A rhyme for `pint' and other burning issues of the day

Mr Woodall suggests that `pint' might rhyme with `why not?' as drawled by Barry Norman
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FROM TIME to time I get mail from readers asking for financial help in starting a cannabis farm in Scotland, or advice on what to do if accosted by a cabinet minister on Clapham Common, which, on legal advice, I never answer. But sometimes readers write to offer me free advice, which I feel I should pass on to the rest of my readership, and enough of these have accumulated to relieve me of the necessity of writing my own piece today.

The word "pint", to start with. The other day I suggested in a long piece of doggerel that there was no rhyme in English for the word "pint". I should have known that the more dogged kind of Independent reader would immediately go into overdrive looking for a rhyme for "pint". What I had not immediately anticipated was that so many would write back also in doggerel.

Thus Peter Redmond faxes me from Andover:-

Sitting there, drinking a pint

Was a Scotsman called Hamish


His face wreathed in smiles

He was writing to Miles,

But his subject was five days behint!

And his footnote adds: "Ahint or behint - Scots or Northern English, from Songwriters' Rhyming Dictionary by Jane Shaw Whitfield, published California."

Well, sir, I think this is grasping at straws. I did specify an English rhyme. Claiming "behint" as a normal word is like entering the terrible world of professional Scrabble, where people claim "jo" as a Scots word meaning girl-friend, even though they have never actually heard it used in their lives.

Mr Woodall of Ayr suggests that "pint" might rhyme with "why not?" as drawled by Barry Norman, which is ridiculous, as Barry Norman has never said it, only his imitators. Mr Hughes of Leicestershire says he once used "compliant" as a rhyme for "pint" in a Gilbert and Sullivan pastiche and says it was fine as long as it was only sung. This too is ridiculous.

I am sorry to say this, but I think the Welsh have beaten the Scots and the English to the tape this time, as in the suggestion from Mrs Bruning of Llanrhaeadre Ym Mochnant:

I went down to the pub for a pint

And met my old Welsh friend


`Geraint,' I said, `What do you


He replied, `I came down for a beer.'

Well, yes, Geraint does rhyme with pint, as Glynis Langley of Cheshire also wrote to point out. No question. Whether it is an English rhyme is another matter.

The immigration of one word into another language is always a speculative matter, as Mr Barclay of Woodbridge points out. I had noted the presence of the word ouebe in French, which was another way of writing "web". He wrote a postcard which said simply "Don't forget the tram-driver (before your time of course) - "le wattman". So spelled, but pronounced "ouatman".

I looked up all the words in French beginning with "W" and there, sure enough, was le wattman - tram-driver. I had never heard of this one before. I knew that the letter "W" is not native to France and that all the words in French beginning with "W" are foreign imports, but I had never noticed before that if they are imported from the English-speaking world the "W" is pronounced "Ou" (whisky, western, wigwam) but if they come from Germany, the French faithfully pronounce the "W" as "V" (wagon-lits, wagnerien, Walhalla).

Lurching sideways from poetry for a moment, I have received a cri de coeur from Mrs Crouch in West Yorkshire about briquettes. When she moved into her present house she inherited a cellar full of coal dust, and wants to know what the war-time method of converting coal dust into burnable lumps was. Failing that, she wants to know if there is any practical use for coal dust?

Lurching back to verse, I recently quoted some of the earliest limericks I knew, which prompted Mr Davies of Staffordshire to send me one he had been told in 1957 (how can one's memory be so accurate ) which was new to me and which is nice because it is neat but not dirty...

There was a young maid named


Who said, "My last place was in

Grantham, Mum,

But my mistress took fright

When I snored in the night

To the tune of the National

Anthem, Mum."

Excellent. Do other nations have the limerick? I think not. We should be proud of it, and not envy the Japanese their haiku...

Oh, which reminds me - I would be grateful if the Japanese lady who wrote to me recently from Surrey would get in touch again, as the dog has eaten her letter before I could answer it. This is not a joke.