This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Nuts and Bolts: We've got rhythm!

Oh yes we have got rhythm, even the most two-left-footed of us.

Even those young men long ago whose idea of dancing was to hold me so far away that they could watch their own feet had rhythm.

Because even if those young men couldn't dance (and, oh, they could NOT dance!), they could walk.
Most of them had even got the alternating-leg thing worked out, on the whole.

And their hearts, though usually confused and sometimes resentful, (can't live with'em, can't live without'em...) tapped out, I'm sure, a very reliable lub-DUB, lub-DUB.

That rhythm, lub-DUB, is called an iamb, and as it happens it's the basic building-block of a lot of English verse.

You can hear lots of iambs here:

I eat my peas with honey,
I've done so all my life.
It makes the peas taste funny, but
It keeps them on the knife.

Can you hear the lub-DUB, lub-DUB of it?

And they were all at it, you know: Shakespeare (To be or not to be), Wordsworth (I wandered lonely as a cloud (or cow, as the original had it)), you name it.

Even quite modern masterpieces use it: A thousand housewives ev'ry day/ Pick up a tin of beans and say...

It's in our hearts, and always will be.

Thing To Do Today: string some iambs together. It's not as hard as you might think!

Rhythm is from the Greek word rhuthmos, and is related to the other Greek word rhein, which means to flow.


  1. I find I think in iambs all the time.
    It's easy to fall into writing them
    whenever you see fit to add a line
    in any comments box you care to name.
    And as for spelling RHYTHM, have a care!
    It's very easy to mis-spell that word.
    I'm stopping now before I drive you mad.

  2. Oh, honour 'tis to have some verse
    From you, distinguished poetess!
    For me, prosaic, iambs limp -
    More trip than tripping, I confess.