It does rhyme!

18 January 2013


Nowhere Man, don't worry,
take your time, don't hurry.

That’s from a song I remember so well that I know the lyrics almost completely by heart. I must have heard it first in the late 1970s or early 1980s. It dates from 1965/1966, but unlike many other Beatles songs, I don’t remember it with contextual memories from those years.

Lyrics writers can do anything

This morning, when I heard it again on the radio, I wondered if putting “worry” and “hurry” at the end of a line is a case of poetic license. They have different vowels, haven’t they?

No, they haven’t.

I checked it in an American and some British dictionaries, and ‘worry’ rhymes with ‘hurry’ and ‘curry’, but not with ‘lorry’.

Now just remember this

Non-native speakers like me do not know that automatically, but have to learn it with some effort and in case of any doubt, check it in a dictionary.

Likewise ‘front’ rhymes with ‘blunt’, ‘hunt’ and another word which of course I won’t mention on this family website. English ‘front’ does not rhyme with Dutch ‘front’ or ‘hond’.

Among the very few words spelled with ‘-ont’ which do have that other vowel than the one in ‘front’, are ‘font’, ‘symbiont’ and ‘piedmont’.

In words with -d as the last consonant, that vowel is more frequent: ‘fond’, ‘pond’, ‘respond’ and ‘vagabond’.

English is not English

‘Lorry’ is a chiefly British word, for what Americans call a truck. The American Merriam-Webster dictionary states that it rhymes with ‘lory’, ‘glory’ and ‘story’. That may be so in American English, it is not true of British English (and probably other non-American types of English, as spoken in Australia, New-Zealand and South-Africa).

There, ‘lorry’ rhymes with ‘sorry’, while ‘lory’ and ‘glory’ rhyme with ‘story’.

On the other hand, the MW dictionary says sorry rhymes with ‘scarry’ (meaning: having scars, pertaining to a scar) and ‘starry’ (as in “starry, starry night”). This too is not the case in British English: the latter words have a different vowel.

However, do note the pronunciation symbols in Merriam Webster: for many words, variant pronunciations are given.

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