Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

Archive for the ‘Rhymes’ Category

Maybe Rhyming Words Can Sound the Same

Posted by Neal on April 12, 2008

One of my favorite poems is Edward Lear’s “The Owl and the Pussycat”. I know at least one first-grade teacher who dares not read it aloud to her students these days, but I used to read it aloud a lot to Doug and Adam — both the Little Golden Books version that’s on loan from Mom and Dad (who used to read it to my sister Ellen), and a newer version that Jan Brett illustrated. I like that you can sing it to the tune of “Beep-Beep” and have it match right down to the repetitions at the end of each verse; that when Doug was a toddler he’d say “you elegant fowl” as “you elephant fowl”; and that piggy-wig is an exception to Steven Pinker’s rule on rhyming nonsense pairs.

However, I cannot abide Edward Lear’s limericks. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Kids' entertainment, Pragmatics, Rhymes | 7 Comments »

Starts With B, Rhymes With Custard

Posted by Neal on November 25, 2006

Cal Thomas wrote in yesterday’s column about declining standards of decency on television:

Certain words are supposed to cross the line, but apparently only if they begin with f…. Words that begin with b apparently do not cross the line. One rhymes with custard and the other rhymes with witch. One frequently hears those words on network TV.

Starts with b and rhymes with custard, eh? OK, I can figure this one out. That would be … bustard? A long-legged Old World and Australian game bird in the family Otitidae? I’m with Thomas on a lot of his points about what gets shown on TV, but I have to disagree with him here. I don’t think I’ve ever heard this word on TV (though maybe I would if I watched more Discovery channel), and wouldn’t be offended if I did.

However, this word does remind me of a b word that rhymes with mastered and plastered, which I’m surprised Thomas didn’t mention. I don’t know why bastard should be considered such a nasty word, since it isn’t scatological, sexual, racial, or religious, and it appears often enough in historical discussions of royal families. Still, I do know a kid could get sent to the principal’s office for saying it in school. But I wonder what would happen if they called someone a niggardly bustard?

Posted in Rhymes, Taboo | 4 Comments »

Rhyming Words Don’t Sound the Same

Posted by Neal on March 29, 2006

I was volunteering in Adam’s classroom today, and on the way in, I passed a teacher in the hall doing some language assessments with a student. The teacher would read one word to the student, and then present three other words, asking, “Which of these words sounds the same or rhymes?” Barney the dinosaur and the characters on Sesame Street do this, too: say that “rhyming words sound the same!”

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Kids' entertainment, Rhymes, TV, You're so literal! | 21 Comments »

 
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