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Thu, Aug. 22

Williams: The importance of rhyming

In my experience, one of the greatest social challenges is remembering the names of folks I’ve just been introduced to, especially at a party or at a subversive underground gathering bent on overthrowing…something. On the other hand, I always remember people of either gender named Bill. Mainly because we rhyme with each other. For the same reason, I feel connected to folks named Phil, Chlorophyll, Krill, Anthill, and Rototill, etc.

Isn’t it cute how siblings’ names can rhyme? Such as Daniel and Nathaniel, Aiden and Caden, Jason and Grayson and Mason, Blake and Jake, etc. Not to be ignored are Lily and Millie, Abby and Gabby, Amanda and Miranda, Nora and Cora. I’ve often thought that either the parents owned a rhyming dictionary with dog-eared pages or didn’t feel like going through the pain and suffering of assigning names from scratch because just birthing the children was work enough.

If rhyming schemes work for me in remembering names today, they were a worthy opponent in my early years. Trying to write rhyming poetry as a teenager was frequently an unpleasant exercise. I once penned a line of verse that read something like, “Following in your wake is the fragrance of an orange...” The next line was supposed to be the pièce de résistance, but I couldn’t find anything to rhyme with orange. The subject of my lyrical efforts probably wouldn’t have appreciated being likened to citrus anyway, but this was the risk that a clueless high school kid was willing to take. In fact, there’s at least one word that does rhyme with orange: A hill in south Wales is named Blorenge (pronounced like orange). Given the romantic stakes of my pubescent poetry, how could I not have known that?

I’ve been told throughout my life that nothing rhymes with the word purple. Ladies and gentlemen, my research reveals that not one but two words sound like purple! To hirple is to walk awkwardly or with a limp. They said this kind of thing in old Scotland, apparently. Another great Scottish word is curple, an old word for the south end of a north-bound horse. According to Roger Miller, there is yet another rhymer for purple from his song Dang Me: They say roses are red, and violets are purple, Sugar’s sweet and so is maple surple. I rest my case.

How many times in just the last few weeks have you wanted a word that rhymed with dunce? You could have used punce, an English dialect word for flattened, pounded meat or a swift kick in the nether regions. Example: If you don’t return my copy of Modern Mold Monthly immediately, I’ll give you a punce you won’t soon forget!

One of my favorite words as confirmed in a previous column is kerfuffle. I just found out that the rhyming word wuffle means to sniff or snort gently. My day has been made.

Seems there are six ways that words rhyme. The first way is that the final vowel sound of two words match, creating a rhyme. I grew bored and drowsy before I got to the end of this last sentence so I have no idea what the other five rhyming ways are. And I don’t care.

I believe there are other mysteries of rhyme that have never been addressed. For example, have you ever noticed that “shower grout” sounds a lot like “sauerkraut?”

My wife tells me I have too much time on my hands.

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