A nursery rhyme

Wilson Gray hwgray at EARTHLINK.NET
Tue Jul 20 20:07:53 UTC 2004

On Jul 20, 2004, at 2:30 PM, Ed Keer wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Ed Keer <edkeer at YAHOO.COM>
> Subject:      Re: A nursery rhyme
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> But don't you also say h[a]rrid for horrid? I do. No
> way to make this rhyme work for me :(
> --- Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM> wrote:

I use open o in both cases. Forgetting how old I am, I assumed that
everybody still learns this rhyme before learning to read. Therefore,
what I was trying to get at was what would motivate a person to switch
to the spelling pronunciation after learning to read, given that the
reader already knows the "correct" pronunciation and that the spelling
pronunciation destroys both the rhyme and the rhythm of the nursery
rhyme. There are many (Does anyone ever pronounce this as "may-nee," as
is permitted by the spelling? Cf. "zany.") other extraordinary
intricacies of English spelling that have had no effect on

But, from some of the responses, it appears that this nursery rhyme is
no longer - if ever it was - universally learned at one's
(grand)mother's knee. I learned it with the "forrid-horrid" rhyme from
my late grandmother, who was born in Longview, TX, in 1898 and who
didn't use "fore-head" even in ordinary speech. I've long wondered why
a victim of an early 20th-century "separate-but-equal" education in the
piney backwoods of East Texas would know and use the "correct"
pronunciation, whereas people with late 20th-century Ivy-League
educations have just as consistently come to use the "incorrect"

[On a re-run of "Frazier," Dad has just said, "It's going to be you and
I." Frazier  immediately "corrects" him: "Dad, 'It's going to be you
and ME!'" "Et tu, Brute?!" I can only hope that Dad blew his line and
Frazier covered for him.]

-Wilson Gray

>> I grew up in NYC saying "forrid" and I still say
>> "forrid".
>> You don't have to be British.
>> Wilson Gray <hwgray at EARTHLINK.NET> wrote:
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail
>> header -----------------------
>> Sender: American Dialect Society
>> Poster: Wilson Gray
>> Subject: A nursery rhyme
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> --------
>> There was a little girl
>> And she had a little curl
>> Right in the middle of her forehead.
>> When she was good, she was very, very good.
>> But when she was bad, she was
>> horehead?/hoarhead?/whorehead? ...?
>> -Wilson Gray
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