the exclusion of "Criticism, discussion, and analysis of English literature"; and there are two things about Criticism &c that demand its exclusion.

  • The first is that discussion of the "meaning" of words and phrases within a literary work cannot be properly addressed without taking into account the entire verbal structure of the work; its allusions, and its literary, historical, social, economic, &c context. Turn somebody like me loose on three stanzas and a chorus by Bob Marley and I'll hit 4,000 words before you can blink. I don't think ELU wants that.
  • The second is that ambiguity and polysemy are inherent in any work of art; which means that there is nothing of any value you can say about it which is not inherently debatable and controversial and highly contentious. And that is by definition Not Constructive: "likely to solicit opinion, debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion".

Now obviously you have to keep a sense of proportion. Simple questions which involve a lyric, which are drawn from a lyric but aren't about the lyric, can be fairly safely addressed. But when questioners start asking "Why did he say it this way instead of that way?" they're opening up Pandora's Box.

  • I absolutely agree with everything here. Except the bit before the first comma, obviously, since you've accurately summarised both my reasons for thinking the original question was "off-topic lyric interpretation". If I could, I'd give another upvote for the final paragraph, which nicely summarises the problematic area "at the margin". Commented Oct 5, 2012 at 21:35
  • There's a lot about the culture here I'm still sussing out - especially on closing/downvoting, where the Constitution -- FAQs and other documentation -- has yielded to judicial precedent. Fortunately, this is an area where Strict and Broad Constructions seem to coincide. Commented Oct 5, 2012 at 21:55
  • 1
    We always need to bear in mind that at any given time, the FAQ is just ELU's collective "best effort" at defining what we do and don't want. But everyone has their own ideas on that score anyway, and sometimes I find myself voting in ways that others complain aren't in line with the current FAQ. Also note that some of us think there should be a sister site for people with limited skills in English. But many/most don't, which I think sometimes leads to lack of consensus on exactly what constitutes General Reference, for example. Commented Oct 5, 2012 at 22:09

To answer your last question first, yes. If the source were poetry, it would likely also have been closed.

This isn't because asking the difference in connotation (and denotation) of the two phrases is off-topic, but rather that asking why a songwriter chose to use two different phrases instead of one repeated phrase is off-topic.

Although the OP clearly states that he is not looking for an interpretation, he also says that he understands the song, and that he is translating the song but the two phrases have the same meaning in his dictionary.

Having said all of that, I think the question could be re-opened if it were edited to make it more clearly about the difference in nuance between the two phrases. In other words, if he tailored it to more closely fit with your answer.

  • I voted to close as Off Topic lyrics interpretation, and I still think that was correct. It's true OP said he understood the overall meaning of this song, but obviously he didn't understand the significance of get up/stand up. I also still think that the question is effectively Not Constructive, since there are three different Answers, none of which correspond very closely to my own (and @Bill Franke's) interpretations as given in comments. Apparently I can't vote to close for a second time (as NC), but I'd still want to close as General Reference even after that! Commented Oct 5, 2012 at 21:26

Well, who really knows the meaning of certain lyrics except the writer(s)? No-one. Even if you read a verse and it appears quite clear, you never know if it's actually a metaphor or not. You can only make hypothesis, but you can never be too sure.

As such, understanding lyrics is sometimes mostly interpretation, therefore it'd make your question subjective and from there, not constructive.

If, instead, you want to know the actual meaning of a certain sentence in everyday English, independent from the song, well, that's a normal question. You don't even need to relate it to the lyrics since you're asking for the "standard" meaning.

By the way, the question is now opened.

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