J'adore l'amour et le soup de jour.
April 19, 2006 6:56 PM   Subscribe

Bi- and multilingual mefites - in languages other than English, what are the generic rhymes that appear again and again in lyrics and poems?

In English pop songs and 'popular' poems, there are some classic rhymes that get used over and over again to the point of cliché:
(in love songs)
(in dance numbers)
and, of course, the Beatles' timeless 'diamond rings/things' combo. Just wondering if anyone was aware of clichéd couplets that appear in other languages? I'd quite like to create a little compendium of multilingual lyrical 'odd couples'.
posted by RokkitNite to Writing & Language (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, nearly everything rhymes in Spanish (and probably other Romance languages as well). For example, lots of verbs are conjugated to create the same ending, so "we run" (corremos) and "we eat" (comemos) an tons of other verbs will all rhyme. Same with most adjectives (-ado) and adverbs (-mente). That's not even taking into account the bazillion nouns that end in o or a...Anyway, the point is, rhymes in English tend to be more "unique" than in other languages (or at least Spanish). Someone with broader language knowledge can weigh in on others, I'm sure.
posted by danb at 7:35 PM on April 19, 2006

du jour
posted by phrontist at 7:37 PM on April 19, 2006

A most excellent book on the origins of pre-Homeric lyric poetry is Alfred S. Lord's The Singer of Tales, which addresses this issue, in part. Great read, in any case.
posted by Dr. Wu at 8:07 PM on April 19, 2006

The most easily rhymed word-ending in the English language is "-ation".
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:26 PM on April 19, 2006

I need to learn to read.

In Japanese, the verb ending "-masu" is a cheap rhyme.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:28 PM on April 19, 2006

Yeah, in Japanese all present tense verbs end in -u, all past tense verbs end in -ta (or da in a few cases) and a lot of adjectives end in -i. Except for nouns and the rest of the adjectives, all parts of speech consistently end and conjugate with the same sounds. I guess it's similar to Spanish in that sense - it's easy to figure out a way to rhyme almost anything.
posted by borkingchikapa at 8:55 PM on April 19, 2006

hjärta/smärta = heart/pain in Swedish
posted by martinrebas at 9:00 PM on April 19, 2006

"all present tense verbs end in -u"...

Yeah, but usually it isn't pronounced. Poetry in Japanese is tricky: when it's sung everything is pronounced. But when it's spoken then it's the same as normal spoken Japanese, and there are several of what we think of as vowel sounds which fall out.

The "u" sound in the "-masu" ending isn't pronounced by most people, or only just barely. Strongly pronouncing that "u" sound is, I'm told, a girly affectation. It's the Japanese verbal equivalent of dotting all your "i"s with hearts in English. For everyone else, -ます is pronounced "-mahss".

The present tense of the copula is the same way. Everyone pronounces it "dess", except girls, who often say "dess-ooo". (And if you really want to come off as girly, you end all your sentences with "dess-ooo-wah" or "mass-ooo-wah".)

せんぱい is two syllables in normal speech. (I don't care what the professors say; that ending is a diphthong.) It's also two syllables in spoken poetry. But if it's sung, it's sehh-mm-pah-ee, four syllables.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:14 PM on April 19, 2006

I was talking about dictionary form verbs. Taberu, kigaeru, oyogu, etc. where the terminal -u is usually pronounced.

せんぱい is most definitely four syllables. It's less noticable in speech, but in poetry I'd argue it becomes pretty important.

posted by borkingchikapa at 9:40 PM on April 19, 2006

p.s. stop learning Japanese from anime.
posted by borkingchikapa at 9:41 PM on April 19, 2006

I'm not an expert, but IIRC Polish poetry doesn't tend to rhyme because, as per Spanish, rhyming is too cheap / easy because of verb declensions / agreement of noun endings / etc.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:35 PM on April 19, 2006

déjà vu and déjà vu
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:13 PM on April 19, 2006

