For a while I've been worrying, in a desultory way, about how to find out, computationally, how many words in English (how many already-dictionaried words, that is) don't have rhymes. By computationally, I mean "lazily, and in a way that doesn't involve muttering under my breath."
I've been thinking what one could do (if one were slightly more motivated than I have been to date) is sort all the pronunciation transcriptions in a largish dictionary in reverse order (that is, sort them from the final character to the first character) and then look for unique strings in the final syllables. I'm sure this is probably something one (again, one slightly more ept than I) could do completely in the Terminal window with *nix tools and the right text file.
I was reminded of this nebulous maybe-someday plan yesterday while getting my son some ice cream after dinner. It was rock-hard, so we put the container in the microwave, which has a handy "soften pint" setting. "Soften /pint/," my son read, as I pushed the button. "No, it's /paInt/," I told him, and we quickly discussed (the ice cream was melting, after all) that yes, it's /mint/ and /hint/ and /flint/ and so on, but /paInt/.
Today I remembered (while looking up something completely different) to do a quick search in the OED for the string /*aInt/ in pronunciations, and hey! There is a rhyme for pint! It's rynt, a word marked "north." in the OED. One of the citations, from 1820, is "Rynt thee, is an expression used by milk-maids to a cow when she has been milked, to bid her get out of the way," and so, in less cow-specific contexts, rynt means to stand aside.
But — does rynt really rhyme with pint, in use? Rynt is also marked "refl." in the OED, which means that it's reflexive — that is, it has a reflexive pronoun as its object. You can't just rynt; you have to rynt YOURSELF, which moves the rhyme back a bit from the end of the line, unless you invert the usual order and do object-verb. I suppose a good poet could make it work; I'm not going to try … (but if anyone feels like composing a poem rhyming pint and rynt and posting it in the comments, I promise to send the best effort a copy of More Weird and Wonderful Words).
But the point of this blog post was to point out that if you have a sufficiently well-structured database, such as is available to most lexicographers (and to the paying subscribers of the OED*), you can do this kind of specific search pretty easily, and then go off and edit Wikipedia.
[*note: if you do not subscribe to the OED.com site, check your local library, which may, and which, furthermore, may let you access it through their website with your library card!]
Labels: contests, idle_noodling, poesy