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While editing a text, I came across this sentence: "The festival is a rainbow of color and joy."

My question concerns the word "color." I feel it should be plural: "The festival is a rainbow of colors and joy."

I asked a colleague and she felt it was fine because color was describing the rainbow...an adjective use. I felt that a rainbow cannot be only one color and consists of many so it should be "colors."

Color or colors? Is there a way to decide this?

I should point out that the context is an article about a festival in which people dress up with multi-colored costumes.

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    The festival is a rainbow of color and joy - colour: the pleasant effect of a bright colour or of a lot of colours together.dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/colour
    – user66974
    Mar 2, 2017 at 17:04
  • It's an awkward expression anyway. A rainbow of color is an antonym of a rainbow of black-and-white. Mar 2, 2017 at 17:18
  • "The festival is a symphony of color and joy." Notice how using a different metaphor removes it from the literal (and limited) spectrum of sunlight being refracted by droplets of water in the air. Most festivals are much more colorful than rainbows. :-) Extra credit for a rainbow of black-and-white. Mar 2, 2017 at 18:47

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Although the rainbow above is a spectrum of colors, the word rainbow here is a metaphor for an abundance of good things such as the beauty of color and the delight of joy. The festival is filled with color and joy.

If it were an actual rainbow, we would not need to hear there were colors, as we would know that.

American Heritage (5th Edition) definition:

A diverse assortment or collection.

Compare the phrasing from the Shaker hymn Simple Gifts:

In the valley of love and delight

Why would we want to be in a valley with only one delight instead of a cornucopia of them? We would not, but the delight is the valley's specialty, and it has its generous share.

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  • But if I replace "rainbow" with "collection" the sentence seems not to work: "...a collection of color and joy." Seems like we should have a collection of things, "colors." I understand the metaphor aspect. Could it be that even if it's a metaphor, the grammar needs to match? Maybe I'm getting confused because color can be a countable and non-countable noun. Mar 3, 2017 at 1:45
  • Collection is not wrong but not poetic, either. Try is a generosity (or array, or smorgazbord) of color. It is rich with color. No plural needed inside the prepositional phrase -> My garden is filled with color, and they have gardens of color. Mar 3, 2017 at 15:17

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