In the movie Educating Rita, Julie Walters tells Michael Caine that assonance means “getting the rhyme wrong.” The example he gives her to provoke this response is the poet Yeats, who pronounced his name all wrong [Yates — same letters, better organization], who rhymes “swan” with “stone.”
I thought about this after last night’s episode of Modern Family, when Phil (Ty Burrell) talks about his blog, Foodie in a Hoodie. “It rhymes on paper,” he assures us.
But why doesn’t it rhyme out loud? Look at them: foodie, hoodie. Except for the first letter, they’re exactly the same. Except they aren’t at all. And while I was lying here this morning, trying to decide why they don’t rhyme, I don’t think I can even provide a pronunciation guide for “hoodie.”
If I were telling you how to say “foodie,” I would use the double O: oo. Maybe even more O’s, like for fireworks: oooooo. But what sound do I tell you for “hoodie”? Uh? That’s not quite right. I don’t know how to tell you to pronounce hoodie, so I hope you’ve got it figured out on your own.
And then I start thinking about other “oo” words, and which side of this divide they fall on, and I have to inform you, not that you’ve ever noticed, particularly if you’re someone trying to figure out English as not your native language, that English isn’t very consistent.
Over the years I’ve bought a number of rhyming dictionaries, despite dabbling in rhyme extremely infrequently. And usually the lists in rhyming dictionaries are missing so many words it’s often just easiest to run through the alphabet, which is what I ended up doing this morning after waking up too early. I have to tell you, this food/hood thing wanders all over the place. Or maybe it’s just me.
“Brood,” which is what the people in Lynn’s current favorite show, Poldark, all do, falls on the food side. But “good,” just a few letters down the alphabet, stands with hood. Back up to the D and there is no “dood,” but there is “dude” (and “doodle,” which fortunately matches up with “dude”). Likewise, there’s no “cood,” but there is “could,” which doesn’t look a thing like “hood” but is, in fact, in the same ‘hood soundwise.
Jude. Mood. Nude, which gets us to “lewd,” which wouldn’t pass the Sesame Street match test (“one of these things is not like the others”) unless you’re listening on the radio, the way Rita suggested Peer Gynt should (should as in hood) be presented.
There is no “pood,” but look what happens when you veer to “poor,” which sounds just like “pour” but not a thing like “hour.”
It turns out there is a “rood,” which isn’t as rude as I thought it would (would like hood and, happily, wood) be, although the definition seems to wobble around: either it’s the specific cross on which Jesus was hung or possibly any crucifix from an apparently necessarily medieval church with a “rood arch” and/or “rood beam.” At least one site tells me it’s an archaic word, and you’ll notice that “arch” sounds completely different from arch-aic even though they’re the same four letters in the same order. I may have rued the moment I landed on R.
Stood. But snood. We may be all screwed if we’re really trying to make sense of this. If I think about this much longer I will have stewed.
We have to work a lot harder to accommodate most of the letters at the back end of the alphabet. For T we have to drop syllables, to cop a ‘tude. The syllables split in the wrong place for “vood(oo)” to come out and play, and the only way we can get Z into this is to more or less make up a word: “After the baby panda I was all zooed out.” (More, I suppose, rather than less, but you might find it to come in handy some day.)
If you viewed all this with a jaundiced eye, you’d realize we have yet another spelling to get the same pronunciation, and I just now realized I went right past queued and cued. How crude. Or for that matter, crewed. Someone should have clued me in earlier.
I rued the day I viewed the word hood
Not good, because it could have been rude
Or crude, possibly lewd, when it should
Have stood, or maybe would cause a mood
To brood, perhaps eat food, or chop some wood
And where do we go with the word blood?