Miles Kington: Why Americans in Paris flock to Sank Roo Doe Noo

I was shown a menu from California which had subtitles so that Americans could pronounce the dishes. 'Ron yon' for 'rognon', that sort of thing
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I was talking yesterday about the myth that "orange" is the only word in English with which nothing rhymes, but then I guess that rhyming is a movable feast anyway, depending on pronunciation. When I was in New Orleans, years ago, I was struck by the way in which the inhabitants treated the name of their city as if it were one word. We say "New Orleans". They said something like "Norleans". The city was proud, among other things, of the pralines it produces, and it struck me, if it has never struck anyone else, that the way they said "pralines" actually rhymed with the way they said "New Orleans". Prawleans from Nawleans...

(Maybe there is somewhere where they pronounce "orange" so differently from us that it does rhyme with something. In the Deep South, they tend to say it as one big juicy syllable instead of two small tasty ones. "Awrnge" instead of "or-ange". Does anything rhyme with "awrnge"?)

My local city, Bath, has its own pronunciation difficulties, especially with the name of the station, "Bath Spa". With my Radio 4 voice, I refer to "Bath Spa" as if the vowels in both words were the same, something like "Barth Spar". But if you come from the North, or indeed if you come from America, and have a flatter, shorter "a" sound, then "Bath" will be much more clipped. (But not "Spa". I have never understood that.)

Just how differently Americans say things from us was brought home to me once when I was shown a menu from California which had subtitles so that the Americans could pronounce the dishes. "Ron yon" for "rognon", that sort of thing. The menu also had "Filet mignon", which was transcribed for American ears as "Flaming yarn". Say "flaming yarn" to yourself several times, and you will suddenly realise that, unlikely as it seems, that is exactly how they say "filet mignon" over there.

They need that sort of lesson down in Texas. When I was in Louisiana that time, I saw advertisements for a new bottled water from Texas called Artesian. They wanted the folks there to give up imported water and drink American water, or, in the words of the fighting slogan: "Kick Perrier in the Derriere!". I don't think they know, down in Texas, that Perrier doesn't rhyme with derriere ...

(The Americans are usually more conscious than this of the importance of foreign pronunciation, even when they don't get it right. For many years the Herald Tribune carried a regular ad for Harry's Bar in Paris, at 5 rue Daunou. "Just tell the driver," it advised visiting Americans, "to go to Sank Roo Doe Noo ..." No wonder the American humorist Dave Barry once said it was humiliating to realise that the smallest child in French-speaking Haiti could pronounce the word "fauteuil" better than any American adult could hope to.)

So, anyway, I was going to tell you today what words I have come across that have no rhymes in English. The first one I ever discovered, I think, was "angel". I can find no word that rhymes with "angel". You might suggest "archangel", but "archangel" is just another form of "angel" - the same word, really, just with "arch" stuck on the front. It's like saying that "master" rhymes with "station-master". I think "angel" has no rhymes.

Nor does "rascal". I have tried looking this up in rhyming dictionaries, and the best I have ever found is surnames like Haskell and McCaskill.

Same with "anvil". I maintain there is no rhyme for "anvil", unless you descend to "Glanville" or "Granville".

And what about "silence"?

(Don't offer me "violence". That little "o" in "violence" disqualifies it as a proper rhyme. )

And what about "lilac"?

I rest my case.

Of course, there may be some curmudgeonly souls who say that these are all two-syllable words, and that I am unreasonably demanding two-syllable rhymes. Show us a monosyllabic word that has no rhyme, and we will be content, they will say. Just one.


"Bulb". There is, I think, no rhyme for bulb.

Over to you.