Rhymes (was forehead)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Apr 7 03:24:34 UTC 2008

At 10:42 PM -0400 4/6/08, Neal Whitman wrote:
>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

The factors Neal mentions in the post above are significant.  I do
not, however, agree that words with identical phonology fail to
rhyme, maintaining instead (contra that 50-year-old book, written
before Grice's theory of conversational implicature was available)
that they rhyme trivially.  In some poetic traditions, such trivial
rhymes are ruled out, in others at least homonymy (if not identity)
is permitted (I love the queynte Chaucer example Charlie cites).  But
this is a question of which rhymes are allowed within a particular
tradition of versification, not whether the lines rhyme in the first
place.   I see no reason to alter what seems to be the standard
lexicographic practice which as far as I can tell with a quick search
defines "rhyme" in such a way that identity is no barrier.


>----- 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
>>              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(?)
>>"To seek her as a bedfellow, / In marriage pleasures playfellow."
>>Parallel questions could be raised (indeed, have been raised) about puns.
>>---- 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
>>>>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.
>>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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