The most maddening thing about people, at least to a lyricist, is the bewildering disparity in their manner of speech. Regional dialects are as numerous as stars in the sky, and twice as poorly understood. Why is this a problem? Because it plays havoc with rhyming.

If you’re from the U.S., chances are you’ll say that these two words rhyme, and you’d be right; by all rights, those vowel sounds should be the same. But what about if you’re a well-to-do Englishman? In that case, those same words are pronounced “pants” and “dahnce.” The first word is still pronounced with the “a” sound, but “dance” is now saddled with a long “ah” sound. The upshot is that if you wrote that verse for a refined English character, congratulations, your rhyme has been revoked for crossing national lines.
The most confusing part in all of this is that even within a country, you can get the same kind of divergence within a country’s own borders. To a native Midwesterner like me, “rather” and “gather” are perfectly legitimate rhymes, but many New Englanders use the British pronunciation “rahther,” meaning that those lines will no longer rhyme.
The same goes for “again,” which many British residents pronounce as “ag-ayn,” but that most Americans pronounce “aghenn,” and for “been,” which many Englishmen pronounce the way it’s spelled, whereas most Americans pronounce it as “bin.”
And let us not forget the stubborn British refusal to pronounce the letter “r,” meaning that the sounds “ah” and “ar” rhyme very adequately in British English.
But now for a positive example: In one song Cee Lo Green rhymes “richer” and “with you.” In any other dialect, this would be a painful non-rhyme, but in Cee-Lo’s idiosyncratic variation on an African-American dialect, the words are pronounced (and abbreviated) as “ritchuh” and “witch yuh.” Much better.

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