Rhymes (was forehead)

Neal Whitman nwhitman at AMERITECH.NET
Mon Apr 7 02:42:02 UTC 2008

A book on poetry I once referred to (I don't remember who wrote it, but it
was at least 50 years old) was quite clear on the point that
homonyms/homophones didn't count as rhymes. An episode of The Simpsons made
a joke on this point by having a character write an awful song that rhymed
'dye', 'die', and 'Di'. I wrote a post about it a couple of years ago:

Neal Whitman
Email: nwhitman at ameritech.net
Blog: http://literalminded.wordpress.com
Webpage: http://literalmindedlinguistics.com

----- Original Message -----
From: "Charles Doyle" <cdoyle at UGA.EDU>
Sent: Sunday, April 06, 2008 2:13 PM
Subject: Re: forehead: the little girl with a little curl right in the
middle of hers

> ---------------------- Information from the mail
> header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Charles Doyle <cdoyle at UGA.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: forehead: the little girl with a little curl right in
> the
>              middle of hers
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Yes, I did write that entry too hastily (typo and all!).
> I meant to suggest that "perfect rhyme" is an abstraction, seldom defined
> with any precision--a point perhaps implied in (Arnold's?) parenthesis
> following the definition: "phonological identity of the terminal portions
> of words (for some specification of 'terminal portion')." Not only is
> "terminal portion" unspecified, but "phonological identity"--even in a
> so-called "perfect rhyme"--is often not really an identity but just a
> degree (and perhaps kind) of similarity. The very concept of a half-rhyme
> (slant rhyme, eye rhyme, etc.) implies variance from a "whole" rhyme.
> Larry raises the point of whether homophones "count" as rhymes (more
> nearly "perfect" than most). My favorite canonical example (from Chaucer's
> "Miller's Tale"):
> ". . . [C]lerkes ben ful subtile and ful queynte; / And prively he caughte
> hire by the queynte."
> Incidentally, my least favorite cononical rhyme (from Shakespeare's(?)
> _Pericles_):
> "To seek her as a bedfellow, / In marriage pleasures playfellow."
> Parallel questions could be raised (indeed, have been raised) about puns.
> --Charlie
> ---- Original message ----
>>Date: Sat, 5 Apr 2008 07:02:45 -0700
>>From: "Arnold M. Zwicky" <zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU>
>>On Apr 5, 2008, at 6:27 AM, Charlie Doyle wrote:
>>> That's an important point commonly overlooked by literary scholars.
>>> The only really "perfect" rhyme
>>i've puzzled over this for some time now, and i can't make any sense of
>>it.  it seems to presuppose that total identity is the *real* meaning of
>>"rhyme".  but where does that idea come from? certainly not from the way
>>the words "rime" and "rhyme" have been used in english, which involves not
>>total phonological identity, but phonological identity of the terminal
>>portions of words (for some specification of "terminal portion").
>>> would be a repitition
>>nice typo.  and an extremely common one -- 211,000 raw google webhits, a
>>few of which (Repitition Miniature Shnauzers, for instance) are
>>intentional re-spellings, but most of which are clearly misspellings or
>>> of the same word (in the same syntactic position, etc.)--which is
>>> usually not thought of as a rhyme at all. Otherwise, we're loosely
>>> weighing the relative "closeness" among a range of phonological
>>> features.
>>> Also, since no rhyme is perfect, one must be cautious about using rhymes
>>> to establish historical pronunciations.
>>well, the real problem is the existence of various kinds of half-rhyme
>>(quite prominent in some poetic traditions, at best sporadic in others),
>>differing specifications of "terminal portion", eye rhymes, and so on.
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