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Judy Garland and the rainbow as a metaphor

While reading, pay special attention to the expressions in bold. Here’s why 

A few days ago a rainbow appeared outside my window. I took a picture of it – I could not resist. It came out nice, but it’s not as spectacular as the one I chose to publish in the end.

Anyway, I thought I would take this opportunity to teach you two expressions with the word “rainbow”.  In both cases, the rainbow is used as a metaphor for something unrealistic, like a dream or a fantasy. It is beautiful, but unattainable [=it cannot be reached].

the rainbow is a metaphor for something unrealistic, like a dream or a fantasy. It is beautiful, but unattainable.

Somewhere over the rainbow

Somewhere over the rainbow is an unreal, or imaginary place or time.

For example*: This problem must be solved here and now, not somewhere over the rainbow.

If somebody is somewhere over the rainbow or just over the rainbow, they are not here and now. They have lost touch with reality. They may be drunk, or high on drugs, or just distracted for some reason.

For instance: Obviously the actor was somewhere over the rainbow because he couldn’t remember his lines.

The origin of this expression is the famous ballad sung by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz. In this song, somewhere over the rainbow is described as an imaginary place where “there isn’t any trouble”. If you know this song, as many of you do, try to use it to help you remember the expression.

Chasing rainbows

Another rainbow-related expression is chasing rainbows, which means wasting time running after unrealistic dreams and fantasies. Here are two examples:

We don’t have time to be chasing rainbows this semester. We must get down to work immediately.

Hector is right. I should act [like a person] my age and stop chasing rainbows. 

Interestingly, Judy Garland comes to our aid [=helps us] again with a song titled “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows.” She sings: I’m always chasing rainbows… my schemes [=plans] are, just like all my dreams, ending in the sky.

Chasing rainbows is rather futile, I agree, but not because you cannot hope to catch them. Rather, because the best way to appreciate their beauty is probably from a distance.

Image by sharonjoy17 from Pixabay

P.s. Now that you know all about rainbows, can you guess the meaning of the expression “Life isn’t all rainbows and butterflies” ?


* The examples I use here are all authentic. They have been used by native English speakers in real life.

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