Sunday, December 27, 2009

Less Than Sublime is an Almost Rhyme

By David Sennema

Call me crazy, eccentric, or an old fuddy-duddy if you want, but I've
got a problem with people who write verse or ads or songs that purport to rhyme but don't. I call them "almost rhymes" but nearly, faulty, flawed, defective, deficient or not quite, would do just as well.

Just listen closely the next time you hear someone singing a song
written in the last ten or twenty years and you'll see what I mean. Those turkeys are trying to pass off as rhyming all kinds of words that vaguely sound like each other. They contend, for instance, that comin' rhymes with gunnin', Atlanta with banana, hurt with work, cats with that, chill with build, and on and on.

Mr. Webster, who presumably still has some credibility as an expert in
the matter, tells us that a rhyme is "a piece of verse, or poem, in which
there is a regular recurrence of corresponding sounds, esp. at the ends of lines." I am here to declare that "th" and "st" are not corresponding sounds.

Of course there are those who fudge the rhyming by indulging in a practice, represented by the horrible word, “assonance,” which is defined as “a partial rhyme in which the stressed vowel sounds are alike but the consonant sounds are unlike, as in late and make." Partial rhyme indeed!

Woe is me, what a legacy we're losing. Think of some of the great
lyricists of the past and what they were able to do with words. Do you
remember the Gershwins and their wonderful, lovely, rhyming words?

Embrace me, my sweet embraceable you,
Embrace me, you irreplaceable you.

Or Cole Porter?

You're the top! You're the Colosseum,
You're the top! You're the Louvre Museum.

And then there was the poet Ogden Nash who won me over with this
little two-liner:

Candy is dandy,
But liquor is quicker.

The limerick is often looked down upon as the red-headed stepchild of
verse, but the writers, often anonymous, knew how to rhyme not only the first, second, and fifth lines with each other, but also the third line with the fourth.

A collegiate damsel named Breeze,
Weighed down by B.A.'s and Litt. D.'s,
Collapsed from the strain.
Alas, it was plain
She was killing herself by degrees.

Here's another example of rhyming-with-a-smile by Ogden Nash.

Some primal termite knocked on wood
And tasted it, and found it good,
And that is why your cousin May
Fell through the parlor floor today.

Do me this little favor. If you're planning on doing some writing,
and that writing requires rhyming, let me urge you to stop by your local
bookstore and pick up a rhyming dictionary. It will make you a better person and save me a lot of grief.

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