Here are a couple of Plastic Bertrand's rhymes from 'Ca Plane Pour Moi'
chez moi with chinois
caoutchouc with igloo
planet with la tete
Man, that song was a real ear worm.
posted by tellurian at 12:13 AM on April 20, 2006

weapons-grade pandemonium: ah, the identity property of rhyming.
posted by aubilenon at 12:25 AM on April 20, 2006

l'amour/la mort

posted by XiBe at 4:57 AM on April 20, 2006

In sung and poetic French, you have the advantage of the pronounced terminal 'e', which lends itself to cheap feminine rhymes. There are some obvious others: soir/noir (and voir) is a gift to lyricists.
posted by holgate at 5:57 AM on April 20, 2006

Alfred Lord's The Singer of Tales and pre-Homeric lyric poetry? WTF? Ancient poetry didn't rhyme; what does it have to do with this?

Did anybody read the question? It's not about generalized possibilities of rhyme (much less nonrhyming poetry), it's a very specific question about cliched/traditional pairs of words, like moon/June in English. So far only martinrebas and holgate have actually provided answers (honorable mention to XiBe for trying, but l'amour/la mort is not a rhyme). It's actually a good and interesting question, and not an easy one to answer; it takes a fairly intimate knowledge of the poetic traditions of each language. The first thing that comes to mind is to investigate the foreign-language Wikipedia entries corresponding to the English rhyme (check the "In other languages" list in the left margin), but that's bound to be hit-or-miss. If I think of anything else I'll let you know.
posted by languagehat at 7:20 AM on April 20, 2006

Best answer: In Italian the most revoltingly cliché rhyme is cuore/amore (heart/love). Variations include fiore (flower). Ugh.

mare/amare/baciare (sea/love/kiss)

volare/cantare, and all verbs ending in -are. Same for all other verbs endings, -ire, -ere. eg. vedere/potere/sapere (see/can/know).

Verbs in the future ending -rà pseudo-rhymed with nouns ending in -à. eg. with felicità; libertà (freedom); città, etc..

other banal rhymes packed in a song from this egregious offender:
lei/vorrei (her/I want)
mai/sai (never/you know)
qui/così (here/like this)
cuore/muore (heart/dies)
più/tu (no more/you)
però/pò (yet/a little)
me/te (me/you)

there's worse but can't think of any more right now...

(for contrast, two examples of non-clichéd and more infrequent rhymes)
posted by funambulist at 7:23 AM on April 20, 2006

Best answer: Some of the standbys of operatic Italian:

cor (heart)
fior (flower)
amor (love)
onor (honor)
orror (horror)
favor (favor)
splendor (splendor)
ancor (still)

petto (heart/breast)
sospetto (suspicion)
diletto (adored)
affetto (affection)
biglietto (letter or note)

and there are the "io" rhymes:

io (I)
mio (my)
dio or Iddio (God)
pio (holy)
rio (sad)
... and so forth.

In just about every 19th century Italian opera, at some climactic point we get a variation on, "O quale orror! Ed io vivo ancor!" ("Oh, horror! And yet I am still alive!")
posted by La Cieca at 7:26 AM on April 20, 2006

(ahem ahem, correction, pò is not spelt pò but po', but that doesn't change pronunciation...)

just remembered another one - variations of morte/sorte/forte (death/fate/strong)
posted by funambulist at 7:28 AM on April 20, 2006

petto (heart/breast)
sospetto (suspicion)

heh, damn, that was in my second example of non-cliche rhymes, but to my defense, I'd never heard it before as I'm not familiar with opera :)
posted by funambulist at 7:32 AM on April 20, 2006

Jesus. You'd think that my suggestion actually caused something bad to happen. Chill out, languagehat. Your AskMe Policeman routine is pretty tiresome. Worst thing that happens here is someone learns of a book they may not have known of, reads it, and enjoys it. Oh noes!

Actually, Lord's book has very much to do with the question. I grant that it's more of a "suggestion for further reading" type of answer, but perhaps RokkitNite is interested in this as a long-term project; I don't know.

