Judy Sierra

poet and folklorist

kids+word+play

March 30, 2015

Tags: Dr. Seuss, made-up words

March is Dr. Seuss month on the Blog.

Dr. Seuss made up the word Theed for The Lorax. A Thneed is “Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need.” This made-up word not only rhymes with need, it rhymes with the theme of The Lorax—greed.

Thneed is not easy to pronounce, but it’s not impossible, either. ‘Thn-‘ is a very unusual way to begin a word in English. You might find it in the middle of a word like “ethnic,” but rarely if ever at the beginning or the end. When making up a word, consider starting with unusual consonant pairs like ‘fn-‘ or ‘sg-‘ or ‘pz-‘.

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March 30, 2015

Tags: Dr. Seuss, made-up words

This week marks the end Dr. Seuss month on the blog. In memory of the good doctor, try making up silly syncopated words of your own. Why not? Every word in the dictionary was made up by someone, somewhere, sometime.

Do you want to stock up on more Dr. Seuss words? This wonderful website offers most of Dr. Seuss’s made-up words, along with definitions:

Who’s Who and What’s What in the Books of Dr. Seuss, compiled by Edward Connery Lathem.

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Friday word challenge

March 27, 2015

March is Dr. Seuss month on the blog.

Can you write like Dr. Seuss? Try making up rhyming names to finish these short couplets in Seussian meter,

“But if I ran the zoo,”
Said young Gerald McGrew.

“But if I ran the school,”
Said young ____________________ (DA-duh-duh-DA)

“But if I baked the cake,”
Said young____________________ (DA-duh-duh-DA)

“But if I wrote the book,”
Said young____________________ (DA-duh-duh-DA)

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March 26, 2015

Tags: Dr. Seuss

March is Dr. Seuss month on the blog.

The Sneetches begins,

“Now, the Star-Belly Sneetches
Had bellies with stars.
The Plain-Belly Sneetches
Had none upon thars.”

In Dr. Seuss’s day, "thar" was part of a popular saying, “Thar’s gold in them thar hills, boys.” The saying originated during the Gold Rush of the 1800’s when the owner of a Georgia mint tried to convince miners to stay "thar," and not go to California. My parents would say it jokingly when they were talking about get-rich-quick schemes concocted by folks who were probably a lot like Sylvester McMonkey McBean, the operator of the Star-On machine and the Star-Off machine in The Sneetches.

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Word of the day

March 25, 2015

Tags: Dr. Seuss, rhymes

March is Dr. Seuss month on the blog.

Consider the Sneetch, a creature Dr. Seuss invented for his rhyming story, The Sneetches. The word ‘Sneetch’ rhymes with a super setting for a story—a beach—and with the amount of money that Sneetches pay to have their stars put on and taken off—three dollars each (later, ten dollars each). As a bonus, there’s a mean little rhyming proverb spoken by Sylvester McMonkey McBean. “No. You can’t teach a Sneetch.” Sneetch not only rhymes in a meaningful way, it seems like a word that was just waiting to be invented and to take its place beside similar-sounding English words like ‘scratch’, ‘screech’, ‘snitch’, and ‘snatch’.

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Word of the day

March 24, 2015

Tags: Dr. Seuss, couplet, rhymes

March is Dr. Seuss month on the blog.

Songwriters often end each verse of a song with a refrain. “Six Little Ducks” has a two-line couplet as a refrain,

But the one little duck with the feathers on his back,
He led the others with a quack, quack, quack.

Refrains invite joining in.

Dr. Seuss created refrains for some of his books, like Horton Hatches the Egg, Green Eggs and Ham, and Yertle the Turtle,

I’m Yertle the Turtle! Oh, marvelous me!
For I am the ruler of all that I see!

At the end of these stories, he changed the words of the refrains to show changes in the stories,

“And today the great Yertle, that Marvelous he,
Is King of the Mud. That is all he can see."

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Word of the day

March 23, 2015

Tags: Dr. Seuss, couplet

March is Dr. Seuss month on the blog.

Scrambled eggs Super-dee-Dooper-dee-Booper,
Special de luxe a-la-Peter T. Hooper.

The name of this almost-impossible-to-make breakfast takes up an entire Seussian couplet. I find this couplet very easy to recite from memory, even though I never tried to memorize it. You would think that a short name for something would be easier to remember than a big long one, but that’s not always true, especially if the long one has rhythm and rhyme and other poetic tricks and devices.

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March 23, 2015

Tags: Dr. Seuss, rhymes, couplet

March is Dr. Seuss month on the blog

Two lines of poetry that rhyme are called a couplet. Rhyming in couplets is a very old way of making a poem, as in this one-couplet Mother Goose rhyme,

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick.
Jack jump over the candlestick.

Nowadays, couplets are mostly found in poetry for children and in popular songs. Poems written in couplets can be short or long, and the way lines rhyme is described AABBCC and so on, with one letter representing one line of poetry. Each line in a couplet has the same number of strong syllable beats (four in Seussian verse).

Young children being read to enjoy couplets. They can remember the sound at the end of the first line, and guess the word that ends the second line. Dr. Seuss’s couplets are very guessable. He and other children’s poets sometimes throw in a three rhyming lines in a row. The third line should be surprising because the rhyme is unexpected, like this one from Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book,

A Jedd is in bed, and the bed of a Jedd
Is the softest of beds in the world, it is said.
He makes it from pom poms he grows on his head.

This triplet also has rhyming words within the first two lines. These are called internal rhymes.

There isn’t a special word for four or more rhymed lines in a row, but Dr. Seuss often went on and on with lines that rhyme, up to seven when telling about the Bippo-no Bungus in If I Ran the Zoo.

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Word challenge

March 20, 2015

Tags: word games

Playing hink-pink is a great way to train your brain to come up with rhymes. I learned to play from my Grandma Kay. Back before I was born, she won a car and a washing machine in rhyming jingle contests.

1. Think of two words that rhyme.

2. Make up a definition for the words.

3. Tell the other player that you have a hink-pink (rhyming words,one syllable), or a hinky-pinky (rhyming words, two or more syllables). You might even think up a hinkity-pinkity, or a hinkaliicous pinkalicious. Maybe your want to allow words of different lengths in your game, a hinky-pinkity, for example

4. Say your definition and challenge the other player to guess your rhyme.

Some examples:

hink-pink: extra fur (spare hair)
hinky-pinky: a reptile with magic powers (lizard wizard)
hinkity-pinkity: the White House (President’s residence)

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Word of the day

March 19, 2015

Tags: Dr. Seuss, made-up words

March is Dr. Seuss month on the blog.

Dr. Seuss sometimes stretched or broke the rules of English grammar in order to rhyme. Because he was writing something funny, and because this was part of his writing personality, it didn’t matter much, so long as readers knew what he was trying to say. For example, he used the word ‘fastly' in If I Ran the Circus. 'Fast' is already an adverb. It doesn’t need an ‘-ly’ on the end. But it does make a nice rhyme for ‘a beast called the Grizzly-Ghastly'.

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