by Chris Cole
Word Ways, 1990
In the February 1976 Word Ways, Maxey Brooke defines rhyme as "the identity in sound, of the accented vowels of words, usually the last one accented, and of all consonantal and vowel sounds following, with a difference in the sound of the consonants immediately preceding the accented vowels." Masculine rhymes have the final syllable accented, feminine rhymes have the penultimate syllable accented, and triple rhymes have the third-from-last syllable accented. Rhymes with the following consonants somewhat different are called vowel rhyme or assonance; rhymes with identical consonant sounds but slightly different vowel sounds are called off rhyme, sour rhyme, analyzed rhyme or consonance.
Refractory rhymes, or rhymeless words, involve the relatively unexplored area of word pronunciation (as opposed to word spelling). As such, they offer opportunities to distinguish true logology from mere word puzzling. For example, at least one recently-published word puzzle book states that there are two rhymeless words in English: ORANGE and SILVER. Actually, there are thousands of rhymeless English words, but Word Ways readers know of rhymes for ORANGE and SILVER.
Refractory rhymes are the subject of a chapter in Charles C. Bombaugh's Oddities and Curiosities of Words and Literature (Dover, 1961, reprint of 1890). In addition, several articles in Word Ways have discussed this subject:
- In February 1975, Ralph Beaman discussed historical references and classical refractory rhymes. Ralph cited several rhymes for these classical cases, including SPORANGE for ORANGE and CHILVER for SILVER, although many of the rhymes are mosaic (or multi-word) phrases. James Roberts (November 1975) challenged him to rhyme OBLIGE; Ralph obliged in February 1976 with phrases like ELIJAH KNEW / OBLIGE A JEW.
- In the November 1976 Poets' Corner, Milton Bass suggested rhymes for various pronuncia-tions of ORANGE.
- In the August 1980 Kickshaws, Howard Bergerson noted that there are probably many rhymeless words for feminine (and higher) rhymes. He opined that one-syllable rhymeless words are rarer, and listed 55. Jay Ames (May 1981) provided rhymes for TUFTS, LAIRDS, BEARDS and JINXES.
- In the August 1988 Poets' Corner, Kay Haugaard rhymed CIRCLE with JERK'LL.
Below is a list of allegedly rhymeless words from these and other sources. A rhyming word is given for each, although in many cases the rhyme is assonance. Unless otherwise indicated, all words occur in Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary as an unpunctuated, uncapitalized, bold-faced entry or an inflected form thereof. The following abbreviations are used:
NI3 = Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary
NI2 = Merriam-Webster's New International Dictionary, 2nd Edition
RHD = Random House Unabridged Dictionary
+ = slang, foreign, obsolete, dialectical, etc. words
Howard Bergerson's list contains several inflected forms for certain words. These entries have been compressed by giving a rhyme that is the same part of speech, and therefore has rhyming inflected forms.Word Rhyme Assonance aitch braiche (NI2+), taich (NI2+) naish angry unangry (NI2+) aggry angst lanx beards weirds breadth death bulb pulp carpet charpit chimney timne, polymny (NI2+) cusp wusp (NI2) bust depth stepped eighth faith else belts exit direxit (RHD+) sexist fiends teinds, piends filched hilched (NI3+), milched (NI2) zilch filth spilth, tilth fifth drift film pilm (NI3+) kiln fluxed luxed (NI3+), muxed (NI3+) ducked glimpsed rinsed gospel hostile gulf pulse jinxed outminxed (?) blinked leashed niched, tweesht (NI2+) liquid wicked mollusk smallest mouthed southed month grumph mulcts bulks mulched gulched (NI3+) bulged ninth pint oblige bides oomph sumph (NI3+) orange sponrange pint jint (NI2+) bind poem phloem, proem pregnant regnant purple curple (NI3+), hirple (NI3+) puss schuss rhythm smitham scalds balds, caulds (NI3+), faulds (NI3+) scarce clairce (NI2), hairse (NI2+) cares sculpts gulps silver chilver (NI3+) sixth kicks spirit squiret (NI2+) tenth nth tsetse baronetcy, intermezzi tuft yuft twelfth health widow kiddo width bridge window indo, lindo wolf bulls
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