Lord goes into detail about how Balkan bards in the pre-Homeric era constructed their songs out of preconceived units (some of which do indeed rhyme) as a handy way to build lyrics. If they knew and committed to memory a series of standard rhymes, clauses, and sentences, they could recite them almost automatically, thus freeing up brainspace for the construction of new rhymes/lines on the spot. It's much like freestyle rapping, actually.

Should the original poster be interested in pursuing this question further, there are far worse places to begin than Lord's seminal book.
posted by Dr. Wu at 9:17 AM on April 20, 2006

Yeah, but usually it isn't pronounced.

Not true, really. 買う (kau)? 学ぶ (manabu)? 食べる (taberu)? The 'u' is pronounced. Only when into things like 思う (omou) are you able to say that things may get slightly fuzzy.

The "u" sound in the "-masu" ending isn't pronounced by most people, or only just barely.

Also, I wouldn't present this as a hard rule. It's common, but I don't think it's grounds to eliminate the sound. But I do agree it's good to not over-emphasize it. The same happens with 早く (hayaku), but there's a mild 'u' there.

When it comes to languages like Spanish/Japanese, it's ridiculously easy to rhyme. I would tend to think a language with irregular endings like Arabic would be more akin to English in this sense. Even a language like Russian has some regularity in its patterns due to declension. If you conjugate a few nouns in the accusative, you're gonna get "книгу," (k-hneegoo) "сестру," (sestroo), etc. Observe this song from 5nizza:

"я солдат и у меня нет башки
мне отбили ее сапогами

yo-yo-yo комбат орет
разорванный рот

у комбата
потому что граната
белая вата
красная ватa
не лечит солдата

я солдат недоношенный ребенок войны
я солдат мама залечи мои раны
я солдат солдат забытой богом страны"

etc. And this still all doesn’t answer your question, but it’s interesting, I think. I contribute to this with the following: You have to realize that in certain languages it’s a much broader spectrum of viable words, although, I’m certain there are certain ones that are hackneyed by now.

I might be able to return with some more concrete examples of Japanese, Spanish, and French, if you give me time.
posted by Lockeownzj00 at 9:26 AM on April 20, 2006

Response by poster: I might be able to return with some more concrete examples of Japanese, Spanish, and French, if you give me time.

Please do! This is why I love AskMefi.
All fascinating stuff. Thanks team.
posted by RokkitNite at 9:44 AM on April 20, 2006

Dr Wu, I consider you a pal, and I love discussions of epic poetry, but this is not the place for them. The poster is asking a specific question about rhyme words and you're bringing up a book on a completely different subject that the poster might find interesting. It's not a matter of "OMG, your answer killed somebody!"—it's a matter of AskMe being a place for answers to questions rather than generalized discussion. I might not have bothered taking issue with your response if the rest of the comments had been on target, but it's mighty irritating to see everybody wandering around chatting about vaguely related subjects when the poster has an actual question they want answered. Sorry if you felt picked on.
posted by languagehat at 11:29 AM on April 20, 2006

As I said, the book addresses the poster's question -- quite explicitly, in fact. Have you read it? The book is about poetic structures and rhymes in languages other than English. My answer was no different from any of the countless other on-topic responses that suggest that the poster look to other sites, books, etc., for further answers. Just because I cannot personally answer the question (my Spanish and French are way too rusty to do that) doesn't mean I can't point the poster to other useful resources.

It's not that I felt picked on, but that you were unnecessarily rude, and that your criticism was off the mark.

RokkitNite: really, it's a great source for you if you're interested in the deep, deep roots of why certain rhymes are used again and again.
posted by Dr. Wu at 11:48 AM on April 20, 2006

The book is about poetic structures and rhymes in languages other than English.

Yes, but not the kind of moon/June rhymes the poster is asking about. That aside, I'm sorry I came across as rude. My mother-in-law is staying with us for a week, which may have some bearing on the matter.
posted by languagehat at 1:04 PM on April 20, 2006

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