This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Pneumonia rhymes, OK? Saturday Rave.

What makes a good rhyme?

Yes, that's right, it has to rhyme.

And it's not that easy in English.

Everyone who's ever tried to write a rhyming poem (which is, of course, all of us) will have discovered that, although English is by far the biggest language in the world, whether you want to write about an olive, a wolf or a penguin, you're in trouble.

No, really,:there's no rhyme in the language for any of these words.

Poets, desperate, will torture words quite ruthlessly in order to force a rhyme, and if the poet is a genius he'll come up with something that'll give a sort of wincing pleasure to generations.

Such a one is the great lyricist Hal David. Here's an extract from I'll never fall in love again. It was written for the 1968 musical Promises, Promises. It could hardly be less my sort of music, but for me it's redeemed by that gorgeous rhyme. 

What do you get when you kiss a guy?
You get enough germs to catch pneumonia
After you do, he'll never phone ya
I'll never fall in love again

Pneumonia/phone ya.

A thing of joy forever, as far as I'm concerned.

Word To Use Today: pneumonia. This word is New Latin from the Greek pneumōn, lung.



  1. English is a lot easier to rhyme in than, say, Spanish, or any language that has set and limited terminal sounds to their words.

    For example, virtually every noun in Spanish ends in -o or -a, usually determined by the gender of that noun. And that, you think, should make it very easy to rhyme in Spanish, and it does ... except ... when every other rhyme hits those 'oh' or 'ah' sounds, it become very clunky. And Spanish usually requires more syllables to express the same thought, which limits your flexibility even more. Therefore:

    I, for one, am a fan of English rhyme
    In fact, when writing, I use it all the time

    Wow. Brilliant! That was straight off the top of my head. I was just freestylin' ...booya!

    1. That's really interesting, Eddie. I must look out some Spanish verse. Then I just need to learn to read Spanish a lot better so I can test it for clunkiness.

      Anyway, Eddie, you're a real poet
      Even though you didn't...
      ...but you can see where I'm going with that, can't you.

  2. I love that song! Sing it a LOT and it's a brilliant rhyme. Ogden Nash is also very good at finding outlandish rhymes for things....

    1. Ogden Nash has been neglected on TWD for far too long, a serious omission I must rectify soon. Thanks for the reminder, Adele.