By Eric Shackle
W.S. Gilbert, a world-class rhymester, claimed in an open letter to The Graphic in 1887:
'It has long been supposed that there is no rhyme to 'month.' There is a rhyme to it--not any lisping version of such words as 'once' 'dunce,' etc., but a legitimate word in everyday use... 'millionth' as the best rhyme to 'month,' and I have the authority of the greatest poets in the English language for treating it as a tri-syllable,
if I feel disposed to do so.'
One of our favorite rhymes is:
Shake, shake the ketchup bottle,
First none'll come, and then a lot'll.
No, the famous U.S. humorist Ogden Nash (1902-1971) was NOT the author of that immortal couplet, although many people claim he was. (He DID write Candy / is dandy / But liquor / is quicker.)
One website, noting that August 19 was the anniversary of Nash's birthday, gave this circumstantial but misleading account:
"One summer afternoon in 1930, he jotted down a little nonsense poem and sent it to The New Yorker. The magazine bought it, and asked for more. Nash moved to Baltimore and for the next 40 years made his living entirely off of poems like:
You shake and shake the ketchup bottle,
nothing comes, and then a lot'll.
According to Nash's grand-daughter, Frances R. Smith of Baltimore, Maryland (and she should know) what he actually wrote was:
First a little
Then a lottle
Then, in 1949, another US humorist, Richard Willard Armour (1906-1989), seems to have gleefully seized on Nash's rhyme, and produced the couplet that many people enjoy reciting to this day.
Armour was a master of the comical one-liner. Here are three of his wisecracks:
- Middle age is the time of life / that a man first notices in his wife.
- It's all right to hold a conversation, but you should let go of it now and then.
- A rumor is one thing that gets thicker instead of thinner as it is spread.
Apart from lot'll, it's not difficult to find a suitable rhyme for bottle. We can think of throttle, wattle, dottle (a plug of tobacco remaining in a pipe after a smoke), glottal and mottle.
Ogden Nash found a rhyme for parsley by slightly changing the spelling of ghastly. He wrote Parsley / is gharstly.
Posted by Eric Shackle at 14:22