Vocab

Friday - - Leisure -

Go­ing with the flow Con­tin­u­ing on the sub­ject of rhymes from last week, have you heard of an ‘eye rhyme’? Once ex­plained, this would elicit a groan from all those who won­der at the va­garies of spelling in the English lan­guage, of words that are spelt sim­i­larly but pro­nounced dif­fer­ently – for that’s what eye rhymes are all about.

Here’s one en­ti­tled Get­ting Ready for Eter­nity, which has an eye rhyme in each line: I see your height, I feel your weight And watch you sew, to hew the new. Laid in my tomb, with­out a comb, This aw­ful rouge would I gouge – In hubris is de­bris. A bet­ter ex­am­ple, if one ex­ists, would be a poem in­cor­po­rat­ing all words that end in ‘–ough’, but are pro­nounced dif­fer­ently. As most word lovers would know, it is by far the se­quence of let­ters with the most un­pre­dictable pro­nun­ci­a­tion, hav­ing at least six pro­nun­ci­a­tions in North Amer­i­can English (and more than 10 in Bri­tish English): ‘though’ (as in ‘toe’), ‘through’ (as in ‘true’), ‘cough’ (as in ‘cof­fin’), ‘thought’ (as in ‘taut’), ‘rough’ (as ‘ruf­fian’), and ‘bough’ (as in ‘cow’).

As if there weren’t enough rhyme va­ri­eties to play with, Amer­i­can poet Og­den Nash came up with yet another: the forced rhyme. In Nash’s world, each poem (usu­ally just one verse) has a lit­tle story to tell, and a line end­ing – usu­ally the last – is some­times de­lib­er­ately mis­spelt (‘forced’) to rhyme with a pre­vi­ous one.

Here’s one called Re­flec­tion on Ba­bies: A bit of tal­cum Is al­ways wal­cum. Then there’s The Rhi­noc­eros: The rhino is a homely beast, For hu­man eyes he’s not a feast. Far­well, farewell, you old rhi­noc­eros, I’ll stare at some­thing less pre­poceros. And one of his best, a favourite among Nash fans for the ge­nius of the last word – The Pan­ther: The pan­ther is like a leop­ard, Ex­cept it hasn’t been pep­pered. Should you be­hold a pan­ther crouch, Pre­pare to say Ouch. Bet­ter yet, if called by a pan­ther, Don’t an­ther.

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