Our ears pick up rhyme, and so words that rhyme are more likely to attract our attention.
Babies and young children notice and enjoy rhyme from a very early stage of life. Along with rhythm – which we’ll tackle in a future post – rhyme is one of the most powerful ways of getting words noticed.
Rhyme can be irritating if you didn’t intend to use rhyming words – so it is useful to be able to avoid it, just as it is useful to be able to employ it when you choose to do so.
Once our ears and brain have picked up on a rhyming sound – EAR and HEAR, for example – they will be on the alert for more of these (DEAR, CHEER, FEAR, APPEAR …); so avoid over-use of rhyme if you want to keep your listener focused on the meaning of your words, rather than the sound of them.
That said, a “snappy” quotation using rhyme can effectively stay in a listener’s head for a lifetime. “A stitch in time saves nine” used to be a very popular proverb, meaning, “Put something right when you first notice it, or it’ll be a much bigger job later.” (TIME and NINE don’t rhyme exactly, but a close rhyme is often acceptable to our brains.)
“For as there is a certain time to rage / So is there time such madness to assuage” [assuage means calm down] is a piece of advice that was written about 500 years ago (by Sir Thomas Wyatt, who lived in the time of King Henry the Eighth) – and we can still understand and act by it today.
Thomas Wyatt wrote the words to songs (lyrics) amongst other things, and you’ll find that rhyme is still important in lyrics nowadays.
Can you make up rhymes? Can you spot them in time to avoid using them unintentionally in your speaking or writing?
How many words can you find to rhyme with each of the following?
HEAR; POUND; DOG; FOOD; CATCH; MOON; YOU; ME; LOVE; TOUGH.
Make up and write down some different rhymes of your own. You can go on with this for as long as you like; you might want to think of words with more than one syllable, as well – for example, FOLLOW; DAUGHTER; SEPARATE. Often these words will be rhymed only on the last syllable, for example SEPARATE with FORTUNATE; but two-syllable words can be rhymed completely to very good effect – for example FOLLOW/HOLLOW/SWALLOW/WALLOW and used for funny poems such as Limericks. (OK, we’ll look at limericks in more detail in a future post.)
Apparently there is no rhyme in the English language for the word ORANGE – so if you can find one, you might become famous!