Examples (feel free to edit in more):

This is mostly to spearhead further individual discussions about similar questions. Are questions requesting meanings regarding particular the uses in creative works on-topic? The greater scope involves asking questions about any works or authors but songs and poems are probably an easier issue to resolve.

A quick and relevant argument against them being on-topic is the difficulty in understanding exactly what was intended in a work that comes from a medium filled with layered meanings, double-entendres, symbolism, broader vocabulary and looser grammar styles.


3 Answers 3


I find song lyrics are pretty much in the same spirit as poetry.

So, I think it depends. If the question is about the grammaticality of line of poetry or what the metaphor is supposed to be, then that's OK. If it is about the cultural relevance of the item than that's off-topic.

To someone who doesn't know the answer, especially someone learning English as a second language (an ESL-er?), it's hard to differentiate between those ahead of time. I think it's easy enough to, when the answer is cultural, at that point say it is

off topic because it is a purely cultural problem,

that is, not related to a language problem. If there is a language related answer, then one can give that.

Song lyrics, as a subset of poetry, currently aren't particularly refined, and might draw too many frivolous questions. But I don't think they should be closed out-right as off-topic.

  • 5
    +1 because I agree, and because you're so fly like a G6. Commented Apr 19, 2011 at 1:19

I agree that it is difficult to understand the meaning of a word or a phrase when used in songs, or poems, which can use an unusual meaning.

To make a comparison, it would be like asking on italian.stackexchange.com the meaning of a cantica in the Divine Comedy. Knowing Italian doesn't mean to understand the meaning of what written in the Divine Comedy; in the same way, knowing English doesn't mean to know the meaning of a poem, or any creative work.

In my opinion, that type of questions is off-topic, on EL&U.

  • I see where you are going, but literary works are cited and analyzed on EL&U for specific usages (works of Shakespeare being most notable examples), and are answered and moderately upvoted. I have a hard time seeing the difference with song lyrics. Commented Apr 13, 2011 at 21:38
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    The difference is the number of experts who analyzed Shakespeare's work, and the number of experts who analyzes the lyrics in modern songs. The difference is also that the meaning of a phrase in a song can change between two songs.
    – apaderno
    Commented Apr 13, 2011 at 21:52
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    Unlike songs, The Divine Comedy is being analysed and we know the meaning/references more than we'd do about songs.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Apr 13, 2011 at 22:32
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    @Martin Tapankov: There is a big difference between citing Shakespeare as a record of a specific word usage/meaning or syntactic construction, and actually analyzing what Shakespeare means or is trying to say in specific passage. The former is on topic, while the latter is not.
    – Kosmonaut
    Commented Apr 14, 2011 at 18:19

I would like to add my voice against accepting questions about the meaning of song lyrics and poems - it seems that every single questioner does not understand that English-language verse and song is generally allowed to play fast-and-loose with vocabulary and grammar.

Accordingly, every question ends up with answers which have to note that they are largely based on speculation, and references to general reference works.

It would be much better if we simply had an FAQ explaining that in general verse works are frequently a source of mystery.

  • Nobody commented, so I'll say why I downvoted and disagreed. Flatly saying that all questions of a certain type are off topic doesn't leave room for the few questions (maybe subject verb inversion, etc) that are. The problems arise when questions are about non linguistic meaning, but not all questions about lyrics do that.
    – user10893
    Commented Dec 11, 2011 at 23:54

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